Returning to Fanja after a quarter of a century, Shaquel al Balushi finds a green and beautiful haven waiting
When I was a young boy, around nine or 10 years old, my parents used to take me to Fanja when they wanted to buy some handmade clay pots. I, in my naïve innocence, thought that was what everyone went to Fanja for. However, I found on a recent trip that the small town, a little over 60km southwest of Muscat, has so much more to offer visitors.
The route is fairly straightforward and you can get to the town in 40 minutes from the capital on a good day. You know when you’re near; the mountains literally spell it out for you. High up on one of the slopes, the name “Fanja” is written out in Arabic using white stones. There’s also a huge wadi that is a popular destination for locals and tourists at the weekends.
Rather than exploring the wadi, I ventured into the town itself and parked my car to discover the area on foot. One of the first things I came across was a group of elderly Omani gentlemen sitting around close to their farm eating dates and chatting. After a pleasant conversation, they pointed me in the direction of some ruins that they said were worth visiting.
When I left Muscat in the morning it was very hot, but there was a pleasant breeze in Fanja as I set off along a track under the shade of dozens of palm trees.
After a bit of trekking, I came to a narrow road that led upwards and eventually gave way to a rocky hill. It was a relatively tiring climb, but the view waiting at the top made everything worth it.
Directly in front of me were the dusty ruins of some houses and what looked like an old fort and when I turned to see where I’d come from, I was greeted by a sea of green palm trees stretching out before me.
There were still a few rusty old cannons pointing out over the town, hinting that this area had once been an important defensive position. My favourite picture was taken from one of the old fort’s rooms. It had the green of the palm trees, a mosque and the mountains, all outlined by the dark framing of the open-air window. Unfortunately, there were signs of partying, with rubbish strewn about, which is such a shame to see in places that are important to Oman’s cultural heritage.
The elderly gentlemen mentioned a waterfall close by, but sadly I couldn’t locate it. Nevertheless, Fanja is still an amazing place to visit. It’s so tranquil and calm. There aren’t many cars around the town, which means you can simply sit and appreciate the sound of the wind, the birds and the water that gently flows along the falaj under the shade of the palm trees.
How to get there:
Take the expressway out of Muscat and stay on it until the exit for road 15. Stay on this road for 30km until you see the exit for Fanja.
GPS location of the turning for Fanja: N23° 28’ 1” E58° 7’ 52”