What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a wellAntoine de Saint-Exupéry
To be honest I find a desert beautiful in its own right, but there is indeed something particularly awe-inspiring about coming across an oasis in a barren landscape. The contrast between lush greenery and bare rock or soil can be so striking.
Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the best-known and most accessible of Oman’s wadis. A wadi is the term generally used in Arabic-speaking countries to mean a valley; although in Oman I found it used specifically for a valley with water. Being accessible it is also very popular, with both locals and visitors. But the small amount of development here has been done sensitively; it doesn’t detract from the visual impact of deep green waters, lush date plantations and stark mountains all around.
Looking down from above
Arriving here our driver and guide, Said, turned off up a narrow road that took us to a great viewpoint above it.
Visiting the wadi
After retracing our route down the mountain we drove up to the wadi’s parking lot. Here we could see just how popular it was, even on a weekday when few locals were visiting.
We followed the one kilometre path along the water channel, lined with date palms and other trees. I was excited to spot the vivid blue colours of an Indian Roller, and even more so when he deigned to pose for a few photos before flying away!
We arrived at the end of the path just at a good time for lunch, which we had in the poolside restaurant. After lunch we split up for a while. Chris took the rocky path further up the wadi; Said went to the tiny mosque to pray; and I had my own plans …
Swimming in the wadi is understandably popular, but you are asked to respect local standards of dress. This means keeping shoulders and upper legs covered at all times. We saw one French tourist head down to the pool in a bikini, only to be immediately called back by one of the men patrolling the site. The tour guide leading her group later expressed his frustration to Said. He had apparently told everyone what the rules were and was, I believe, a bit embarrassed when someone in a group he was leading had to be pulled up in that way.
Knowing about these rules beforehand I had already decided against a swim, given how short a time we would have here. But that didn’t mean that I couldn’t enjoy the water! So I went down to the water’s edge to sit with my feet in the water where myriads of tiny fish came to nibble on them. It was a weird but enjoyable sensation, although my hot feet seemed an odd sort of treat from their perspective!
I spent the rest of our time here trying to capture the beauty of the deep green pools.
On our way out of the wadi we stopped for photos of the different coloured mountains – green where there is copper, red for silver (I had though iron but Said said no, silver). A reminder of the rich natural resources in this beautiful country.
I visited Oman in 2019