We live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and if you tend to forget it, stuck between the four walls of your living room where you have spent the most part of 2020 due to the pandemic, there would not be any better reminder than the The Sultanate’s tourism slogan: Beauty Has An Address.
Yet, how many of us truly go out and explore Oman’s treasures? Definitely not enough. Unfortunately, due to the pre-conceived ideas that one needs to be an adventure freak, to be fit, to have a closet full of climbing equipment and an expensive 4×4 to enjoy Oman’s untapped wonders, many of us do not contemplate the idea of spending even half a day outside of town, away from our urban living, immersed in nature. Well, guess what? As suggested, these are only pre-conceived ideas and one doesn’t need to be Indiana Jones to enjoy a day out of town.
For this series, not only will we introduce you to some unique spots across The Sultanate, but also ways to re-discover the famous spots with a new perspective… for everyone in the family or your group of friends. We can’t wait to show you these breathtaking local destinations!
The green entrance of Wadi Arbaeen, between the first and the second pool
After a few months of partial lockdown, curfews and fear of stepping outside your home, you may be craving a day in nature. May it be by the turquoise sea, on top of a mountain or among lush green vegetation. Or maybe you haven’t even identified yet that all you need to cure the stress or the fatigue of the last few weeks actually is a regenerating walk in nature rather than the 4th cup of coffee you’re currently drinking.
We have heard time and again the importance of nature for humans and the importance of spending time outdoors… children and adults alike. In his books, Richard Louv coined the expression “nature deficit disorder” to explain how we have become alienated and distanced from nature and how it may affect our physical and mental health. His books are a dose of pure inspiration, reminding us that looking up at the stars or taking a walk in the woods is as exhilarating as it is essential, at any age.
So hop in, take a seat and enjoy a virtual trip to one of our favourite wadis in the region, Wadi Arbaeen.
Wadi Arbaeen is renowned for its 6H rock-crawling path offering the adventurers among us views of one of a kind waterfalls: one strangely looking like a theatre audience seating area, another enabling the good swimmers to have a water back massage from the pool below and one, experienced climbers have to reach to enjoy a pretend shower.
One of the waterfalls along the way strangely looking like a theatre audience seating area. Behind me, under a low cliff, a platform has a similar shape than a stage.
Yet I would argue that there is no need to complete the 3 hours trek into the wadi to enjoy Wadi Arbaeen’s quietness, impressive mountains and natural pools.
Wadi Arbaeen is located an hour and a half’s drive from Muscat, which is a decent bit of time for children and older people to be in a car. The closeness of the Wadi to Muscat and Sur also makes it the perfect place to go for a day trip, or even spend half a day only if the logistic of spending a full day outdoor is too difficult to arrange. Lastly, Wadi Arbaeen has natural pools located throughout its length and there is no need to trek to access the first pool at the wadi’s entrance. That way, the children and older people can enjoy the first pool* the closest to the road and the village; teenagers and young adults can enter the wadi and walk for about 20 minutes along the Falaj until they reach the second pool; and the good trekkers can set on completing the 6H trek all the way to the last waterfall, and back.
*I have never swam in the water on the left side of the off-road portion. What I consider the first pool is the one right at the entrance of the wadi, after the first water passage.
Best time to visit
My adventure buddy and I are early risers and love to experience the sunrise in nature: the vibrant light on the cliffs around as one starts the off-road portion, the first songs of the birds, the cool breeze in the date trees and above all, the clouds from the previous night in the sky making way for the first rays of sunshine. For this reason, we left Muscat at 4 am in the morning, and reached Wadi Arbaeen at approximately 5:45 am, just in time for the sunrise.
Pictures of the sky light as we approached Wadi Arbaeen, and the orange shade on the rocks and mountains
Here was our schedule:
4 am: Departure from Muscat
5:45 am: Arrival at Wadi Arbaeen (after a stop at the nearest petrol station for a karak chai)
6 am – 9 am: Trek in the Wadi to the last waterfall
9 am – 12 pm: Trek out of the Wadi to the car
In the summer, we would recommend you to avoid the midday burning sun and rather spend your morning there until 12 pm or the end of the afternoon, from 4 pm onwards. In August, the sun reached the bottom of the canyon by 9 am and we made the return trek partly under the sun.
