Searching to escape a summer that seems to be lasting forever, I decided that my next Destination piece would focus on a wadi. I enlisted the help of one of my friends who has a 4×4 and put in a call to some of my camping friends, asking for inspiration about a new place to visit.
Their response was Wadi Bani Ghafir, close to Rustaq and around 160km from Muscat, and so we set off on a Friday morning to see what it was all about.
Turning off Route 10 just after we passed Say, we made our way from blacktop road to dirt track before eventually entering the wadi. Luckily, we couldn’t have picked a more perfect day; the weather was beautiful. Although we had a 4×4, I wouldn’t say that it was an essential requirement. You could quite easily park your car at one of the multiple entry points and simply enjoy the walk.
This is not an extreme wadi that requires serious off-road driving skill; the water level was low throughout, barely rising above ankle level. Groups of friends and families populated the banks along the wadi as far as the eye could see and everyone seemed to be relaxed as they enjoyed the combination of cool water and great weather.
I saw people kicking back on camping chairs with rolled up jeans dipping their feet in the cool, cloudy water as they sipped on soft drinks. In other places, there were kids splashing about as they played with each other and I managed to get the perfect action shot of one young boy as he was poised to strike a football in mid-air.
Sometimes in wadis you see drivers in 4x4s acting like madmen, thrashing their cars about and occasionally drifting, but what I liked here was that the cars were driving very sensibly. There were kids around and people altered their habits and behaviour accordingly. It was a very family orientated environment and atmosphere.
Almost every group that dotted the side of the wadi under the shade of the tall, green palm trees was cooking up some delicious food, either on a barbecue or a traditional campfire. Every person I photographed was incredibly friendly and invited me to sit and eat with them, but I had to politely decline in each case, as there was more work to be done.
It made a pleasant change to see that everyone was concerned with keeping the place clean and dilligently collected their rubbish up after they were done with it.
The majority of people at the wadi were Omani, but they were so laid-back and friendly that I’m sure anyone would be welcomed with open arms. One group had brought an oud and some drums and were having a bit of a jamming session as their food cooked. They sang classic Omani numbers with Arabic lyrics; not really my kind of music but it was nice to listen to nonetheless.
In my favourite picture of the day, I managed to capture a little bit of everything that made this wadi so special in my eyes. Holding my camera quite low to the ground I was able to get a shot that included the stones and pebbles, the flowing water, the shrubs and greenery, the jagged mountains and finally one of the most perfect blue skies I have ever seen, complete with a few wisps of fluffy white clouds.
We drove up the wadi, stopping to chat occasionally with friendly groups along the way and my friend and I must have had around 15 invitations to sit and dine. However, we had to pack up and ship out by mid-afternoon because I had two more destinations to conquer that day, but more on them in the coming weeks. Even when we exited the wadi to move on to our next location, a long line of cars and families could be seen on the other side of the bridge, stretching out for kilometre after kilometre, showing that while Wadi Bani Ghafir may not exactly be a hidden gem, it’s certainly popular for a reason.
From Muscat, take Route 1 past Barka and join Route 11 at Muladdah. Turn on to Route 10 just before you get to Rustaq. The turning for the wadi is approximately 21km down this road.
GPS location of the wadi: N23° 24’ 19.241” E57° 16’ 7.871”