Wilderness Trekking Oman

200km Traverse of the Western Hajar Mountains

Wilderness Trekking Oman, 200km Traverse of the Western Hajar Mountains

The name of this web page, hajarhiking, comes from Hajar which is both the name of the mountains and Arabic for rock. It is a practical guide for hiking in the Western Hajar, which is the western portion of the main mountain range in the Sultanate of Oman. The best walking weather in Oman is from mid November to March. The traverse follows the spine of the mountains in a point-to-point walk taking sixteen days. It consists of eight one-day walks, two two-day walks and one four-day walk. There is a road intersection with a village or hotel between each of these eleven sections making it practical to walk sections rather than the full traverse. The track climbs to the highest accessible peak in the country at 2999m and finishes in remote dry valleys, called wadis, where impregnable cliffs have precluded road construction and electricity transmission. This has preserved the Arabian mountain lifestyle that has existed for centuries.

Exploring the Hajar Mountains with my family and Omani companions was my passion during the sixteen years I spent living in Oman. My ambition with this project is to resurrect the historic trading routes connecting the mountain villages, enabling walking tourists to help sustain an emerging hospitality industry that uses some of the ancient village houses as hotel rooms, which otherwise will fall into ruin. An example of walkers' economic impact is the 630 mile South West Coastal Path in the U.K. which contributes 5% of the tourism spend in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset, and 76% of this is from overnight walkers.

This traverse is for hikers who are competent with GPS navigation, as only six of the sixteen day tracks are marked. There are two shorter options, of which one has two chain ladders that do not require ropes. These options together reduce the traverse to twelve days or make two multi-day circuits, one with hotels and the other entirely in the wilderness. A loop in the traverse can be used to make another three-day wilderness circuit, or can be skipped altogether to further reduce the traverse duration to nine days. In Oman there are no mountain rangers, so this traverse is for experienced hikers who are comfortable looking after themselves. I have selected the route over many years by linking ancient and current donkey trading and walking tracks.

This web page has descriptions of where to go, what to carry, where to sleep and most importantly where to find drinking water. This information is repeated in the first three chapters of the book Wilderness Trekking Oman which are available for free download. The remainder of the book is available now as a digital purchase and will be on sale in paperback from April 2020 from Gilgamesh Publishing and a two-sided A1-sized folded map will be available from cordee map distributors by March 2020. Both the book and map will be sold by WH Smith from their bookshops at the International Airport in Muscat, Oman. The book describes the sights you are likely to encounter on the traverse including geology, the falaj irrigation system and Omani crafts, and provides context for your experiences with chapters on the mountain history and culture. To make the most of the time you will spend meeting Omanis on your journey you will benefit from the book chapter describing the sedentary farming and semi-nomadic pastoralist societies that live there and mountain etiquette.

GPX files of the tracks on the 200km traverse, 400km of side tracks, 170km of ultra marathon trail and 266 waypoints are available for free download. These waypoints include villages, hotels, and local names of semi-nomadic pastoral campsites with their plastic water tanks, caves, mountain passes, historic track junctions and remote water sources such as isolated falaj-irrigated gardens, mountain springs, water-dripping cliffs, man-made open reservoirs and wadi dams. Also included are historical features such as Bronze Age tombs and pre-Islamic rock art that are near the traverse.

Some hikers may choose to be supported by friends meeting them in a 4WD vehicle at the road intersections marking the ends of the eleven sections. For their benefit this book includes excursions at eight of these ten rendezvous points. There are other possibilities for resupply at all ten road intersections.

Read the review by the first people to finish the traverse who made their journey in January 2020.

Disclaimer

Every effort has been made in this web page and the book Wilderness Trekking Oman to inform you what to carry, and to give you sufficient navigational aids to find drinking water every night. The author is not responsible for any dangerous circumstances you may encounter. Hike at your own risk.

Traverse Description

The east-to-west traverse of the Western Hajar is 209km long and it crosses two mountains – Al Jabal Al Akhdar then Jabal Shams. The 188km of mountain tracks are interspersed with graded roads totalling 21km, of which the longest is 6km. The altitude range is from 620m to 2999m. The daily elevation change is typically 1000m with walking times of four to ten hours, which allows for time spent navigating by GPS. There is some climbing but ropes are not required.

The sixteen-day traverse consists of eleven walking sections of one, two and four days long separated by road intersections. During the day or days of each section you will not see roads or civilisation and the only short cuts once you commit to any section are on the last four days. There are two options replacing some sections. Six of the sixteen days have painted trails, otherwise you need GPS navigation or a guide.

Eight of the eleven sections finish with hotels, of which three are restored village houses. There are also camping alternatives for all the hotels. The two two-day walks and one four-day walk require wild camping for five nights. (see diagram below and the overview map.)

Track Diagram

The first option in the traverse stays closer to the mountain spine on the approach to the summit of Jabal Shams. This high route climbs two cliffs with chain ladders 12m and 2.5m. The first campsite on this option only has stagnant water from a reservoir that must be boiled before drinking. There is clean water near the track the next day but not at the summit nor during the descent. Accordingly this route, shorter by one-day and 10km, is more demanding than the longer low option that passes two villages with hotels. These high and low routes can be combined to make a 46km multi-day circuit, or a 37km circuit using the Burkat Ash Sharaf side track.

The second 16.2km option is at the end of the traverse replacing the last four-day remote section. This direct route to Al Iqaybah 4km from Yiqa can be combined with Days 13–16 to make a 72km five-day circuit with water at all the wild campsites. Two short cuts across this remote circuit provide several more options.

Days 10–12 on the traverse form a loop, with 3.2km of road completing a 34.5km-long circuit. Skipping these three days is the easiest way to shorten the traverse.

