Jabal Samhan

March 2010

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Dhofar, Salalah,

Great views, barren rocks, giant yuccas

What used to be a rather inaccessible part of the south-eastern corner of Dhofar, the southern Province of Oman, is now easily accessible by car. Jabal Samhan is part of the eastern Dhofar Mountains that rise steeply from the gravel plains behind Salalah to altitudes of 1400-1800m north of Mirbat.

The road to Jabal Samhan starts from Tawi Atayr (@ 17 6' 53.7316" N - 54 33' 17.3022" E) and is clearly signposted. The giant sinkhole at Taiq is not far away either and can be reached by taking the junction to the left (signposted Taiq) from the same road at about 3.3km from the junction to the Tawi Atayr Sinkhole (@17 7' 22.5022" N - 54 34' 53.4392 E). The roads ends right at the deep plunge into the abyss down to the coastal plain north of Mirbat some 25km further (@ 17 6' 43.5302" N - 54 42' 42.8565" E). A vertical drop of approximately 1000m.

The views are great with the bay of Mirbat directly to the south and the narrow coastal plain to the west in the direction of Salalah. The steep cliffs of Jabal Samham face southeast and compared to the mountains further west, the monsoon winds sweep the mist and clouds away during the wet monsoon (Khareef) season. Jabal Samhan is therefore relatively dryer and less vegetated. While driving up you will notice a gradual change of the vegetation. The bushes disappear and instead there are almost tree size Yuccas. The real summit of Jabal Samhan is some 16km to the east with its highest peak at 1821m. A narrow path on a ledge just below the topmost thick limestone bed invites for a walk. You will not be disappointed with great views from sheltered places where you can sit safely in the shade below overhanging rocks. The uninhabited area to the east, deeply incised by inaccessible wadis, is the home of the last Arabian Leopards living in the wild.
The rocks deep below belong to the oldest, basement, rocks of Oman (ranging from glacial diamictites and sandstones to metamorphic rocks and intrusive granites, in turn intruded by dolerite dykes, see Hasik).

Google Earth map.  Google Earth kmz file.

How to get there:
A weekend to Salalah is easiest when flying from Muscat on Wednesday evening and returning of Friday evening, giving you almost two full days to explore.

Most roads described are accessible by normal car, but for the steep 'slopy' gravel tracks down to Wadi Hinna a four-wheel car is currently still a must.

Wadi Dirbat, Tawi Atayr, the Taiq Sinkhole and Jabal Samhan are easy accessible from the main road between Salalah to Mirbat. The road from Tawi Atayr to Mirbat passing Wadi Hinna (Hannah) and through wadi Al Ghazir is currently being built. This will provide an easy route down to the coast, but not for us as we had to return to Tawi Atayr and take the road to Wadi Dirbat and Khor Rhori

Tracks can be downloaded as Google Earth kmz file.

All coordinates and tracks are with reference to WGS84, UTM zone 40.

The end of the road on Jabal Samhan. View to the south with Mirbat and the coast of the Arabian Sea / Indian Ocean in the far distance; a distance of approximately 15km. The area below consists of the oldest rocks (basement) in Oman

View to the west along the steep southern scarp of Jabal Samhan

The normal bushes that characterise the Salalah Mountains have disappeared and instead we noted sizeable Yucca 'trees"
View to the north-east along the steep southern scarp of Jabal Samhan. A clear footpath can be followed on the ledge just below the topmost limestone beds. This is the home of the last Arabian Leopard in the wild.

Jabal Samhan seen from the basement rocks (diorite) near Mirbat
The drive up Jabal Samhan trip can easily be combined with a visit to the Baobab trees in Wadi Hinna, the giant sinkhole at Taiq, wadi Dirbat and the ruins of Khor Rhori
With thanks to Danka, Shirin, Jan-dam and Cyrus for the good company.

References (Visitor)

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@ J. Schreurs March 2010