Shaquel al Balushi heads for the hills to a trekker’s paradise that’s far off the beaten track.
Drive an hour outside the capital and you’ll find an area of the governorate that’s as close to the city as you can get while still being worlds apart. Starkly remote, Al Msayel is a rugged jewel held close to the chest of nature and an ideal spot for hikers and off-road adventurers seeking a nearby weekend escape.
We headed out early on a Thursday morning, making it to Al Msayel in record time – just under an hour, with clear roads under our wheels and traffic fortune on our side as we whizzed by in the opposite direction to the clogged rush-hour arteries heading into Muscat.
Once we had reached Al Msayel we stopped at the village’s petrol station for some supplies and fuel. Where we were headed, off-road, the trappings of civilisation would fall quickly behind so stocking up on water, snacks/food, and making sure your vehicle is running on a full tank is key – something to keep in mind for anyone thinking of making the trip up. And a four-wheel drive is a must.
As we passed through the village and made a beeline for the mountain path, signs of life became few and far between. Eventually, only the shaggy mountain goats paused to greet us, their curved horns stretching upwards as they strained to nibble leaves on the low-hanging branches of the scrub trees that dotted the way.
The farther you drive into the surrounding hills of Al Msayel, the more the terrain opens up until, finally, a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding chain of mountains pans out before you, like a rocky moonscape. There’s a dry wadi that’s the perfect spot to spread out for a picnic lunch or bunk down for a night of camping.
The area is surprisingly accessible when it comes to trekking and, rather than only venturing forth if you’re a seasoned hiker, the trails are easily navigable for those, young or old, with less experience. Sitting for a while to enjoy the crisp breeze and panoramic view, we made a mental note to come back during the rainy season to visit the wadi, picturing the lush waterfalls that would spill down the sides of the craggy cliffs.
As the afternoon wore on, we piled our kit back into the car to head back to the city the way we came. However, if you continue onwards by vehicle directly through Al Msayel to the other side of its mountains you can reach Muscat from the opposite side via Al Sifah and Yiti, though the journey is a little longer – so give yourself some extra time and daylight if you plan to take the scenic route home.
After a day filled with fresh air and Instagram-worthy views, on the ride back we marvelled at the depth of diversity the Sultanate’s natural landscapes have to offer in places such as Al Msayel and myriad others. Near or far, north, south, east, or west, it’s a nation that never fails to surprise us with its secret beauty.
Dist. from Muscat: 62kms
From the Qurum area of Muscat, head along Route 17 towards Qurayyat. Keep an eye out for the exit to Al Saleel and make the turn-off when you reach it. Continue past Al Saleel until you reach Al Msayel. GPS location: 23°22’12.4”N 58°40’41.3”E
Dist. from Muscat: 62kms