Alvin Thomas finds that the mountains of Manah is an idyllic spot that helps uplift one’s mood.
If you were to think of some of the hidden gems of Oman, the setting that would first pop into your mind would be the gorgeous mountainous area of Jebel Akdhar. If you took time to think a little more, the lush greenery at Salalah, the forts of Nizwa and the valleys of Al Amerat would make it to that list of beautiful places to visit in the Sultanate.
However, hidden away in A’Dhakhiliya (yes, the governorate) is a humble town called Manah. And you know what? This may very well be among the most serene and tranquil places that I have ever been to.
It all started when Nishad (Y’s senior online editor) and I embarked on a journey to the village of Qarn al Alam to investigate the horrific bus-truck accident that took place last week.
We had travelled roughly 600km to reach the crash site, carried out our research, and then driven another 400km in our sprint back home. But it was 6.45pm and we knew we had to stop for a spot of nosh (after Iftar, obviously).
So I asked Nishad to stop by the village of Manah before heading any farther. Our initial plans were to head to the nearby fortress of Fiqain, which is a tourist destination. But, a mishap in feeding in the co-ordinates to our car’s on-board GPS, coupled with a mismarked board pointing towards the fort resulted in us ditching our plans to head there.
Just as we were giving up, though, we heard the evening prayer from a nearby mosque. And before we knew it, the road had clogged up. So, we decided to stop on the side of the road, observe the prayer, and then break our fast with a bag of crisps that we had bought from one of the convenience stores at a fuel station.
Initially, we sat in the car while breaking our fast but soon, I looked out of the window into what can only be described as nirvana. We hadn’t realised it at first: we had parked next to a camp site.
It didn’t take us long to realise why this area had been adopted as a camp site. The tall mountains that flank the region means that the winds are quite strong, and the rocky but clean rocks mean it was perfect for those looking to set up and perhaps indulge in a spot of cooking out here.
We noticed a bit of vegetation, too. There were shrubs dried out from the sun, and some fresh ones that looked like they were being watered on a daily basis. But that seemed a bit odd to us.
As we continued exploring, we realised that the area may have been a valley at some point, harbouring much vegetation and trees. But the recent developments in the region mean that the water flowing down has been re-routed to other parts of the valley.
Walking on, we also noticed some wildlife… well, we came across one scorpion crawling about the foot of the mountain. We maintained a safe distance from it, dare it be threatened by us and try to sting us. Because of that, I didn’t bother taking a photo of it either. But after a while, it went about its way and crept under a rock.
Once the coast was clear, we proceeded to sit down on one of the makeshift brick chairs (that was already made) and snack on our crisps. Strangely, despite spending a lot of time in the car, it was here that we decided to talk about the journey we had undertaken: the long drive and the accident we were investigating that had taken so many lives.
The mood was grim but we spent a while looking into the mountains as the sun dug deeper and deeper into the horizon before finally setting behind the rocks. It was sublime, and frankly the saving grace of an otherwise despondent day.
But by the end, it had taught me one very important lesson: all of us here on earth will have to bid our goodbyes to each other and leave one day. We don’t know when that day will be, or how we will depart from here. But, for now, we have to pick up ourselves, be kind to each other, and admire everything and everyone around us.
All of this contemplation seemed fitting, as the name “Manah” roughly translates to “the giver”. Thank you Mother Nature; thank you Manah, for I now have a deeper respect and understanding of life.
From Nizwa, take the road to Adam (direction Salalah). Just a few kilometres from Nizwa is a turn-off to Karsha and Manah. The road leads straight to Manah. You will see the mountain span over kilometres. You can park safely in the valley and camp there.
GPS location to the foot of the mountain: N22°49’22.8”; E57°’33’57.7”