Wadi Dayqah Area

January 2006 (English only)

Also spelled Dhaiqa

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Exploring the Wadi Dayqah region

(Dayqah or Thaikah is Arabic for 'narrow torrent')

Addition July 2006 - Wadi Tayin entrance & route description)


View of routes Wadi Dayqah area. From Mutrah (Hatat House) to the junction to Hail Al Ghaf along Quryiat road is 79 km

How to get there: The wadi Dayqah area is within easy driving range from Muscat (about 100 km from the Hatat Roundabout in Mutrah) and covers part of the scenic northeastern foothills of the Eastern Hajar Mountains where deep wadi's cut into the steep edge of the limestone plateau. Take the Quriyat road from the Hatat roundabout at Mutrah and follow the road to Quriyat. Just after the steep descend to the coastal plain at Quriyat turn right (signposted Hail Al Ghaf) just before the Oman Oil Petrol Station (79 km from the Hatat Roundabout). Turn right again some 3.4 km further in the direction of Misfah and next left after 3 km, signposted to Mazara. The new tarmac road climbs gradually and offers some magnificent views over the coastal plain backwards and the Eastern Hajar Mountains in front. The first approach to Wadi Dayqah is some 6 km along the road, but the barrier prevents an easy view down (you could take the road down to Al Hail and enjoy the pools ). At 13.4 km from the junction turn right on the gravel track signposted A'Seeh. The track forks several times, but if you take what looks like the main track, avoiding the houses, you will end up some 1.5 km further in wadi Dayqah, with a little tourist 'resort' (including huts). If you turn left, just in front of the resort, crossing the falaj on two narrow concrete slabs, you can drive into the wadi. It is possible to drive 'upstream' to the right passing a low gravel dam where a falaj starts, crossing the water channel several times, to a higher plateau where the car can be parked safely. From here you can start the wadi Dayqah walk to wadi Tayin, through the "devil's gap" where it meets that wadi. A walk of some 5 to 6 hours (14 km) with a lot of water. Be careful for possible rapid rising floodwaters in case of rain in the mountains. Do not try this walk if there is a real risk of rain. This walk is best doable if there is a car at the other side (see walk from wadi Tayin side

See below for an alternative scenic route.



3D view of Wadi Dayqah area in SW direction. The SE flowing Wadi Tayin (or Taiyyin) takes a sharp turn to the NE at Ghubrat At Tam, biting deep into the limestone rocks of the Eastern Hajar Mountains along a narrow canyon, some 14 km long, also known as the devil's gap -where it becomes wadi Dayqah (the' narrow torrent')- emerging near Mazara and from there flowing along Hail Al Ghaf -where it was also known as wadi Hail- to the sea.  Landsat image draped over NASA elevation model. Notice the black ophiolite rocks south of Wadi Tayin and the lighter limestone plateau of the Eastern Hajar Mountains.

Wadi Dayqah

Wadi's in Oman are great because there is often water. Where there is water, there is lush green, shade and relaxation. The Wadi Dayqah area has a lot of it, water, green, a beautiful setting and on top of that a bit of interesting geology. The area is easy to get to from Muscat; only about 100 km from the Hatat roundabout at Mutrah.

Wadi Dayqah setting

The limestone plateau of the Eastern Hajar Mountains rises steeply, sharply and impressively some 1500 metres above the coastal plain with peaks of up to 1890 metres. It's edges are knife-sharp cut by deep and narrow wadi's. Wadi Dayqah is one of these and as the name already suggests - the 'narrow torrent'- it is a magnificent gorge. Miles in 1884 labeled the entrance of the gorge at the wadi Tayin side on his map as the "devil's gap". The gorge is the only connection of the long -± 80km- wadi Tayin that drains the Southwestern flank of the Eastern Hajar Mountains.  The wadi Tayin / wadi Dayqah system drains a large area of the Eastern Hajar of about 300 km2.

Rain is rare in Oman, but when it rains there is that sudden burst of water rushing down the slopes into the wadi's. In the case of the wadi Tayin and wadi Dayqah system that means that a lot of water is squeezed through the narrow wadi Dayqah gorge that is in some places only 20-30m wide. Miles provided the first description of this gorge following a dedicated expedition in 1884 (see below). He mentioned that he had been warned with stories of travelers and caravans from Quriyat being wiped away by violent and suddenly rising floodwaters. That danger is still very real.

 


Pebble of concrete-strong conglomerate of older gravel terraces, reworked into recent gravels.


