A great day out with breathtaking views lies at the edge of the city, if you pull on your walking boots, discovers Heather Duncan
The first time I heard about an amazing hiking trail in Muttrah I was a little confused.
When the Muttrah area of Muscat comes to mind, your first thoughts are of the famous Souk and the only place I imagined stretching my legs with exercise would be a leisurely stroll around the beautiful stretch of Corniche.
I was wrong. There is a hike and an amazing one at that.
Oman’s Ministry of Tourism is promoting these kind of outdoor activities for people to get out of their cars and explore this beautiful country. To make it easier and accessible to people, the trek routes can be found on their website. So there really is no excuse not to pull on some sturdy shoes and get hiking.
The recent mild winter weather has been perfect for a new outdoors adventure. I found a route on the Tourism Board’s website that was 2.5km long and listed as ‘easy’, which seemed ideal for my first Oman trek. The website advised it would take between one-and-a-half and two hours, so I rounded up a couple of willing friends, packed a picnic and off we went.
This particular hike begins from the parking area at Riyam Park, where we hit the first hurdle. Once you are parked, it is not obvious at all where to go. There are steep mountains all around. Luckily, we figured it out and were on our way. The map forgot to mention the part where you should cross the road out of the car park and go up the small hill in front of you.
Never mind, we soon put the shaky start behind us and got into our stride. A big rusty diesel pipe running down the hill marked the start of our walk. It would have been easy to miss; thankfully we had a more experienced hiker in our group who worked it out. The old pipeline is a reminder of days gone by when supplies of diesel oil were pumped from a ship anchored in Muttrah harbour.
We began our ascent, climbing the steep path winding its way up the hill. This initial hike is possibly the hardest part of the entire walk. It was worth every step, though, for the spectacular views. From the top, the next landmark is the distinctive Incense Burner monument, from which the vista stretches out in front of you, shimmering in the sun, the blue of the sky meeting the aquamarine sea offset by the brown craggy rocks.
There are ‘flags’ painted onto the rocks along the way guiding you where to go, though some are a little faded so an eagle-eye is advised.
The route cuts through a wadi area for a time. This could be quite treacherous if it had rained recently, with bigger water pools and a slippery surface underfoot, so any hiker would be advised to proceed with caution.
We stopped for a snack and a well-earned drink of water whilst in the wadi, where you can shelter from the sun.
Though it’s rated an ‘easy’ walk, I would personally give it a ‘moderate label. They should really recommend that you wear sensible footwear as it can be pretty steep and there are lots of areas with loose rock underfoot.
Perhaps the person who rated it ‘easy’ had the balance and coordination of a mountain goat. I don’t. At times, we found ourselves having to scramble and hold onto higher rocks for balance while moving our unsteady feet down the path. I sensibly wore sneakers, which were perfect for the job.
Surprisingly, we only saw two other people during our trek. It seems that people are unaware of this amazing hike in the city and tend to head further out to places like Wadi Shab for their adventure fix.
That is a shame. This trek is a little gem, close to home and yet a world away from the frantic pace of modern life.
* If you are interested in trekking this Muttrah route and others then you can find and print the route map on the activities section at www.omantourism.gov.om
Things to remember
Sun protection – hat, sun block
Water for hydration and snacks for energy
Sensible flat shoes
Take a mobile phone or tell someone where you are going in case you have an accident
Check the weather – make sure that there are no heat waves or heavy rainfall forecast that can make trekking very dangerous from dehydration or flash floods.
[styled_box title=”Facts” color=”gray”]A hike can also be called trekking, bushwalking, rambling or backpacking amongst other things from different areas of the world.
Hiking can burn more than 500 calories an hour.
You are three times more likely to die from a motor vehicle accident than you are to be injured while hiking.
Jebel Shams is Oman’s highest mountain at 3,075m high.[/styled_box]