Fed by clear mountain water, the oasis of Wadi Tiwi is alive with lush foliage providing a green backdrop to the rocks, finds Jerzy Wierzbicki
I’m not, as regular readers will know, a man who likes to go to well-trodden locations. I prefer exploring off the beaten track, uncovering hidden gems and introducing you to little known destinations to discover for yourself.
There are, however, exceptions to my rule. And Wadi Tiwi is one of these. It combines a spectacular mountain setting with a twist; it also happens to be very green with plantations fed by sparkling clear water originating from the peaks that tower over the area.
Wadi Tiwi and its deep valley is a popular tourist spot and it’s easy to see why. On the way to Sur, it offers a perfect place to stop for a break or as a destination in its own right.
True, it’s not got the challenges of my preferred desert treks, but what it lacks in demanding terrain is more than made up for with a stunningly beautiful landscape.
Two weeks ago, I meandered slowly along the road to Sur without any precise plan. The weather was against me. Simmering heat ruled out deserts and the humidity would be too much for a shoreline trip. So the mountains were my only choice, which meant that I settled on a visit to Wadi Shab.
Unfortunately, weather conditions had other ideas. As soon as I neared the valley, I realised that without a boat there wouldn’t be any expedition. Flooded with deep water, the valley was out of bounds for me. A new location was needed – and Wadi Tiwi came to mind.
It was a good idea. For the first few kilometres, I didn’t see anything exceptional. It was greener and there was much less water than in Wadi Shab, with a few small farms on top of the massive and almost vertical high rocks. The temperature dropped perceptibly, making outdoor activities much easier. After taking a few shots of the green landscape in the shallow water, I moved deeper into the village, which is located on the higher part of the valley.
About a year ago, one of my friends advised me that if I ever visited Wadi Tiwi, I should ignore the wadi itself – on the 4×4 list for the masses and weekend trippers – and instead just explore the village at the top, where I would experience a small piece of Omani mountain culture with modest hosts.
It took me a year to get there, but it confirmed everything that my friend had told me.
Before I moved to the village, I stopped for a while near a stream and took some photographs. The water there crosses the tarmac, but it’s not deep and easy for a normal car to navigate through.
The village was empty, with not a soul in sight. During Ramadan, everyone stays at home and prepares for Iftar. Slowly and quietly, I walked the narrow lanes between small houses built on rocks, with shadows from the buildings providing welcome shade.
I stopped for a minute and tried to hear the small and delicate sounds of the village. The occasional opening or closing of a door mingled with the gentle breeze to create the sort of subdued atmosphere that I like. The smell of roasted coffee wafted out from a house near a small, white mosque. Inside the homes, the sleepy village was awake.
I climbed a brown rock behind the houses and took in the vista. The view was amazing. A long and deep valley stretched out between two high mountain ranges with splashes of green from palm trees and dotted with white from small, simple buildings between them.
Back in the village, I found some ruined houses, small plants and shrubs beginning to encroach on the broken walls. The stairs were still good enough to use, though. I took some photographs with a telephoto lens. The light was not perfect, but still the place looked impressive.
After less then an hour, I headed back to my car and slowly drove towards the main road in the wadi. I had no wish to disturb local people at Iftar and left them to their privacy. The sun was still strong, allowing me to focus on the green, the rocks and water.
Near a stream, I came upon a small falaj filled with water, surrounded by trees with intense green leaves. I installed an ultra-wide-angle lens and got as close as possible.
Driving home, I reflected on the trip and realised that some of the more popular places in Oman are well worth a visit, even if you’re a fan of the “undiscovered” and seldom-visited locations. I’d avoided Wadi Tiwi before, mostly because I tend to travel further afield.
It was a good lesson to learn, though. Sometimes, things closer to hand can be just as thrilling.
How to get there
Although this trip is all about mountains and a wadi, a 4×4 car is not needed. The road is fully tarmacked.
Wadi Tiwi is located near the road to Sur. Take Road 17 to Sur and keep an eye out for the road sign to Wadi Tiwi. It’s easy to spot, so you shouldn’t miss it.
The village from the story is located here: 22°48’6.82”N 59°14’38.30”E