Signs warning that 'drowning accidents are popular', perhaps a funny choice of words, but their meaning is very clear and the danger is very real. Do not embark on any trip into the gorge if there is a risk of rain. The pools can be deep and the rocks are slippery.

From the July 2006 traverse by PDO collegues Alan Heward reported that local people had pointed him to a hot spring a few hundred meters downstream of the junction with Wadi Nussif. One could safely put ones hand in it and therefore the temperature must have been below say 50 °C. It was coming out of large solution vugs in the Sahtan carbonates, surprisingly not in the vicinity of any of the major faults as one may have expected.

Dam Update: The contract was awarded in June 2006 and work started in August 2006. It completed in 2009. The French construction company Vinci participated in the contract with local contractor CCC. In the first phase, a dam was built across Wadi Dayqah at Al Mazara at a height of 74m and width of 400m. A secondary dam, 48m high and 370m wide, was built a few hundred metres from the main dam. The contract, worth $115 million (about €90 million), covered the construction of a main dam made of 600,000 cubic metres of roller-compacted concrete and a secondary dam made of 800,000 cubic metres of backfill.

Wadi Dayqah is eroding into thick (10-20 metres) older gravel terraces that have been cemented into concrete-hard conglomerates. These conglomerates consists of boulders (mostly of limestone) that have characteristic red-weathered outer rims encased in white/grey cement. The old donkey trail along the wadi generally tries to stay up on the terraces. Because the terraces have been eroded away in the outer bends of the winding wadi and because the wadi winds vigorously this means frequent crossings of the wadi to get from one terrace to the other. The high gravel terraces also indicate that the area has been uplifted after deposition and cementation of the gravel deposits (there is a lot of limestone around to saturate the waters with calcium carbonate) in relatively recent times. Near the Tayin end there is a steep cliff or waterfall called Akaba or Al Makuba.

Erosion of wadi Dayqah has slowly cut its way backward through the Eastern Hajar Mountains over a length of some 14 km. At once stage it cut completely through and intersected -or decapitated, as geologists call this process- the wadi Tayin system that was draining along the southwestern flank of the mountains. The Akaba waterfall/drop is probably associated with one of the main NE-SW faults that cut through the Eastern Hajar.

A huge dam just upstream of Mazara, near A'Seeh was completed in 2009 and got first completely filled with water in June 2010 (courtesy Cyclone Phet).

The "390-metre-long storage dam with a height of 73.6 metres and a 100 million-cubic-metre storage capacity provides about 35 million cubic metres of water a year: around 10 million cubic metres for villages down the wadi stream for agricultural purposes and around 5.7 and 19.3 million cubic meters for drinking and domestic purposes in Qurayat and Muscat Governorate consecutively" (From Oman Observer, November 2005).

A controversial multi-million dollar project with many unknowns such as water loss through subsurface flow to name just one.... Balanced nature preservation against economic gain and the need for drinking water (see NewsbriefOman)

 

Parked on the lowest gravel terrace some 5 metres above the current wadi bed. Notice a yet older gravel terrace in the background left of the car, some 10-20 metres higher and consisting of cemented conglomerates. The limestone scarp of the Eastern Hajar Mountains form the backdrop.


View to the west at the beginning of the wadi Dayqah walk

Wadi Dayqah with lake forming and new dam in background, October 2008. The full lake was completely filled up in June 2010, courtesy of Cyclone Phet.
Wadi Dayqah "roared" in June 2010 as a result of cyclone Phet. See also Prahbu (2010). From a frightening blast of water to a striking waterfall. The dam held remarkably well and now holds a vast lake that is almost alien, yet magnificent, in desert Oman. The source of these pictures is unknown. I got them mailed by various people without mentioning sources. Thanks to the unknown photographer.

 

A bit of Geology

Wadi Dayqah, where it emerges at A'Seeh and Mazara, is cutting through Ordovician Limestones and Shales that are about 450 million years old. Some 6 km from the start of the Wadi Dayqah walk the wadi erodes into Jurassic and Cretaceous limestones.

The Ordovician rocks home some interesting fossils such as Trilobite fragments, Brachiopods, Nautiloids (Orthoceras) and Crinoids (sea-lilies).


