Along the range, early morning
This very varied region in the Western Hajar Mountains contains Oman’s (indeed the Arabian Peninsula’s) highest mountains and a superb array of landscapes, from the rough, tough broken limestone of its highlands, to the huge gorges crashing out of the range and the tremendous chasms falling off to the sides. To the north are the vast Wadi Bani Kharus, Wadi Bani Awf and Wadi Sahtan, which you can gaze on from the highest ridges and peaks at the range’s northern extreme. The range slopes southward, riven by gorges, in particular the grand Wadi Tanuf/al Qasha in its heart and Wadi al Muaydin to the east of the Sayq Plateau, a slightly strange area of rough undulating hills surrounded by gorges.
While there seems to be a bit of uncertainty about classification (some maps allocate it to the Jebel al Qannah), the range includes the Arabian Peninsula’s highest mountain, Jebel Shams (3,084m, although this appears to be uncertain, too) at its western end.
The range varies in its “feel”, from its arid lower slopes to its more vegetated highlands – although “greener” would be overstating it for much of the year: much is bare rock littered with shrubs and hardy plants making a tough living.
Jebel Shams, Oman's highest mountain, above Wadi Nakhur
Oman is home to a huge range of plant and animal life, which is somehow counterintuitive considering how arid the country is, and is testament to its green credentials. That said, you will be lucky to see many mammals other than wild donkeys; and birds can be elusive even though Oman sits on major migratory routes and is a bit of birdwatching heaven.
The range shelters no less than 58 communities, although much of it feels very empty, and there are many deserted villages bearing testament to the fading traditional rural way of life – or the easier life now to be made elsewhere, if you like. The area was heavily fought over during the insurrection of the 1950s, and you will tread on detritus – mortar parts, rifle casings – as you walk the high ground, passing rough stone bastions and lookouts as you go.
Northward over Wadi Bani Awf
This is Oman’s premier walking/trekking area, and contains a huge variety of walks, from straightforward wanders between its villages, to tough traverses of its highlands, to thrilling clambering in its wadis (gorges).
Into Wadi Tanuf, old village perched on shelf