Walk to the top of the Tertiary limestones near Bandar Jissa

December 2006 (English only)

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Footpath,
Easy, suitable for inexperienced trekkers, but good shoes and reasonable condition required.
Set up by the Oman Ministry of Commerce and Industry
Directorate General of Tourism, but unpublished and unmarked

2km walk, 265m climb, approximately 1 hour up.

Bandar Jissa (Jissah, Jusu) Oman

 


Close to home in the Muscat area, with nice views over the new resort at Bar Al Jissa as well as Qanatab and Al Bustan.

Round walk about 4 km, time 2 hrs.  265m climb from sealevel
Start of walk at northern side of the ruined village of Bandar Jissa, path set-up by Oman Ministry of Commerce and Industry Directorate General of Tourism, but not published.


3D view of the walk with draped satellite image. Notice the black ophiolites of Qantab and Al Bustan contrasting with the white limestone hills surrounding Bandar Jissa and the Oman Dive Centre. A drowned coasline.

How to get there: From Ruwi take main road to Al Bustan Palace Hotel and turn off (@23 33' 31.8666" N - 58 35' 20.7341" E) signposted Qantab and Bar Al Jissa Resort. This road offers nice views of the ragged coastline. Turn off to left signposted Qantab and Oman Dive Centre (@ 23 32' 37.6207" - 58 37' 22.5847", note that the new road to the Bar Al Jissa Resort is straight on). The road leads you to the ruined village of Bandar Jissa, with a nice sand beach and clear water, a favourite outing for many Omanis in the weekend. You will see a parking near the beach, but the walking path starts at the cliffs to your left and one can park the car close to the cliff, driving through the ruined village (about 23 33' 5.5050" N - 58 38' 18.7616" E). Coordinates all in WGS 84 degrees-minutes.
The path starts at the base of the cliff at the left side of the beach (looking seawards) and if you are uncertain look for the nice sun-shelter (see photograph below). The path is not marked, but well constructed with steps and stones that mark its route. If you are unsure whether you are on the right path you must have missed it as it is unmistakably clear once you are on.

You may have noticed that the hill you are climbing is different from the black ophiolites that characterise Muscat's ragged coastline. This section consists of well-layered limestones of Miocene age, rich in fossils (shallow water, including corals and coralline algae -at the top-), but there is also the occasional intercalated gravels (which dominate the lower part of the cliff near Qantab just above the ophiolite) and even a patch of cemented dunesand (platy) of more recent origin. The limestones have been deposited on top of the black ophiolites in generally shallow marine settings, but in very rapidly lateral changing conditions. Note that the coastline southwest of Muscat has a very ragged appearence, with the sea clearly invading deep into former wadi valleys. This part of Oman's coastline is clearly subsiding.


Sun shelter marking the beginning of the path up.

The path climbs up, zig-zagging gradually, with nice views over the Bay and the ruined village.
The ruins of the abandoned village of Bandar Jissa are clearly visible when climbing up. The rectangular foundation indicate a substantial village, protect by a watchtower at the back.

Bandar Jissa with in the distance the new resort of Bar Al Jissa

The view on top showing the black ophiolite hills and the village of Qantab deep below a 265m vertical cliff. Look for the eagles gliding on the winds rising from the cliff.

View to the north with Qantab directly below and Al Bustan beyond the Ophiolite ridge and in the far distance the harbour of Muscat.

Sun shelter at the top, a pity it is partly vandalised.

Bandar Jissa has been the focus of an international dispute as early as 1898 when the French tried to obtain a lease of the port of Bandar Jissa (Jissah, Jusu) as a coaling station.

The background to this story lies with Sultan Faisal Ibn Turki who during his reign faced increasing challenge to his rule and became increasingly dependent on British support. He was forced to seek refuge at Jalali fort after Muscat was captured by opposing tribal factions and had to gun his own palace, with the British following a policy of non-interference.  This non-supportive policy compelled Sultan Faisal to court the French by granting them coaling facilities at Bandar Jissa.

Concerned about an increasing presence of the French in the region, in what Britain considered its sphere of influence, Britain presented Faisal ibn Turki with an ultimatum in 1899 ordering the sultan to board the British flagship or Muscat would be bombarded. Having little recourse, Faisal ibn Turki capitulated.


One of the two mosques in the ruined village of Bandar Jissa

An inspection of the ruins of Bandar Jissa shows that there were at least two mosques. The gardens further into the wadi are walled to protect against wadi floodwaters. There is also a substantial graveyard to the right of the road to the sea.

It is unclear why and when the village has been abandoned. Al Taie, Pickersgill and Al Taie, 1997, mention that villagers believe "that a plague probably wiped out its population many years ago". It is certainly a mystery why people would abandon such a lovely spot with a perfect harbour.

The area is well known in the divers-world, with nearby the Oman Dive Centre and the new resort at Bar Al Jissa.

 

References

  • Hatim Al Taie, Joan Pickergill and Nasser Al Taie; 1997, Oman a comprehensive guide to the sultanate of Oman. Al Roya Publishing

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@ J. Schreurs December 2006