27th Aug 2016 - Oman
Wadi Tiwi, Bimmah Sinkhole, Muscat
The return journey from Ras al-Hadd was just as spectacular. It was an early start as the sun rose at 5am and it quickly got hot meaning sleeping was out of the question. After breakfast, we drove to the town of Sur where we visited a dhow factory – these are large wooden boats still made by hand. Our next stop was a viewpoint over the former capital of Qalhat, of which little remains aside from a mausoleum. From this building there is an underground passage to take a person away from the city.
Our next stop was back in the town of Tiwi, this time at Wadi Tiwi. From the turning off the highway, we had a 40 minute, steep uphill drive along single lane 4WD tracks. At the end, we left the car and had a 10 minute scramble down the hill to reach the water. This wadi had numerous pools, with the deeper ones lower down. This meant even more scrambling along narrow ledges to reach the bottom where we were greeted with a waterfall. Once again, it was absolutely stunning.
We then had to carefully negotiate our way back out of the wadi and back to the car, where we had to drive down the valley, this time via a brief stop at one of the villages where Juma pointed out his mother’s house. The final stop was at the Hawiyat Najm sinkhole, near the village of Bimmah. Local legend says that this hole was formed when meteorites fell to earth and the name translates as “The Falling Star”. But scientific research says that the hole was formed naturally when part of the rock layer dissolved and collapsed. The hole, approximately 40m by 20m, can reach depths of 30m and is filled with the same turquoise water that we had seen in the wadi’s. There are steps down to the water for those who wish to swim in it, but the best views were certainly from above.
Soon, it was time to return to Muscat, but Juma kindly gave us a tour of the city on the way back. We stopped at the Shangri-La Hotel, a very upmarket place and therefore completely unsuitable for us!! We spent some time in Old Muscat, at the Sultan’s Palace (Al-Alam Palace) guarded on either side by the Al-Jalali Fort and the Al-Mirani Fort. Both were built in the 1580’s during the Portuguese occupation of Oman. A little further on, we drove along the Mutrah Corniche, the main port area within Muscat. For those arriving on a cruise liner, this is where they will dock. Today, there was only the Sultan’s private yacht in the marina. The main attraction on the corniche is the Souq. This is a market with shops selling a mixture of souvenirs, spices, silver and textiles. We finally arrived back at the hotel, where we said goodbye to Juma, our excellent guide.