Hammam Al Ali

December 2005 (English only)

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The hot spring at Hammam Al Ali

(Hammam is Arabic for 'bath')

3D view of route from Muscat to Hammam Ali Hot Spring (created with OziExplorer).
Distance as shown along yellow route is about 35 km from the Qurm area.


How to get there: About 1.6 km SSW of the little village of Hammam Al Ali. From the Athaiba Roundabout at the Grand Mosque, drive straight through at the Ghala Roundabout (Royal Hospital) and turn right into the Ghala street, signposted Al Sanub. You will pas a large Al Maha filling station and some 2.4 kilometres further turn left to Sunub and to the right 3 km further (Sunub signposted). Leave this nice village at your left side, but a side tour to climb the old fortress is certainly worthwhile. Otherwise just follow the main road along the wadi that takes you to Hammam Ali. Just after a large villa at your left after 2.1 km (23 28' 38.8" E - 58 19' 23.5" N), turn left leading you on a good gravel road along another fortress (right) and football field (left). This well maintained track takes you to the spring, between the wadi and the ophiolite hills with the green date palms of Hammam Al Ali at the other side of the wadi. The falaj is plastered all along the steep rock faces of the wadi to the village. The track subsequently dives deep into the narrow wadi and that's where you will find the hot spring (23 28' 10.5" E - 58 19' 13.1").You may continue along the track and that will take you to the main road you came from (main road is only 3.4km further from spring).

Philip Ward describes his search for the hot springs of Imam Ali that were mentioned by Wellsted in 1835, although Ward suspected that Wellsted never got beyond the springs at Ghala. Of all springs near Muscat, those at Imam Ali were reported to be the hottest. At Baushar he was told that there was indeed a hot spring near a place called Hammam Ali.

"...to Hammam Ali and walk to the head of the valley. There were you can walk no longer, is the hot spring of Hammam Ali".

Ward followed the then newly-cemented falaj that curved along the wadi from Hammam Ali and after about twenty minutes the falaj curved left and the wadi narrowed. Bangladeshi workmen were digging a new well and the water he reported was scalding hot, probably close to boiling point.

When I tried the water close to the spring, a touch with the fingertips was enough. Not boiling hot perhaps, but clearly scalding hot.

Local people explained the water to be some 65 C hot. My thermometer with a maximum of 50 C was off-scale. 500 metres downstream in the falaj the water temperature still exceeded 50 C.


The fortress above Sunub

 

View over Sunub


Smoking hot falaj at Hammam Ali

The new concrete falaj, with various old falaj channels above. Numerous old channels can be seen plastered against the rocks. Many of the old channels simply filled-up with travertine.  Note that the old channels are above the concrete modern one. Combined with the fact that the water is currently pumped from the spring this suggests that the hot water spring level has gradually moved downwards by several metres. 

The hot spring, now cemented up and 'helped' by a pump

The easiest definition of a hot spring is when waters emerge with a temperature in excess of the core human body temperature of 36.7 C should be defined as hot springs. In that respect Hammam Ali is certainly a hot spring.


Scolding hot water pumped into the falaj. Local people explained the temperature to be some 65 C. It certainly was hotter than my little thermometer -with a maximum of 50 C- could cope with.

Above left: Old falaj channel lined and almost filled-up with thick layers of travertine. That was probably the reason this channel had to be abandoned. Above rigtht: traverine encrusting as amorphous globular carbonate material

Fortress at Hammam Ali
The spring is situated right at the thrust plane of the black Samail ophiolite rocks and underlying Triassic carbonates (dolomites) at the foothills of the Oman Mountains.


Photograph taken to NW showing the contact between ophiolites (upper left) and Triassic carbonates, with the spring taking water right at the contact

This is also shown on the geological map below as the contact between green (mantle rocks) and blue (Triasssic carbonates). Notice the high topography caused by the hard carbonates contrasting with the low foothills of the soft and easy weathering oducted sediments (ophiolites and deep water sediments). Water is carried down through the karstified Triassic carbonates and is being heated at depths of some 2 km (assuming a normal gradient of 30 C/km) to some 60-70C and is subsequently rising upwards forced along the ophiolite thrust plane.

Springs are common between the autochthonous carbonates and the over-thrusted units but it seems that hot springs only occur where ophiolite directly overlies the autochthonous aquifers (Ghala, Bausher, Hammam Ali, Nakhl, Rustaq)

Schematic cross-section explaining the heating-up of water that sinks through the autochthonous carbonates to depths of some 2 km and hot water is subsequently forced up along the ophiolite thrust plane.

References

Ward, Phillip, 1987, Travels in Oman (page 83-87).

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@ J. Schreurs December 2005