Part of Trilobite track in shales. Length of magnifier  is 5 cm

Left: possible trilobite imprints (casts) in shale, but most likely also tracks left by trilobites probably parts of the main body (thorax) or the tail part (pygidium). Compass-bar is 8 cm


Complete Crinoid in bas-relief lying horizontal with the original fossil weathered out of the limestone leaving a cast. Length of compass-bar is 8 cm. Meanwhile this crinoid has been determined as Iocrinus Hall, at this moment the only recorded Lower Ordovician crinoid from the African continent; a rare find (Donovan, Miller, Sansom, Heward and Schreurs, in prep)

 

 

Model of Ordovician Nautiloid
(from: http://www.toyen.uio.no/palmus/galleri/montre/english/x500.htm)

Right: Nautiloid fossils (Orthoceras?), length of magnifier is 5 cm


Wadi Dayqah in full glory. Notice the elevated gravel terraces left and right of current wadi bed. That is where the old donkey trails go, but you can't avoid crossing the wadi.

Be prepared for a splash or even a dive.

The first U-turn in the wadi bed right in front. Notice the narrowing of the wadi. Not a place where you want to be surprised when it rains

 


The wadi is eroding the massive limestones and cutting steep rockfaces in its outer banks, leaving old gravel terraces along the inner sides.

 

Alternative route: Another approach to the wadi Dayqah area is from the coastal road to Mazara. Reference point is again the Oman Oil Petrol Station just after the Quriyat descent. Continue in the direction of Quriyat for 4.6 km and take the junction to Dagmar and Qalhat/Sur. Roadworks -building the new coastal motorway to Sur- are ongoing, but most of this road is still gravel-track. Turn right into wadi Dayqah right between the pillars of the new bridge that is being built (some 9 km from the last junction) and follow the gravel track southwards for the first couple of kilometres through the gravel bed of wadi Dayqah. Turn to the right some 10km from the wadi Dayqah junction. This track is signposted 'wadi Ardbeieen' (for the Dutch easy to understand as it reads almost like their famous strawberries, but it is of course Arabic for 'fourty' -and what that relates to is not clear-) and is also the start of the track to Wadi Suwayh. Take turn to right signposted Al Ya, some 4 km further on. The track now follows the foothills of the eastern Hajars in the direction of Mazara. You may want a short excursion to the village of Al Ya at 4.8 km from the junction, else continue to the vast green date plantations of Mazara 5.8 km further again. The track is very scenic with beautiful views of mountains and foothills. Follow the track into the gardens of Mazara, crossing a falaj channel and following the main track, partly even tarmac,  to the right. The road is slightly higher than the village and above the plantations that stretch as a large crescent along wadi Dayqah. Make sure you do not take the the turn left to Al Hisn (marked as a dead end and it is a dead end!), but turn right downwards to the wadi bed, crossing it and up again at the other side in direction of Hail Al Ghaf, completing the circle at the junction to A'Seeh. 

 


Just before Al Ya, a nice coffee-stop in the shade of wind-eroded mushroom sculpted rocks (gravel cemented with chalk from the nearby chalky limestones)

The approach to Mazara with lush green ponds and gardens

 
 

Left:

Mazara in full green glory seen from Al Hisn

Start point Wadi Tayin

To walk downstream from the Wadi Tayin side you need take to the motorway from Muscat to Sur and before Ibra near a village called Sabkhat take the junction left signposted wadi Tayin (@ 23° 1' 1.09"- 58° 13' 9.61" WGS84). This is a tarmac road up to a roundabout near the village of Mahlah about 58 km further. The road follows the contact between the ophiolites (to the right of the road) and Jurassic/Cretaceous limestones of the Shouthern Hajar Mountains (at your left side). Follow wadi Tayin beyond Mahlah overall always in SE direction. The gravel road remains to the south (right) side of the main wadi or follows the wadi bed, which means you may need to cross through shallow and perhaps even deep stretches of water. The start point for the wadi Dayqah walk is near the village of Ghubrat Al Tham, some 72km from Sabkhat (or some 14 km from Mahlah). Here you need to cross the wadi (@ 23° 1' 15.5" - 58° 44' 18.53" WGS84) following a track to a point near the entrance of the wadi behind the village (@ 23° 1' 36.5" - 58° 44' 58.1" WGS8) near the Devil's Gap.

