Wahiba Sands – a sandy desert in Oman

From Sur we headed east along the Ash Sharqiyah coast through Ras Al Hadd, and then followed part of the Arabian Sea before heading inland.

Our accommodation for that night was the 1000 Nights Camp, located forty kilometres into the Wahiba Sands desert. After a lot of backtracking north-west into Oman, we reached the location marker, a Shell petrol station. From there we drove north passing Al Mintrib Fort, one of the last markers, we reached the last of the paved road, passing many tourist warning signs along the way. I deflated the tires to the recommended 18 psi, this was going to be interesting, I thought.

The driving to the camp was easy, even though located deep within Wahiba Sands desert, the road was frequently travelled, with many signs and other cars to follow, we were glad to not have paid the 20 OMR for the escort service. The camp was located at the floor of a valley, though it was it the middle of nowhere, it was a surprise to see it offered, electricity (though temperamental), a swimming pool, luxurious glass windowed accommodation with balcony, mobile phone signal, and even wireless (though we couldn’t get it to work). Our accommodation for the night was a cosy Arabic Tent, which even had a single electric light.

Prior to dinner, Sonya and I decided to do a bit of ‘dune bashing’, having never driven in the sand before, I was surprised how easy the four-wheel-drive made it, though I and especially Sonya  were always uneasy with what I and the car would be capable of, and as we were by ourselves, I didn’t want to take too many risks.

Back at the camp we had a buffet dinner of various Omani dishes, with the highlight being the traditional Omani Shuwa (Showa), spiced lamb wrapped in banana leaves and then cooked in an earth oven for the whole day. After dinner we were treated to a performance of traditional Omani songs and dancing, which even got the camp guests participating.

In the morning we spent a little more time enjoying the desert dunes before heading north towards our next destination, Nizwa.

Sonya and the four wheel drive at Wahiba SandsSonya on one of the many sand dunesPatterns in the sand caused by wind erosion
Looking over Wahiba SandsThe four wheel driveLooking over Wahiba Sands
The four wheel drive1000 Nights CampSonya on the tip of a sand dune
Sonya on the tip of a sand duneSonya and Travis on the tip of a sand duneSonya on the tip of a sand dune

  1. 1000 Nights Camp

Muscat to Sur, Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi, Oman

After Muscat was when the real outdoor adventure that Oman is famous for started, we picked up our Toyota Prado rental, the first time I had driven a true four wheel drive, this was going to be fun, I thought.

After stopping to pick up some supplies from the supermarket, plenty of water and non-perishable food items, we drove east towards Sur.  After one hour we reached the tiny town of Yiti, this was where we realised we had driven in the wrong direction, so we backtracked back to Muscat and went south instead.

Wadi Shab

There wasn’t too much to see until we reached the first of the Wadi’s in the afternoon, Wadi Shab. The entrance to the Wadi is marked by the main dual carriageway slung across the entrance, we parked the car and headed into the Wadi. Throughout the Wadi is lush vegetation and turquoise pools of water, at some points shoes need to be removed to cross small streams. After about one hour we reached a large pool of water, continuing past, mostly by swimming we reached the final pool, there was a tiny crack in the rocks with which only our heads could past while remaining above water. Inside the enclosed cave was a beautiful water fall.

This would have been all the more enjoyable if I wasn’t holding the camera and passports in plastic garbage bag all this time.

From there we made our way back to the entrance of Wadi Shab walking in dusklight, we were surprised by the now risen water which we had to wade through.

At nightfall we drove to Wadi Tiwi where after driving a little into the Wadi in pitch black, decided it would be much safer to either turn around or camp for the night. That night we slept in the roomy four wheel drive.

Dual carriageway slung across the entrance to Wadi ShabEntrance of Wadi ShabOne of the many turquoise pools
One of the many turquoise poolsSonya crossing a small streamSonya on the edge

Wadi Tiwi

Roosters woke us up in the morning, and we found ourselves in quite a nice spot, a bit of water and dense palm trees. Also, the first of the hikers passed us by foot, who must have parked at the main road.

We continued following the road into the Wadi, not as beautiful as Wadi Shab, I thought, but it may have been the driving into the Wadi was not the same as walking. We left Wadi Tiwi for Sur.

Morning after sleeping in four wheel drive at Wadi TiwiWadi TiwiOne of the turquoise pools at Wadi Tiwi


Sur was a really nice little town, plenty of small historic forts and castles and a great location on the port with many dhows (Arabic boat). Our arrival that day also corresponded with the start of the Islamic holiday Eid, and many families were slaughtering goats, not just to enjoy the meat during the three day holiday, but also as a tradition where the sacrifice of an animal commemorates the sacrifice of son Ishmael by his father Abraham.

A few of the places we visited in Sur were;

  1. Ayjah Lighthouse
  2. Al Hamoodah Fort
  3. Alayah Watchtowers
  4. Al Sunaysilah Castle
  5. Bilad Sur Castle

From Sur we travelled further east along the coast, past Ras al Hadd (marking the joining of Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea) to our next destination, a camp located somewhere in the vast Wahiba Sands Desert.

Sur corniche gazebo with Ayjah Lighthouse in the backgroundAl Hamoodah Fort north entranceBlood from recent goat killings
Al Hamoodah Fort east side entranceAl Hamoodah Fort north entranceGoats outside the Al Hamoodah Fort
One of the Alayah WatchtowersAyjah LighthouseDhows in Ayjah Bay
Ayjah LighthouseSonya and Travis at Ayjah Lighthouse overlooking Ayjah BayAyjah Lighthouse door
Alayah Watchtowers overlooking Ayjah BayDhows in Ayjah BayAyjah Lighthouse
Ayjah LighthouseOne of the Alayah WatchtowersKhor Al Batah bridge
View of Ayjah from Alayah WatchtowerMosque in SurMosque in Sur
Goats at random tower in SurBilad Sur CastleBilad Sur Castle