Photo: Andries Oudshoorn
Oman’s Wadi Bani Khalid hides in plain sight.
THE BEAUTY OF AN OASIS always lies in the form of contrast: miles and miles of arid landscape and sprawling baking brown sand, then a sudden sharp dash of paradise-like vibrancy.
The Wadi is precisely one such haven.
About 200 km from the capital Muscat, amidst the colossal plains of barren land (envision the Empty Quarter in the country’s South-West, with the towering sand dunes), the valley emerges like a rare polished diamond, virtually out of nowhere.
Photo: Nicolas Rénac
Rocky, grainy slopes flank the sides. In the middle, the emerald-green waters dazzle. Exquisite date palms line up placidly.
The turquoise lagoons entice. Given the year-round high temperatures, the prospect of a cosy dip is ever so inviting. The lower basins are larger but busier; the upper pools are perhaps less accessible, but not as crowded and equally invigorating nonetheless.
Strong swimmers and adventure-seekers will fancy exploring the Kahf Maqal underground caves, once a shelter for bandit-evading travellers.
Tip: Do note that Oman’s official religion is Islam. Don’t hesitate to bathe in the revitalising waters, but do so while adequately covered up – it is a form of respect.
The golden Wahiba Sands down south. The dusty Nizwa Fort, west side. Amongst the sweltering, burnt, sepia complexion of the fascinating Sultanate, the Wadi Bani Khalid exists, as a brilliant visual and spiritual retreat – while still remaining in the thick of the arenaceous action.
The Wadi is located about 3 hours away from Muscat and 2 hours from Sur. Given the relative distance, do explore the possibility of combining the trip to the oasis, with a desert night camping experience. Many agencies offering such adventures operate in the vicinity of the ravine.