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Table of Contents "On the road to Kabul and other short stories of treks"


The Sayq Plateau: a wet August and Princess Diana’s Point

Donkeys onthe Sayq Plateau, during low overcast down in the valleys

Following the canyon down from Ru'us on the Sayq Plateau at 2700 m, it gets more and more cloudy and the drizzle changes to a steady rain. The  temperater drops from 25 to 19 o Celsius. We turn back. Rain in Oman in August. In Muscat it is 40 o Celsius.

Oman, August 2003

In August of 2003, Muscat is  very humid and at times it rains which is exceptional. This year the monsoon has come more North but normally it only hit the South of Oman at Salalah. Temperatures are also a lot cooler, around 38 to 40 o Celsius instead of 40-45 o Celsius. This is still too warm to swim in the Intercontintal Hotel pool as it heats up even more by the sun and the pool water is not cooled Iike in the nearby Hyatt.

Weekend escape

To escape the summer heat we decide to do a mountain trek on the Sayq Plateau, a large over 2000 m high limestone plateau on the Western Hajar Mountains, part of the coastal mountain ranges.  Here the temperature is much cooler, 15-20 o Celsius less than on the coast. 

Access to the Sayq Plateau

The access road to the plateau is at Wadi Muhaydin near Nizwa, about 120 km NW of Muscat along a mostly four lane highway.

The main access  road up to the plateau starts near  Birkat in Wadi al Muhaydin. Turn obligue right after about 4 km into the wadi  and drive up the graded road.

If you miss the turn-off like us as there is no sign,  you could explore the main wadi by just following the main wadi road.

Wadi Muhaydin, main wadi road going North.

for another 15 or 20 minutes till a large village.

Past the village the canyon now narrows to 500-800 m high, near vertical limestone faces, a very scenic area.

Wadi Muhaydin, narrow part near the end of the rough 4WD trail.

This track  is now only accessible by a good 4WD vehicle. You will find  a small camp site between the trees some 500 meters past the village.

A very rough track takes you another km upstream so we left our 4WD behind. At the end of the track, on the right side,  there is an overhanging rock face with shelter against the sun, a favorite spot for Sunday pick nick by the Omanis.  Unfortunately, there are no pools for swimming [1] but the area is great for camping at night which I did in February 2003.

Sayq Plateau Access Road

The access to the Sayq  Plateau is controlled by a military checkpoint at the start of the mountain road as the plateau  is considered a military strategic area.  You need a permit to get in, e.g. by staying in the only hotel of the plateau, the Jebel Al Akhdhar Hotel  (Tel. 429009 (?) / 24590424 (Muscat). Camping will not get you a pass and is probably prohibited. The hotel will pass on photocopies of your passport to the authorities and send you a form to prove you have a reservation and permission to enter.

The road was being asphalted to a tarmac  road when we visited in 2003 and it winds up to the plateau for 30 minutes to cover the one km vertical altitude difference. We are driving through mist formed by the overcast clouds during the humid August and  follow the lights of slow driving cars in front of us to avoid driving off the one-lane winding mountain road.  At 2 km altitude we rise above the clouds.

We pass the village of Manakir [1], the end of the 8 hour Wadi Halfayn trek when walking up from the four lane highway (the Muscat-Nizwa highway). Here we stop to enjoy the view, the mountains surrounded by a blanket of low hanging clouds, and being watched by two curious donkeys standing on the barren grey limestone rocks [1].

We follow the road for another 30 minutes and in the distance have a view at the main town of the plateau in the far distance, Sayq. On the outskirts,  before entering the town,  there is the hotel, a large two-story buiding with around 50 rooms. You can't miss it as it is the first prominent building.

The temperature at noon is only 25o Celsius but the sun is very bright. In Muscat it is now 40o Celsius.


Sayq Plateau, only access road from Birkat right middle. Wadi Muhaydin bottom right. Hulaylat and Ru’us top left.


After checking into the hotel  and having lunch, we drive further up to the highest area at 2500 m. We pass the so-called juniper woods [1] [1], which has widely spaced juniper trees, only one every 50 m, on mostly barren limestone rocks. Junipers must have covered this area a long time ago but are now sparse. This area is popular for star watching given the high altitude, there is a very clear sky at night with bright stars.

At the village of Hulaylat [1] there is a trail down into the canyon and is marked as level 1, should be easy. It is the start of the 6-8 hour trek to Ru-us through the two villages of Masirat. Ru’us is the end of the road.

Going down into the valley below Hulaylat.

One of the trekking members doesn't like the steep trail going down some 400 m into the canyon as he has fear of heights. Women coming up with big water jars tapped 100 m down at the lower water reservoir, a daily routine, cannot convince him, it is an easy trail, just level 1. Some parts all the way to Ru-us are more difficult, between the Masirat villages it is level 2 and 3, and would require 'scrambling' across steep ledges.

We abandon the trek and drive to the village of Ru-us, the highest point of the plateau at 2700 m to try the other end of the trek. Villagers greet us and offer us coffee and tea but we decline as it is already 3 PM and we still want to do a bit of trekking. The sun has disappeared due by a thick overcast and mist,  and the temperature is going down. The valleys have low clouds, an indication of high humidity and the overcast thickens.

Going down into the valley below Ru'us.

We go down into the valley [1] following one of the numerous goat trails and after almost a km get stuck on a cliff 10 m above the valley floor.

Bottom of the valley below Ru’us.

There is suppose to be a trail down but the barren rocks and numerous goat trails obscure the main trail. We finally find it close to the main valley.  Some parts are collapsed but it is fine, being a bit steep or narrow in places.

The trail stays at the bottom of the valley for only a few hundred meters and continues on the right side going up slowly along steep mountain cliffs where it is clearly visible as there is only one route.

Mist is forming and there is a light rain but we carry on. After a few km we are high up and have views at a deserted hamlet below. In the far distance we can see the main valley turning left, at a 1-2 hour distance, leading to the village of  Hulaylat where we tried to go down earlier

The rain is now steady coming down and I pull out an umbrella [1]. We decide to go back but still get very wet [1] before getting back to the car.

Driving back to the hotel, rain clouds cover the mountains completely and the visibility is only 50 m. We drive slowly following the lights of a car in front which drives even more slowly waiving us we should pass,  but we decline as he is a safe guide to stay on the road.

Next Day, Dianna's Point

It was cool last night, possibly down to 10 o Celsius and I used blankets.

Near the main town of Sayq there is a splendid panoramic view point of the main canyons with green terraces [1] [1] [1], called Diana's Point by the information sheet of the hotel.

Panoramic view from Princess Diana’s Point, view left.

Panoramic view from Princess Diana’s Point, view right.

Diana's Point was named after Princess Diana during a visit, probably in 1988. She is said to have stayed here enjoying the view for many hours just sitting down and staring in the distance, presumably contemplating how to continue her life with ‘flappy ears’.

You can go down into the main canyon by car along a steep (20 degrees) dirt road but the road ends soon. Somewhere there is also a trail down into Wadi Muhaydin but do not expect any signs.


The Sayq Plateau is a cool area in the Western Hajar Mountains to escape the summer heat. With more rainfall and cooler temperatures, people seemed to have lived here for at least 4000 year.

Mountain trekking in Oman in the mist and rain, on the over 2000 m Sayq plateau with its large canyons it may happen.

Note that there are no sign post on the plateau in 2003,  possibly because it is a restricted terrain and navigation requires a good map.