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Wadis Tiwi and Shab: The Beautiful Paradise

by | Jun 1, 2024 | Oman | 2 comments

After Muscat, the first stop of our 16-day road trip was at the well-known Wadis Tiwi and Shab, about 90 minutes south of Muscat along the coastal road. A wadi is a riverbed set in a canyon. Some wadis are dry most of the year, but some have water year-round. Wadis Shab and Tiwi have water all year round. This is one of the reasons for their immense popularity and why we visited these places on a weekday to avoid the weekend warrior crowds from Muscat. 

In the village of Tiwi, we stayed with an Omani, named Khalfan, in the (Cliff Guesthouse Wadi Shab) overlooking the sea .  Our king suite on the second floor had a large balcony overlooking the water, and we were excited to see green sea turtles swimming below.  The balcony also afforded a perfect view of a hunting Osprey perched on the cliff edge, and the sunrise over the Gulf of Oman was a brilliant welcome to the day. 

While we were upstairs, the house also had a room downstairs and a separate apartment with all of us sharing a big kitchen, living room and infinity pool.  It was fun to meet fellow travelers and share a few conversations and travel tips before we all went our separate ways.

Infinity pool overlooking the Sea of Oman
Enticing infinity pool overlooking the Sea of Oman

The entrance to Wadi Shab is under a highway overpass where you can park your car, but it disappears from view very soon. You take a small boat on a very short one Omani Rial ($2.60) ride across a small pond to reach the trail to enter the gorge.  Wadi Shab offers a fairly easy hike* along mostly flat paths. first walking through well-tended Date Palm Gardens, then along, and occasionally under the canyon’s rock walls that rise high above the wadi. This part of the hike has a gentle incline and provides areas to jump into the deep water below, though we only watched younger people doing it.

Hiking at Date Tree Gardens
Starting the hIke by Date Tree Gardens
Rock walls at Wadi Shab
Julie adding scale under the immense rock walls
Jumping into water at Wadi Shab
Deep water for jumping near Old Water System bracing

You then descend to the canyon floor and continue into the Wadi’s gorge, crossing back and forth over stream. The rocks can be slippery in places, so good shoes and a slow pace are recommended. Although it’s about a 45-minute hike to some beautiful pools for swimming, Wadi Shab is the perfect place to slow down and “smell the roses” along the way. The towering Eocene limestone rock walls, beautifully colored from minerals in the stone, the various shades of green from the plants along the way, and the sunlight reflecting off the water and rocks all combine to remind the aware hiker to “see the wonder of the wadi” and not simply trudge on to find the pools.

Eventually, you come to the first pools and can continue up the wadi by swimming. The furthest pool leads to a water cave with a small waterfall inside. The water is cool and refreshing, and just what you want after hiking up the wadi.  (*We’re both 69 and in good shape and the walk was not challenging)

The dramatic Wadi Tiwi is accessed by a narrow and sometimes steep, paved road, passing by several traditional stone villages and offering fantastic mountain views across the wadi, especially so for Julie, who sees the natural world with a geologist’s eye. You can see the upper yellow-brown Eocene limestone walls that encompass the wadi in sharp contrast to dark black and gray weathered Samail ophiolite in the wadi below. We stopped the car a few times to view the geology, and Julie gave a few short lessons to Khalfan, who was interested in learning the geology of his native landscape.

Dark charcoal, eroded outcrop of the Samail Ophiolite under ochre Eocene Seeb Limestone Formation that makes up the canyon walls.
Dark charcoal, eroded outcrop of the Samail Ophiolite under ochre Eocene Seeb Limestone Formation that makes up the canyon walls.

At the road’s end at the last village, We walked along a falaj, a traditional water canal found in all Omani villages, to reach steps down to a picturesque waterfall and pools. I never pass up a chance to get in underneath a cascade to take a “shower,” so I jumped in the cool water, swam up to the falls, and let the water rain down on me. The various pools are set among limestone boulders, and people were canyoning downstream from below the waterfall.

Walking on the Falaj through VIllage Gardens
Walking on the Falaj through VIllage Gardens on the way to the waterfall
Stunning waterfall and pools at the end of Wadi Tiwi
Stunning waterfall and pools at the end of Wadi Tiwi

Khalfan was our guide and thankfully our driver through the very narrow, winding, and sometimes damaged road up Wadi Tiwi, knowing exactly where to honk as he drove around the many blind, hairpin curves while stopping to exchange a few greetings with people in the cars coming downhill. We met two other couples who had tried to drive up Wadi Tiwi on their own, but due to the narrow, bumpy road, they turned back. BTW: Khalfan had the longest hair that we saw on this trip! Ironically, he told us that he had been a policeman in Muscat, but quit because the work was too boring. This highlights how safe Oman is, as even the capital city does not have much crime.  

Until next time, see you on down the road.

John O'Neill and Khalfan in Wadi Tiwi
The Smiling Khalfan with John (smiling on the inside) in Wadi Tiwi
Goats on almost vertical cliff in Wadi Tiwi
An almost vertical cliff but goats don’t mind
Village at the end of the Wadi Tiwi road
The village at the end of the Wadi Tiwi road approaches

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2 Comments

  1. ingridcc

    Wow again!

    Reply

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