WATCH: Camping in Oman at Jebel Shams
WATCH: Camping in Oman at Jebel Shams
We know that camping and hiking during the summer heat sounds insane, but give us a few minutes to explain and you'll be packing your bags in no time.
Only a few hours drive from Dubai the landscape changes, the temperature drops and you are in for a real treat.
We thought it sounded crazy too, a summer camping trip to Oman in July? But our adventurous friends Dan and Jess convinced us otherwise and we are so thankful we listened to them. We are also so thankful they own a Jeep, took care of all the food, directions and general knowhow for the whole weekend.
We left Dubai promptly at 6am on a sticky Friday morning, already sweating just loading up the Jeep. We packed pretty light for four people, a couple of tents, collapsable chairs, light sleeping bags, fire wood and a couple of coolers with food and drink.
I have to admit I spent the two days before this trip home sick and was not feeling 100% but thought the outdoors and fresh air might help.
We arrived to the Oman border about 8am and besides some minor hassles got through with no problems, on to Jebel Shams! The roads are a bit confusing here and there but with the help of some friendly locals and a couple wrong turns we were climbing up Jebel Shams before noon and at the top of the mountain by lunch time. You'll pass through the small Omani towns of Balah and Ibris, while small and rather uneventful they are beautiful in their own right and worth a stop if you feel like exploring a bit.
As we enjoyed our lunch with some friendly goats, the breeze was blowing and although mid day, the temps were in the 80's and nothing like the miserable summer humidity in Dubai - and easily 20 degrees cooler.
We stopped a couple times on the climb up, and to say the view was breathtaking would be an understatement. It is quite easy to think of Dubai as being in the middle of a desert, which it is, but only a few hours from the bustling city that desert changes to rocks, mountains and some unbelievable views.
Grab a copy of the Oman Trekking Guide for further information on the routs, train numbers and seasonal information.
Aptly named the "Grand Canyon of the Middle East" it really does bare a striking resemblance to the Grand Canyon of the United States. They both are so massive our eyes had trouble adjusting to just exactly what we were seeing.
Anne, being afraid of heights, was in for a fun weekend.
We left the car at 2,000m and started climbing down, passed a small village and herds of friendly (sometimes too friendly) goats. The views were amazing despite a layer of hazy dust. Down we climbed, always alongside the cliffs edge, which was a bit intense at times. Zig zagging along the lip of the canyon we climbed down at a steady pace for about 2 hours before passing an abandoned village built into the side of the rocks and to a small area with a pool of water.
While the pool was quite low with water (and full of monsters no doubt) it did look quite beautiful and provided a nice cool shade to relax in before we started our climb back up the mountain.
About 5 hours in total, the hike back up was way more tiring than we expected. We hadn't realized how far down we'd climbed until the walk back up, but by the late afternoon we were back atop the canyon and searching for a flat spot to make our camp for the night.
We decided on a nice flat spot about 20 meters from the cliff, which had Anne a bit worried. Talk about taking a leak with a view!
After setting up camp we spent the evening sitting around the fire, laughing, telling jokes and eating delicious food - exactly what a camping trip should be! To our surprise the temps did drop and we all put on long sleeves and pants, very comfortable sitting around a hot fire in the middle of July - which shocked us all. What a nice change!
NOTE: If camping isn't your forte, the Jebel Shams Resort is just a couple minute drive from the trail head and provides a simple yet comfortable alternative to camping.
Early the next morning we packed up our camp and drove about 40 minutes to Wadi Dam, one of the most beautiful watering holes in Oman. A much easier 30 minute hike in and we were jumping off rocks into the crystal clear blue water.
By sunset we were back in Dubai, a refreshing, exhausting and perfect camping weekend with friends. If you live in Dubai and think the summer months mean hiding indoors and binge drinking with friends, grab a car and head out into the mountains, it will be well worth your time.