Located just 20 minutes outside Muscat in the Wilayat of Seeb, Wadi Al Khoudh offers a slice of solitude for those wishing to escape from the crowds, finds Matt Blackwell
Who knew such peace and tranquility could be found a literal stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of the highway and the busy streets of Muscat? I certainly didn’t. That is until a friend recommended that I visit Wadi Al Khoudh.
Doing some research on the destination, I found that the wadi is a hugely popular site for tourists from within the Sultanate and that the basin, which is one of the largest in the country, often flows with pools and running springs following the slightest downpour.
However, having not had a drop of rain for several weeks now and with the temperatures beginning to rise in earnest as summer looms large on the horizon, I found several signs of a parched land when I visited last weekend.
Having spoken to our photographer, Shaquel, about his regular Destination trips numerous times, I know he is a big fan of setting off as early as possible, but the earliest I could manage was to be on the road by 9am, by which time the heat was already intense, with temperatures in the mid 30s.
Finding the wadi was easy; it’s just past the Sultan Qaboos University campus and through the village of old Al Khoudh. There’s even parking for those who want to explore the area on foot, but having borrowed a friend’s Nissan X-Trail for the day, I descended onto the stony surface to get up close and personal.
On my first stop, I noticed several indicators that the wadi hadn’t experienced rainfall for a long time. The earth was dry and cracked and there were two bovine carcasses that clearly died where they fell and were well into the process of decomposition.
It seemed that the heat hadn’t put people off, though, as there were several other cars setting up camps along the way, settling down for a day in the sun.
Thundering along over the loose stones in the direction of the Al Khoudh Dam, I was struck by the fantastic contrast of colour the wadi offers. The riverbed itself was grey and to the right, there was lush greenery and palm trees, while sandy yellow rocks that rose up into interesting formations dominated the left side.
At one point, a tarmac road bisects the wadi and after crossing this and venturing back off-road, I came across a few of the renowned pools, which were populated with local youngsters playing around and cooling down.
The remains of Al Khoudh castle, which dates back more than 300 years, can be seen overlooking the wadi high on a hill to the right and a little further on I stopped the car to climb a steep track to get a bird’s-eye view of the valley below. It was an exhausting climb in the midday heat, but the panoramic view of the landscape made it worth the effort. I also spotted the skull of a goat that had been bleached white by the sun. I was perfectly positioned on a ridge and stooped low to get a shot of it with the expansive wadi in the background.
Passing under the Muscat Expressway, the terrain was becoming unnavigable, forcing me to turn around and head back in the direction I’d come, stopping for lunch at one of the pools I’d passed. Of course, I couldn’t resist having a quick dip, which was a great way to bring my debut Destination piece to an end.
How to get there:
Take road 15 towards Nizwa and come off at the exit for Sultan Qaboos University. Drive past the campus and take a left at the roundabout. Stay on Al Khoudh Street for five kilometres, until you see the parking area on the right hand side.
GPS location of the parking site: N23° 33’ 33” E58° 06’ 36”