Overview Map of routes to Wadi Tayin Wadi Dayqah. Landsat, note dark colours are ophiolite rocks. The very light colours (south of Finns) are Tertiary limestones, the grey colours represent old Paleozoic to Mesozoic limestones and clastics. The most scenic route from Wadi Tayin to Wadi Dayqah is crossing the eastern Hajars to Finns. This will take as much time as walking through wadi Dayqah (5 to 6 hours; I have tried it)

Wadi Dayqah walk on geological map (BRGM). The rocks coloured in light greens are generally Jurassic/Cretaceous limestones. The dark green rocks bottom left are ophiolites and the pinkish colours top right are Ordovician clastics and limestones. The gorge is narked by little squares between Ghubrat Al Thawn (south) and Mazara (north), a distance of some 14 km between the points where cars can be left)
 

 

The Devil's Gap near Gubrat Al Tham in the early morning, July 2006


Waterfall near the starting point at Ghubrat Al Thawn (Miles' Akaba, see below)

Peter, Alban and Arjan after they first swim getting ready for the walk downstream (July 2006)

Miles on Wadi Dayqah

Below is an excerpt by Colonel Samuel Barrett Miles on his Wadi Dayqah expedition in 1884. His narrative in my view still stands as the best, expressing not only facts, but also feelings.

From The Geographical Society of 1896 "Journal of an excursion in Oman, in South-East Arabia" as reprinted in Philip Ward's "Travels in Oman"  in 1987.

Note that Miles traveled from Wadi Tayin to Wadi Dayqah.

QUOTE

The town of Ghubra el Tam is very picturesquely situated on the skirt of an eminence, which, lying at the end of the valley and thus forming a barrier against the onward progress of the stream, has caused it to swerve to the northward and cut its way through the mountain range down to the sea. It has some good houses and a population of over a thousand of the Siābiyin tribe, and is protected by a strong fort of oblong shape perched on the western extremity of the hill.

At this time there was very little water in the wadi, the unusual dryness of its bed being due to the severe and long-continued drought, from which this part of Oman had been suffering, and our party were congratulating themselves on having arrived at such an opportune time for passing through the gorge, when their joy was suddenly turned into dismay by a slight shower of rain which fell in the evening. The clouds now began to gather so ominously in the sky, that if it had not been so late I should have pushed on at once without halting. It had, however, already become too dark to permit of this, and with some foreboding—for the intensity of the heat seemed to threaten a thunder storm—we took up our quarters for the night in the habitation our hosts the shaikhs of the town had allotted to us. Had it rained heavily, as many of us fully expected, I should have had to wait here until the torrent had subsided sufficiently to allow of our proceeding through the gap, which would undoubtedly have entailed a delay of several days.

The exploration of this caňon had been one of the main objects of my journey, as it had not before been traversed by a European, so I was resolved to seize the present chance of visiting it at all risks. Fortunately, the night passed without the expected downpour, and though the morning of the 16th broke gloomily and lowery, the rain still held off, and the stream flowing at our feet had risen but slightly. After a consultation, we deemed it best to face the peril of a sudden rush of water through the gorge, and hazard the passage before the storm, which now appeared inevitable, could burst upon us and unite the rills and streamlets of the valley into a swift and overwhelming torrent. having hastily loaded the camels, therefore, we started early, and crossed the bed of the wadi, in which the water was running a little over 2 feet deep, just opposite the town. We then found ourselves at once at the entrance of the great cleft, which is as sharp and abrupt as if we were entering the portals of some monstrous castle and stood immured within its massive walls. Towering loftily, sheer and perpendicular above the narrow floor, the huge walls of rock give the appearance as if the mountain range had been suddenly split in two from the base to the summit by some convulsion of nature, exhibiting a singular illustration of impressive grandeur. The breadth of the passage here is about 100 yards, but it varies throughout its length from 500 to 150 yards, while the cliffs rise to an altitude of from 1000 to 1500 feet, as near as I could judge. The stream appeared to flow 4 or 5 miles an hour, and gradually increases in volume as we progress, being fed by the springs of water which burst from the crevices in the walls. Throughout the chasm the camels were wading nearly up to their knees.

After riding along this grand and curious gallery for a quarter of a mile, we are told to dismount, having arrived at a sort of deep step or waterfall called the Akaba. Here the camels are relieved of their baggage and saddles, and are taken along a ledge of the precipice on the left bank which leads circuitously to the bed further on, while the men of our party are let down by a rope over the projection on to the floor of the wadi below. This remarkable stop or fall in the rock offered a very serious impediment, as it was of considerable depth, while huge blocks and fragments of blue and white limestone, that had fallen from above, added lo the difficulty, and presented an obstacle which was absolutely insuperable to the camels, even when freed of their loads. The path leading to the fall, along which we had to scramble, was so rugged and slippery, and the cliff was so smooth and waterworn, that even the Arabs, who are as nimble as cats, did not find it easy work.

