Our intention was to hit Wadi Bani Khalid, one of the Sultanate’s best-known wadis and a place I’m ashamed to say I’ve never visited, but my friend and I accidentally missed the turning and ended up driving straight past it.
I don’t mind though, because if we had never lost our way, we wouldn’t have stumbled on Mrkhah Park.
While we were trying to get our bearings following a three-and-a-half hour drive from my home in Amerat, we came across a brown Ministry of Tourism signboard denoting a place of interest and stopped to investigate further. The sign announced that we had arrived at Mrkhah Park and listed a couple of safety points about taking care in the area following periods of rainfall.
The scene ahead of us looked quite nondescript to begin with, but once we passed a small farm, the landscape began to morph before my eyes, becoming a different environment altogether.
The mountains were visible in the distance, but the majority of the park is incredibly flat. The rocks came in different shapes, sizes and textures, lending the terrain of Mrkhah the air of another planet. In between the rocks ran a slow-moving current of water that opened out occasionally into wide, flat pools.
I decided not to take the plunge, but several of them looked deep enough to swim in.
It was just before midday on a Friday and the best thing about Mrkhah Park was that it was almost completely empty.
The nearby Wadi Bani Khalid is invariably packed with tourists at the weekend, but the only people I saw during my entire visit to Mrkhah were two locals who were studying the water intently.
I don’t quite know what they were doing, but perhaps they were appreciating the marine life that teemed in the pool below them.
I also noticed a couple of deserted huts and, again, I am not entirely sure of their purpose, but it looked as if they had been damaged by high and fast flowing waters at some point in the past.
We followed the water at a meandering pace for a couple of hours, enjoying the sense of serenity and quiet, and one of my favourite images I captured was of a wadi-washed wall that looked like it went on forever.
Mrkhah Park is a beautiful place for a walk before temperatures get too excessive again and thanks to the relatively flat terrain, it is an area that is accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
It may be antisocial, but Mrkhah Park offers you the opportunity to be away from people and close to nature.
I think it would be a good place to camp, have a barbecue with friends and generally chill out. I’d recommend staying overnight and using the next morning to tackle Wadi Bani Khalid early, before it becomes swamped with visitors.
I wish I could’ve stayed longer at Mrkhah Park, but after a couple of hours it was unfortunately time to move on. I had other places on my bucket list that day, one of them being the wadi we had initially set out to see.
The find was a complete accident, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Mrkhah Park is a true hidden gem in the Sultanate’s wilderness.
From Muscat, travel along Route 15 towards Nizwa, taking the turn for Route 23 just after Bidbid. Stay on this road for 182km and then take a left turn. Turn right after five kilometres and continue straight to Mrkhah Park.
GPS Coordinates: N22° 26’ 53.299” E59° 6’ 32.009”