Stony landscape with rough road
Friendly Friday,  Landscape,  Oman

Jebel Shams, the tallest mountain in Oman

The road wound up and up, at first tarmac, later gravel. If it weren’t for the few scrubby bushes we might almost have been on the moon, the landscape was so barren and rocky. It was hard to believe that this road led anywhere at all …

We were driving up Jebel Shams, the tallest mountain in Oman at 3,009 metres; and while we didn’t go right to the top (access to which isn’t permitted, as it’s a military area) we did get to over 2,000 metres. As our guide and driver, Said, steered carefully around the hairpin bends, and the car lurched over the stony ground, I struggled to get a few photos.

Wadi Nakhal

Said parked at the viewpoint for Oman’s Grand Canyon, Wadi Nakhal, which, while not quite on the scale of its US namesake, is pretty stunning. The light wasn’t great for photos – I suspect it rarely if ever is. But it was an impressive enough sight.

Looking into a gorge
Looking into Wadi Nakhal
Dramatic mountainous landscape
Wadi Nakhal viewpoint – the people top right give a sense of scale
Rocky landscape with gorge
Wadi Nakhal – you can just make out the white building of the observatory on Jebel Shams’ highest point

Chris and I walked along near the edge (but not too near – there is no fence for the most part) to reach the high point, where the people in my middle photo above are standing. Meanwhile Said drove off to our nearby hotel to check us all in for the night. We were to stay near here, almost on the mountain top, in the simple Jebel Shams Resort; the name however is misleading, a resort this is not!

Man in Arab dress sitting on rocks
Said at Wadi Nakhal

When Said returned a short while later it was with the news that he had secured a coveted Sunset Room for us. But before going to the hotel he had one more stop for us, further along the canyon. From here we could look directly down to the village down in the wadi, almost a kilometre below where we stood!

Looking down at flat roofs of a village and palm trees
Village in Wadi Nakhal

A night at Jebel Shams Resort

Arriving at the hotel we found that the rooms were like small chalets, arranged in a circle. Ours was basic but large, with two beds. Outside was a terrace with a picnic table and the promised view towards where the sun would set. There was hot water, but no Wi-Fi; and the room itself was not at all warm, the temperature now having fallen to around 14 degrees.

Yes, it was cold – unsurprising given how high we had climbed. So we put on our jackets and sat outside to watch the sunset, which was pretty special. In an interesting twist, the shape of the mountain opposite caused the sun to appear to set twice!

Mountains with yellow sky and setting sun
Going …
Mountains with yellow sky and setting sun
Gone …
Mountains with yellow sky and setting sun
Or maybe not!
Tree silhouetted against yellow mountains
Now it has!
Sunset sky
After sunset

Once the sun had gone we spent the next hour trying in vain to get our room warmer, as the tiny fan heater provided was inadequate to the task and the wall-mounted A/C unit, despite promising 30 degrees, blew out only cool air.

But after dinner (a simple buffet), Said asked the hotel staff to give us an extra blanket each, both of them very gaudy but soft and warm. We piled these on the beds and sat in them for the rest of the evening to create some warmth ahead of bedtime. This worked, and we snuggled down to sleep quite happily!

Sunrise on the mountain top

Those extra blankets Said had secured for us meant that we were cosy in bed and slept well. Waking quite early I could see, through the crack I always leave in the curtains while travelling, that the sun was just touching the mountains opposite. I dressed quickly in the chilly room and went out with my camera to capture the scene.

I learned later from Said that the first mountain to catch the sun as it rose is called Jebel Misht, meaning Hairbrush Mountain!

As the sun peeped over the mountains behind the hotel, the glow shifted from shades of pink and orange to yellows; but the ever-changing light meant that photography was rather special for some minutes yet.

Mountains glowing orangeMountains glowing yellow
Mountains glowing yellow
After sunrise

Back down the mountain

On our way down we stopped briefly at the Wadi Nakhal viewpoint, where we had been yesterday evening, to capture the scene in the different light of morning.

Looking down into a canyon
Wadi Nakhal in the morning
Hazy blue mountains
View from Wadi Nakhal, early morning

Seeing Jebel Misht from the road made it easier to see how it got its name of Hairbrush Mountain.

Rocky landscape with mountain in distance
Jebel Misht, early morning

The road down was as scenic as it had been coming up. And Said promised us that later today we would be on another road which many visitors had said was, along with the desert, their favourite drive of the tour. I couldn’t wait! But that is an adventure best left for another post …

Meanwhile this night on Oman’s highest mountain is my offering for this week’s Friendly Friday theme of ‘mountain top’.

I visited Oman in 2019


  • Fergy.

    Another great post, Sarah,

    I love the idea of a double sunset, never seen anything like that before.

    I like your thinking about sitting on the extra blankets to warm them, you two would have done well in the Forces with thinking like that. Probably half the reason you were not allowed right to the top was that you might have bumped into some of the Forces who would not have looked Omani i.e. the “gentlemen from Hereford” who I have a sneaking suspicion are still there or thereabouts!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Fergy – I’ve used that ‘sitting on the bed’ technique many times in chilly hotel rooms over the years, as I hate to get into a cold bed! And you could well be right about the reason we couldn’t go to the top although a nervousness about tourist photos could also well be at the bottom of it 🙂

  • Forestwood

    Nepal was spectacular but who would have thought Oman could rival the Himalayas. That double sunset is amazing! An excellent post for Friendly Friday Mountain top!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Amanda 🙂 Oman can’t rival the Himalaya for height but the landscapes there are stunning, and in a relatively small country they have plenty of variety. In a future post I must introduce you to the south which has a very different climate and ‘feel’.

      • Forestwood

        I will look forward to that. You have visited so many interesting and very different places. It is always a delight to read about them.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Margaret! There were a few other people staying at the hotel, but we had our own terrace area outside our room and could only see the guests from one other room during the sunset and none at all at sunrise 🙂 Said is a very well-known guide in Oman (everywhere we went we bumped into people who knew him) and I reckon he would have been quite persuasive in securing a good room for us!


    Wadi Nakhal is dramatic and the sunset you captured is something special, love how it shows up the outline of the mountains against the orange sky, some beautiful rich colours. The morning light is beautiful too, so clear.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 🙂 That’s probably one of the most interesting sunsets I’ve witnessed, because of the way the sun popped back out again for a few minutes! But I think I liked the morning light even better in some ways – more subtle but beautiful 😀

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