The solicitude evinced for my safety, not only by my own party, but also by the Siabiyin who had accompanied us from Ghubreh was almost touching, though the descent could not in fact be called perilous. Indeed, throughout my excursions in Oman, 1 always had reason to he grateful to the Arabs of my escort, and not infrequently to the local Arab shaikhs, for their zeal and self-sacrifice on my behalf. They never resented the inconvenience and fatigue 1 often caused them, but deferred without question to my wishes as to the when and the whither; while on any occasion of unusual toil or danger, they seemed to regard my safety and comfort as a main point of consideration.

At the bottom of this pass, called Al Makuba by our Siabiyin guides, we waited an hour for the camels, which, though carefully led by the drivers, did not traverse the narrow and dangerous ledge on the other hank without serious difficulty and hazard. Fortunately, however, they arrived at last in safety, and the baggage, which had in the mean time been lowered down by the Arabs, having been replaced, we mounted and resumed our journey.

The channel is here at its broadest, but it narrows further on, and becomes gloomy and cavernous, the mountain frowning above to a height of about 1500 feet. The cliff on the right bank at this part is known as Hail el Kebir, that on the left as Hail el Harim. Winding along this stupendous chasm, we occasionally have to encounter immense fragments of rock, piled in confusion on the floor, and obstructing the road, while above us are to be seen curious crags, overarching rocks, and other peculiar features of natural architecture. There is no lateral opening throughout the entire length, and only one small ravine falls into it, this being on the left bank. The geological structure of this range, as disclosed by the walls of this chasm, is mainly limestone, superimposed, probably, on the plutonic formation of which the rocks at Maskat are an outcrop. The lowest stratum to be seen is conglomerate, the upper layer of which is arenaceous. Overlying this with a horizontal stratification are courses of limestone, white or blueish, the upper rocks appearing to be of a reddish colour.

As may readily be supposed, the heavy and tumultuous torrents that frequently sweep the bed preclude the possibility of trees and plants surviving the rush of water, and we consequently find here no vegetation whatever. Even the long period of three years that bad elapsed since the last flood had not produced any sign of bush or reed that I could see. After heavy rain, the volume of water flowing through this chasm must be enormous, and the surging and raging torrent must then be a magnificent sight. It not unfrequently happens that travellers and caravans coming from Kuryat are engulfed and overwhelmed by the sudden rise and rush of the stream, as the innumerable tributaries and affluents in a drainage-area of some 200 square miles, swelling after rain, would concentrate at the gorge with marvellous rapidity and force, and form a mighty and irresistible wave, destroying everything in its path.

This effort of nature to provide an outflow for the pent-up waters of the Tyin valley through a mountain range is the most singular specimen of earth-sculpture I have seen in Arabia, and consists, in short, of a narrow, winding, vertical-sided gallery or caňon, extending for about 6 miles in a north-east and south-west direction, excavated through the solid limestone rock by the erosive action of water in a period of countless ages.

The peculiar character of this chasm, and the grand and picturesque scenery of its surroundings, create an impression on the mind which is not easily effaced. The Arab name for it is the Wadi Thaika, meaning the “Strait or Narrow Torrent".

It was one o’clock before we emerged from the caňon, our rate of progress in it being necessarily slow, and we found the opening at this end less abrupt than at the other, the walls gradually receding on each side and declining in altitude as we proceed. The high point of the range known as Kuryat peak to navigators, and to Arabs as Jebel al Zatri, now lies to our left, and raises its head 6200 feet above us, falling in terraces to the plain, while the mountain cliff to our right over Dagmar has been reckoned at 4000 feet.

Winding round a low hill, we come all at once upon the town of Mezāra, the chief settlement of the powerful Beni Battash tribe, surrounded by thousands of date-palms, rearing their tufted heads in a dense grove; and so sudden and unexpected is our appearance, that no little commotion is caused among the inhabitants, who fly to arms, and rouse themselves into an absurd fit of excitement. Much firing and shouting ensues, but the hubbub evaporates on the appearance of Shaikh Mohammed Ali, who holds this part of the town, and who is most pressing for us to be his guests and remain the night.

UNQUOTE

References

Donovan, S.K., C.G. Miller, I.J.Sansom, A.P. Heward and J. Schreurs, in prep. A Laurentian Iocrinus Hall (Crinoidea, disparida) in the Dapingian or Darriwillian (Middle Ordovician, Arenig) of Oman. Palaeontology.

Prahbu, C, 2010. When wadi Dayqah roared. Oman Observer, Saturday June 12.

Ward, Phillip, 1987, Travels in Oman. pp 118-121.

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@ J. Schreurs January 2006, updated July 2006