Green pool and palm trees from above
Deserts,  Oman

Water in the desert: Wadi Bani Khalid

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well

Antoine 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 …

Stream running through rocks
The upper stream (taken by Chris)
Stream running through rocks

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.

Brown signs with rules about bathing
Foot in green water with fishes

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

23 Comments

  • thehungrytravellers.blog

    Stunning scenery, we think that the barren rugged mountains have a beauty of their own, love this landscape. We haven’t yet been to Oman yet, we bought the guide books but didn’t get there… one day 😊

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 🙂 If you do decide to go and want some tips, do get in touch! It’s possible to drive yourselves but we had a driver/guide who was absolutely excellent and I’m sure we saw more as a result – plus both of you can look at the scenery! Either way, it’s a stunning country and friendly too – highly recommended 🙂

  • Manja Mexi Mexcessive

    Ooo this is amazing! I have never been anywhere near a desert since I’m really a water baby and the thought of a desert sends me into a panic. Here you combine both in an amazing way. What colours!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Wow – I love deserts and can’t imagine how it must be to be panicked by them! I love the sea too, and in a way for the same reasons – the vastness, the sensation of feeling very small in a very big world 🙂 Anyway, I’m glad you were able to enjoy this desert virtually at least!

  • Marie

    I love barren landscapes – its such a contrast to what I experience at home…. I visited this wadi in 2018 – but didn’t know about the viewpoint!!! I’d have loved that!

  • Nancy Gordon

    I can see why this place is so popular the water is so pretty and date palms so lush. It’s a shame some tourists don’t honor the customs! I don’t know how I’d feel about a fish nibbling on my feet though!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Nancy. Yes it’s really pretty and although there are quite a few other similar wadis, this one is easy to get to and not too far from Muscat for day trips, so great for local families at the weekend. The fish thing was odd but quite pleasant – they don’t take bites out of you (!), just tickle a bit 😆

  • starship VT

    Sarah, I’m always amazed by the beauty found in unlikely places and Wadi Bani Khalid is certainly one of those! The scene really draws you into its depth and your lovely photos capture the dramatic contrasts in the landscape too. Fantastic photos of the beautiful Indian Roller! I would have enjoyed the ‘fishy’ foot bath just like you! Enjoyed reading about another one of the intriguing places you’ve visited!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Sylvia 🙂 I think with your love of Morocco this is a place you would definitely enjoy visiting – and not just here, the whole of Oman! It would have been fun to have your company for the foot bath 😀

  • maristravels

    Lovely post and lovely images, thank you. As a traveller, I join with the others in my intense dislike of those tourists who don’t follow local wishes as regards customs and dressing. You find it everywhere, from people entering churches in Italy in shorts to those doing the same in Thailand and even worse there, keeping their shoes on (in case they have them stolen outside)! I saw some young females in a mosque in Amman once wearing very little although covers were left for their use by the door, and they were lucky not to be lynched. That’s how incidents start which lead to political confrontations.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Maris 🙂 You’re so right about what such behaviour can lead to, and there’s no excuse for not a) knowing what’s expected of you in a particular country, and b) doing it! If you don’t like the rules, don’t go.

  • wetanddustyroads

    We just love driving into our semi-desert and desert areas – love the barren landscape and different colours we always notice on the mountains. But then, when one see an oasis (like the one you’ve just showed here), it is an absolute bonus!
    You have some really spectacular photo’s of the crystal clear waters!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you for those kind words about the photos, but this place is so stunning it would be hard to take a bad one! I love barren landscapes too, but the occasional burst of greenery like this is fabulous too 🙂

  • Alison

    Beautiful Sarah, I just wrote a comment but it disappeared! Water looks very inviting but maybe not with so many onlookers! Bikini woman was very brazen honestly some people!

  • Anna

    What a beautiful place! There is something magical about water in the desert. I’ve seen it in places here in Australia too.

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