Biggest pool in Wadi Quri, child for scale.
Yesterday it was warm at 36OC but today it will be cool, only 32OC, ideal for a Sunday pick nick in the mountains of Oman. Wadi Quri (or Qurai) is an easy hours drive from Muscat near the four-lane tarmac road to Nizwa. After a walk of 1 hour into the deep canyon we should find large pools for swimming.
The coastal mountain range of Oman vary from 1500 to 3000 m in altitude. Deep canyons dissect the limestone plateau and have water springs and pools. These canyons are called ‘wadis’, dry river beds. The lower parts are dominated by black rocks of oceanic crust called ophiolites which have very little vegetation.
For the past few thousand years the water has been tapped of these springs using small canals, called fallaj. It is used to irrigate date palms and small vegetable gardens on the few fertile parts of the canyons, small green oases in the dominant barren and very rocky area.
The closest canyon wadis to Muscat are only at a100 km distance along the 4 lane motorway to Nizwa. They are easily accessible by a normal car as they are just off the main road so there is no need for a 4WD vehicle. Using a company car is not advised as the insurance is only valid for the Muscat region and the hotels offer reasonable car rentals.
Most popular are the wadis near Samail, wadi near Al Afyah, Wadi Halfayn, wadi near Umaty (Persian Steps Route) and Waid Mu’aydin, in order of distance to Muscat, see separate [map] or below
Map of the area along the main highway to Nizwa South of Sumail.
Adventure Trekking in Oman, maps R, Q, P, O, H (bottom left), respectively).
Off-road Oman, Map D and Map E (esp. route to Mu’aydin).
The biggest canyon is Wadi Mu’aydin, closest to Nizwa but the graded canyon road of some 10 km may be a bit rough for a normal car. At the end of the graded road, you can also walk to the main villages on the Saiq Plateau at an altitude of 2000, a difficult six hour walk (see Off-Road Oman, p. 20).
Wadi Halfayn is near the highway and after a on a hour flat walk you will find water pools. From the water pools, a steep trail leads up the canyons and you could do a long walk of 5-6 hours (one-way) to the village of Manakhir on the Saiq Plateau. If you have less time and strength, you could always go up 1 or 2 hours (one way) and enjoy the spectacular views and reach some of the deserted mountain villages with palm trees.
A pick-up at the villages on the Saiq Plateau using the mostly tarmac access road starting in Wadi Mu’aydin requires tedious paper work with the authorities as the plateau is considered a military terrain and requires an entrance pass. Spending a night at the only hotel on the Saiq Plateau, the Jebel Al Akhdhar Hotel (Tel. 429009 (?) / 24590424 (Muscat)), is the easiest solution. Camping will not get you a pass and is probably prohibited. At over 2000 m altitude, this area is much cooler, by 10-15 degrees, compared to Muscat and the nights can be cool, 8-15 Celsius, even in the summer.
Other popular canyons South of Muscat are also accessible with a normal car, e.g. Wadi Dayqah near Quriyat, a one hour drive.
The village of Quri at the entrance of Wadi Quri is sign-posted 13 km ahead on the highway and repeated when you come closer. Follow the sign posts for less then a km and drive through the village till the end of the road which stops on a 10 m high river bank. A small narrow canyon is visible to the right and a concrete fallaj starting at the parking leads to the entrance.
We walked on top of the fallaj as we could not get down the 10-20 meter high banks of the stream on the right. Half-way we could have gone down into the river bed but we carried on.
At the canyon entrance we had a choice, go down a steep 2 m metal ladder or take the narrow 4 m high fallaj bridge.
Fallaj bridge (going back) at the start of the canyon. Note ladder.
Both were less inviting compared to going down earlier. For Clara, 5 years old, it was simple, take of the shoes and wade bare feet in the fallaj bridge which was a bit slippery by a thin layer of algae. Daddy followed getting his boots wet but having a firm grip. I took the ladder down and this required a first very large step down while hanging on to the rocks like rock climber, but the ladder was stable.
The valley is a few hundred meter wide and has 200-400 meter high rock walls.
Wadi Quri Canyon near the entrance
For the next 30 minutes you have a choice, take the fallaj on the North side of the canyon or find your way across big boulders in the valley.
Both are fun as often you get stuck and have to backtrack. The fallaj runs underneath overhanging rock faces. In the main valley, you have to find your way across big boulders but can be too high to get across and you have to scramble across a few sloping rock faces.
After 30-45 minutes the fallaj crosses the valley from North to South.
Fallaj, water running at 1-2 liter per second.
We followed the fallaj up instead of going through the main valley as the fallaj trail was much easier. After a km we reached the first water pools, the source of the fallaj. We carried on and scrambled a bit along the pools and across barren rock faces. After a few hundred meter we hit the biggest pool.
The biggest pool measures 20 by 10 m and is up to 2.5 m deep. It has abundant small fishes in clear water and very little weeds and algae.
On the South side of the pool there is a small shade area below steep rock faces, very welcome in the bright mid day sun.
We did not see any Omanis today and there was no need for the females to cover up. Likely there will be some on Friday, the Omani Sunday but the rocky trail up the valley will keep most families out.
Climbing up a rock for 3 meters at the far end, we jumped down such that the feet would not touch the shallow (2.5. m) water by pulling up the leg ('bom' splash). Even 7 year old Clara jumped after some hesitation.
Alex and I went up the valley for another 30 minutes and found a few more water pools but these were much smaller. We did not carry on to the plateau which would be another 1 or 2 hours but here you could reach a 4WD road on the plateau leading to the tarmac road between Nakhl and Rustaq. Doing a swap of car keys on either end seems possible for making a crosscut.
Today we saw only one Omani herder with goats and one person coming down in the far distance.
Wadi Quri (or Quriat) is a nice pick nick walk close to Muscat, ideal to spent a leisurely day off, especially when it gets above 30 Celsius.
The trail still has a few mild challenges but most trekkers can do it. The walk along the fallaj is often 2-3 m high and narrow. The alternative is to stay in the main valley where you will only hit a few big boulders or sloping rock faces to cross. Biggest challenge is at the fallaj bridge and it is advised to go down in the valley as soon as you see a trail going down, half-way between the village and the fallaj bridge..
When you are new to Oman, you will get a good taste of mountain trekking in Oman. When temperatures are 32-40OC in Muscat from April to October, temperatures are lower in the mountains and fine for doing a short walk with some swimming.
Anne Dale and Jerry Hadwin. 2001. Adventure Trekking in Oman
Heiner Klein and Rebecca Brickson. 1992. Off-road in Oman. (new edition in print).