The mountains will spell out your dream and destination, figuratively and literally. Shaquel al Balushi heads back into the forgotten lands to explore the mystery and history of the famed ruins.
Photos: Shaquel Al Balushi
Words: Alvin Thomas
Wait, wait! Before you go up in arms accusing me of repeating another Destination article [from Issue 480, July 27], let me explain myself. You see, after my last week’s trip to find the gorgeous wadi of Fanja, I couldn’t help myself from heading back there, this week, to do a bit of exploring in the underlying village in the area.
I’ve been there a couple of times — mostly to the bustling streets of the souk in Fanja — in search of food and water, but never into the heart of the village… and not ever into the forgotten lands of Fanja.
Joining me on my escapade is my mate Imran, who (embarrassingly!) said that he too had never been there despite visiting the wadis in the area frequently.
As always, we start at the break of dawn to avoid any of that annoying highway traffic. It doesn’t take us long, as the route is fairly straightforward: on a good day, you can enter the town in under an hour, and once you near the location, the mountains spell out the area for you… literally! No, really. “Fanja” is written out in Arabic using white stones.
But, from there the going gets tough for us, as we circle the village for more than an hour searching for the road that leads to the ruins — the fortified area that Fanja was historically known for.
Clever (yes, I’m sarcastic) Imran also advises me against asking for any directions, so we find ourselves lost and without any clue of where we are. But, an hour and 10 minutes into our search, I find a narrow road that leads to the mosque, and subsequently, the beautiful stretch of ruins.
The mosque is guarded by a blue door, and you should aim for it when heading here. In any case, ecstatic that we are back on track, we ditch our SUV, and decide to head to the ruins on foot.
The hot day does not make life easier for both of us, but we persevere. Proceeding forwards, we first climb up some steps — all beaten —by the frequent visitors and residents of the area.
Be sure to mind your step if you head here, as a fall could be life threatening. But after a bit of trekking, we come across a rocky hill. It is a relatively tiring climb, but the view waiting atop makes everything worth it.
We are treated to a beautiful sight: ruins of the longstanding forts that we are in search of. I even notice some rusty cannons pointing out over the town, further highlighting how important Fanja was to the history of Oman.
I also explore the rooms in the fort — and click photos inside them for you — to get a perspective of how life would have been for soldiers who were guarding the region.
Unsurprisingly, in less than 10 minutes, I get tired of the heat and head back out.
It is from here that I capture my favourite image: the grove of palm trees, the mosque and the village, all outlined by the
From atop the fort, I can also see the reflection of the serene waters on the mountains that sends me into a state of calmness
It is also here that we decide to camp for a while; have our soft drinks and chips.
And because there are not many cars around, there is none of that nonsensical automotive commotion, either.
It’s just a very nice place to be; maybe even a place for detoxifying from one’s daily tensions and stresses.
We lay there for a good 30 minutes before heading down.
Meanwhile, Imran also looks out for a waterfall, which has featured in the photographs of many people who have visited the region. But all in vain.
And since it is getting late, we decide to ditch it and go in search of it another time.
The locals, however, are very helpful and will give you the location.
Keep in mind that you will need to converse with them in Arabic, so you will need a local along with you. Else, be prepared to use
But all in all a day well spent, and definitely a village that I will suggest my friends to visit.
How to get there?
Take the expressway out of Muscat and stay on it until the exit for road 15. Stay on this road for 30km until you see the exit for Fanja.
GPS location of the turning for Fanja:
N23° 28’ 1”; E58° 7’ 52”