An alluring wadi brings back some fond memories for Alvin Thomas.
There’s something about a wadi that appeals to me: finding a body of water amid the mountainous terrain in this scorching hot country is nothing short of alluring. This is the reason I take time to tour across the Sultanate in search of some of the most picturesque wadis. But for decades now, one particular wadi has stood out, in my view, from the rest – Wadi Hatta.
Why? Well, I was born in Dubai and during my childhood, the only real foreign trips I had consisted of flying back to our hometown in India or taking long bus journeys to Oman to visit my cousins.
And during those bus trips, I distinctly remember spending hours at the Oman-UAE border in Hatta. To keep us occupied, my father would walk me and my brother through to the nearby wadi to explain about rock formations. He also warned us about how dangerous wadis can get when it rains. Hence, I do not venture into these areas during the winter months.
So, when presented with the opportunity to drive out of Oman to the UAE last week for Eid, I did not hesitate to carry Y’s camera gear along with me in the hope of stopping by the wadi for a break. Think of it as me trying to revisit my past, if you may.
The drive to Wadi Hatta is simple and straightforward but extremely tedious. You’re practically driving to the ends of the country and it is best to concoct a trip with your family or buddies and perhaps camp for the night.
The drive should take you around four hours if you decide against taking a break. But do bear in mind that your vehicle has to be thoroughly checked (tyres, oil, etc) before undertaking a journey such as this. I also made sure to stack up on water, snacks and other goodies to keep me safe for the length of the trip.
Starting from my home in Azaiba, I took Route 1 that heads towards Suhar, and then kept on the road until I reached the turn-off – a sharp left – at the roundabout in the village of Al Aqar.
The wadi starts here but it extends all the way to the UAE. But since I was alone, I decided it would be safer for me to head as close as possible to the Al Wajajah border post, which is well protected with emergency services, before embarking on my journey across the wadi. However, it is best if you enter the wadi from Al Aqar if you are planning on doing any off-roading with your SUV as there’s a sharp ascent as you proceed towards the checkpoint.
Sadly, it was a hot (and hot doesn’t even begin to describe the agony) day, and the temperature was bordering on 50 degrees Celsius! I still grabbed the DSLR and headed right into the heart of the wadi.
Mind you, there’s a bit of trekking involved if you decide to enter the wadi from Al Wajajah. Even stock SUVs won’t cut it here. You would require a military-spec Hummer or Range Rover to dissect the wadi from here.
Walking in the wadi, I was quickly taken back to the days I would hold my father’s hand so as to not trip and fall down.
I managed to climb down safely though and once I was there, I realised that the wadi had almost dried out due to the heat unlike the last time I visited the area. But, there were still spots of fresh water protected from the sun by the trees.
I quickly headed there to wash my face (which by now had already burnt), and to get some shade. Silly me had also left the water supplies back in the car.
I noticed that there was some fish in the wadi. I tried to capture a few photos of them but alas they were too quick for me even with the fastest shutter speed. And even I gave up after the fifth failed shot.
Walking onwards, I noticed that there was some sort of a burrow or a cave in the mountain wall. I captured a picture of it before trying to peek in but then realised it was home to a nest of scorpions.
I bid a hasty retreat from the area after that, at Road Runner pace.
After climbing to safer grounds, I snapped a few photos of the surroundings. The images were almost washed out thanks to the heat… even with the lowest ISO settings.
But it was when I was up there that I realised that I was not just looking at a wadi and sand-coloured mountain peaks that seemed to span forever: I was looking at a wadi that is shared by two countries.
And at that very moment, I realised the importance of this area: Hatta is more than just a wadi; it is the grounds where two countries meet to shake hands. And yes, this is exactly the sort of brotherly love that we need to see flourish within the Gulf region in the coming years.
From Muscat, take Route 1 north, passing through the Shinas Gateway. Take a left at the Al Aqar roundabout and join Route 5. This road takes you all the way to the dirt track, which can be found on the left after passing through the Al Wajaja Border Post.