In the winter, the weather is clement and allows you to stay throughout the day.
Best Route to Wadi Arbaeen
Can be safely done with a SUV. We visited Wadi Arbaeen each time with a Mazda CX3.
One of the reason we enjoy going to Wadi Arbaeen for day trips is that it is easily accessible from Muscat with almost exclusively a highway drive.
You do have to be careful but the off-road portion leading to the village and the wadi is now accessible to most vehicles. Drive slowly as you may encounter other vehicles on the way. We recommend saloon cars to park at the start of the off-road portion.
Google Map location:
From Muscat join the highway to Sur. After 1H30 take a right turn at the sign saying “Wadi Arbaeen 17km”. At the stop sign, make a right and at the fork make another right. Keep driving on this road until the next fork. At the next fork, make a left. The off-road portion should start now. You will be facing two roads going straight, take the most left one and turn left to Wadi Arbaeen, as indicated on the sign. For the length of this off-road portion, keep driving slowly and straight until you reach a village.
As you pass the village, you will start noticing water to your left and palm trees, keep driving for another 5 km and you will reach the the Wadi on the right.
Activities at Wadi Arbaeen:
If you have a SUV, park your car on the gravel area at the end of the off-road portion, near the village. If you have a 4×4, you can cross the first water passage to be closer to the entrance of the wadi and the first pool. You’ve arrived at your destination!
- Swim in the first or second pool, at the entrance of the wadi
- Complete the 6H trek to and from the last waterfall
- Rock-climbing, or bouldering to be precise. There are several boulders between the first and the second pool which can keep you occupied for a while
- Meditate, do yoga
- Take breathtaking pictures
- Admire the fauna and the flaura
- Have a picnic or BBQ by the first pool (being so close to the village, the first pool is of tremendous importance to the locals. It is compulsory to bring back your waste, as well as the plastic bottles you may find around and to not throw any food in the pool to keep it clean and algae-free for years to come)
Equipment to bring
- As there is no natural shade, bring a large umbrella for protection
- Snorkelling gear
- Sun-screen, hat and sunglasses
- Plenty of water and some snacks
- Extra garbage bags for your own waste and the plastic bottles you may find around
- Waterproof protection bag for your phone and your car keys
- Waterproof shoes to keep in the pools while swimming, and light sneakers with a sole with a good grip to complete the trek
- First-Aid Kit
- Yoga Mat (optional)
Facilities around Wadi Arbaeen
Before leaving the main road, you can stop at some petrol stations on the way and buy some snacks, fresh water or a karak chai.
Along the off-road portion, by the village entrance, you will find a small grocery store. However, it is not always open and I therefore recommend you to buy your indispensables at the petrol stations on the main road.
No washroom facilities in and around the wadi
No shaded facilities – mind the sun in the summer months
Precautions to take if you wish to explore past the first 2 natural pools:
- A minimum of 2 persons should be going together. Some areas further in the wadi require 2 people to help one another to cross a sinuous cliff or climb bigger rocks
- If you consider your level to be beginner to intermediate, do not go further in without the assistance of a local guide or a more advanced trekker. Some passages require agility and focus and are dangerous for any first timers. Trekking into the wadi is entirely up to your own judgement and only you are responsible if anything happens.
- Swimming skills are required further up the wadi.
I truly hope this article has shed a new light for you on the renowned Wadi Arbaeen and that you will soon organize a day trip there with your loved ones, even those who wouldn’t consider themselves adventurers.
As I am writing this article, a friend and I are planning a half-day trip this weekend to enjoy quality time in nature, away from concrete buildings and busy city roads. The idea of only bringing a swimsuit and a book in my bag, turning off my phone and experiencing a nature-filled day, warms my heart and gives me the courage needed to positively complete this work week; wouldn’t you love to experience this feeling too? It’s time for an escapade!
Follow Travel Writer Ines Duquesne @PassOnYourExperience