Hail Al Gawari

August 2010


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Our last camping trip in Oman; a short weekend in the middle of Ramadan, finding cool air northwest of Jabal Shams, and a great walk through the juniper forest of Hail Al Gawari.

Jabal Shams, Aqaba Saqba, Ghadir Faras, Oman Mountains

In between the packing we had to go for a last bit of cool air up near Jabal Shams. August is still very hot down at the coast in Muscat, but up on the mountains it is always nice cool. What better to say goodbye to Oman. The Defender had just been for a treat in the garage and looked splendid clean. Almost too clean to get into the dust again. This would be its last desert trip before getting locked up in a container to wet Holland, so we felt indeed that our faithful car deserved this treat as much as we did.
How to get there is also described in the trip to Ghadir Farras but that area is now closed by a gate and has a nice sign labeled Hail Al Gawari. We had been camping before on a flat area nearby called Aqaba Saqba and that road is still open, albeit that compared to 2009 the families living up there now have just brand new white houses (which are a bit out of tune with the surroundings, but who will blame these people getting lined-up with progress) instead of their old tents.

The forest in the valley of Hail Al Ghawari can be easily explored by a 3 hours walk from Aqaba Saqba. Halfway up there are some nice caves with dripping water, providing a bit of shade and a nice place to sit with great views. You may be lucky to find water ponded behind the small dam in Aqaba Saqba.

Lilian must have told to our friends that this was also the day we married 28 years ago. Of course, like 28 times before, I had forgotten all about that. In full view of Jabal Shams our car was secretively decorated with a large sheet carrying the message "still happily married" and behind the cars were many cans that normally feature on "just married' cars. Certainly a memorable drive with the sounds of the cans on the gravel. A very fitting way to celebrate 28 years together and even more so to say goodbye to these lovely mountains. Many thanks to Karienke, David and Jandam for organising this. We will not forget. The rest of the story is one of pictures as these say more than many words.

From left to right, Karienke, Lilian, Jan and David with Jabal Shams just rising to the left

Still Happily married after 28 years

Which married couple can boost on this kind of celebration?

Pools with fresh water in the bowels of the plateau. This is where the goats get their daily water, seeping from the surrounding rocks in the large bathtubs eroded deeply in the wadi
Overview map showing the western flank of Jabal Shams

Detail Google Earth map, Route as Google Earth track file Juniperwalk.kmz, a walk of about 6km

Sunset over Jabal Misht, still a special sight

Karienke waking up with lots of interested visitors

But they listen well to the goat herder and with a few high sounds the goats follow her immediately

A big tub on the head with additional food for the day she sets out with her goats. A beautiful sight in the very early morning

On our walk to the juniper forsest we meet our morning visitors, also looking for shade in this nice cave halfway up.

Forest is a big word for the grooves of trees, but in desert Oman this is as good as it gets. The area is thankfully protected now and the limited access give these surviving few the chance to last a bit longer
At places it gets very dense with bushes all around and a strong smell of trees.  
  Looking for...
flowers, stones, fossils and trees, but foremost for a safe way down 
The closed entrance to the juniper forest. Locked for cars, saving this beautiful area for too many visitors. Only the hardy few on foot can go through and that is a big step in protecting this last remnant of true mountain forest
Goodbye to Oman


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@ J. Schreurs August 2010