Oman’s highest mountain, Jebel Shams (Mountain of the Sun; 3009m), is best known not for its peak but for the view into the spectacularly deep Wadi Ghul lying alongside it. The straight-sided Wadi Ghul is known locally as the Grand Canyon of Arabia as it fissures abruptly between the flat canyon rims, exposing vertical cliffs of 1000m and more. Until recently, there was nothing between the nervous driver and a plunge into the abyss but now an iron railing at least indicates the most precipitous points along the track and a couple of rough car parks along the rim pick out some of the best viewpoints into the canyon.
While there is nothing ‘to do’ exactly at the top, the area makes a wonderful place to take photographs, hike the balcony trail, have a picnic (there are no shops or facilities so bring your own)…or buy a carpet.
You need only step from your vehicle and you’ll find carpet sellers appear from nowhere across the barren landscape clutching piles of striped red-and-black goat-hair rugs. Weaving is a profitable local industry, but don’t expect a bargain. A large rug can cost anything from OR30 to OR80, depending on the colours used and the complexity of the pattern. Weaving is men’s work on Jebel Shams: spinning the wool is women’s work. If you can’t find room for a carpet, a spindle made from juniper wood makes a more portable souvenir. Failing that, buy a woollen key fob (OR) from the army of children who come with colourful fistfuls of them wherever you find to camp.
Jebel Shams is a feasible day trip from Nizwa (or a long day trip from Muscat), but to savour its rugged beauty, consider staying overnight on the plateau near the canyon rim at one of the low-key accommodations.
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