The table below is the schedule for the sixteen day traverse. The two two-day walks are Days 8–9 and 11–12. The four-day walk are Days 13–16. The four longest graded roads are on Day 10 (10.1, 10.3) Day 13.1 and Day 16.2. Hotel transport is available for two of these roads. The three-day circuit of Days 10–12 starts from the road 3.2km before Kurb returning to Kurb via Yisab and Naqa Ar Ruways.

In the right-hand column R, H and W indicate what is at the end of a day’s walk: R stands for road, H for hotel and W for wild camping. “Up” and “Down” are the total metres ascended and descended on each day. The walking times do not include break times.

Day
Tracks on each day of the traverse
Time (hours) Track (km) Road (km) Up (m) Down (m) End
Drive from Muscat International Airport 1   100
1 Al Afyah to Hadash 10 10.5   1400 600 R
2 Hadash to Wukan 7 9.6   910 910 R,H
3 Wukan to As Sawjrah 7 10.2   820 440 R,H
4 As Sawjrah to Ar Rus 8 16.6 0.8 790 730 R,H
5 Ar Rus to Ash Sharaf (from Jabal Al Akhdar to Jabal Shams) 8 15.5 0.5 770 670 R,H
6 Ash Sharaf to Misfat Al Abriyyin 7 14.2   200 1270 R,H
7 Misfat Al Abriyyin to Hayl Ash Shas 4 6.8 1 700 230 R,H
8 Hayl Ash Shas to Jabal Shams summit at 2999m. (3.3km NW inside a restricted area is a 3009m peak). 8 10   1650 90 W
9 Jabal Shams summit to Sama Resort on Jabal Shams plateau 7 11.4   130 1250 R,H
10 10.1 Kurb road to start Day-10 (hotel taxi) 1:30   6 310 90
10.2 Kurb road start to Yisab road saddle 9 9.2   340 930  
10.3 Yisab road saddle to Yisab (no taxi, try hitchhiking) 1:30   5.1 0 370 R
11 Yisab to Naqa Ar Ruways 8 7.5   920 440 W
12 Naqa Ar Ruways to Kurb 6 9.6   900 410 R,H
13 13.1 Al Marrat road, finish Day-12 to start Day-13 (hotel taxi possible) 1   5      
13.2 Al Marrat road to Daan As Sanin 10 15.5   850 690 W
14 Daan As Sanin to Ghayl Shadhan 8 15   310 660 W
15 Ghayl Shadhan to Dar Ar Ruways 4 10   390 670 W
16 16.1 Dar Ar Ruways to Al Jammah 8 16.4   420 1110 R
16.2 Al Jammah to Yiqa and Highway 10 1   2.4 68 36 R
Taxi then bus to Muscat Airport 1:45   160
First option, shorter high route to the summit with two ladder climbs
6 Ash Sharaf to Al Barbad 9 15.8   1050 790 W
7 Al Barbad to Jabal Shams summit 5 6.3   815 115 W
Second option, one day instead of four remote days to finish the traverse
13 13.1 Al Marrat road to Al Iqaybah 9 16.2   575 1835 R
13.2 Al Iqaybah to Yiqa and Highway 10 1   4 100 50 R
Taxi then bus to Muscat Airport 1:45   160



Traverse Elevation

Track Elevation

The six sharp elevation drops on the traverse from left to right correspond to the villages Hadash (1) and Wukan (2) at 1500m, Misfat Al Abriyyin (3) at 950m, Yisab (4) at 1140m, the Hayl At Talhat gardens (5) at 1520m and the shawawi camp Dar Ar Ruways (6) at 1275m. Apart from Misfat Al Abriyyin these villages are part way down the side of the north facing escarpment near springs which are located where the geological unconformity between the Mesozoic and the underlying Precambrian sequence intersects the surface. The angular unconformity creating the springs is at the elevation range 1500m to 1000m. The source for the springs is rainwater accumulating in the upper porous Mesozoic carbonate and flowing down to a seal caused by the older Precambrian rock which is impermeable. The Mesozoic carbonate is thousands of metres thick so acts as a huge reservoir sustaining the springs during periods of dry weather.

The shortest distance between the villages is across the high plateaux at elevations above 2000m. This means much of the traverse is a series of 500m to 1000m ascents and descents of the escarpment between villages which are apparent on this elevation diagram. Each village has a road connecting it with the desert plains below the mountains, which is why there are ten road intersections but only six places where the track briefly follows a road.

Start and Finish

The start and finish of the traverse are shown on this Google Map, with the fastest vehicle route between them. The start is from Al Afyah on the eastern edge of the Western Hajar Mountains, a village in Sumail Gap that is a natural east-west pass dividing the Hajar Mountains connecting the coast with the deserts and main interior town of Nizwa. It is an hour’s drive on tarmac 100km southwest of Muscat International Airport on Nizwa Highway 15, which follows the Sumail Gap. Transport options include taxis, shared taxis or maxi taxis, which are minibuses also known as baisa buses. The shared taxi and baisa-bus options will leave you 1km from the start of the track on the Muscat to Nizwa highway. Day 1 is a 10 hour walk so you need an early start. This is not always possible with baisa buses, therefore it is wise to book a private taxi to ensure you start walking at dawn. Alternatively you can have a leisurely start, and camp on the plateau at the small cave making Day 1 a two day walk. There is no water until you reach Hadash.

The finish is Yiqa which is 160km from Muscat International Airport. There are taxis at Yiqa, then you can take a bus from Rustaq or continue in a taxi to Muscat.

On the Google Map use command + scroll to zoom in and out on a PC, or two fingers on a touch screen.

Climate

The walking season is from mid November to March but February is the best month because it is still cold and has longer days than December and January. There is little cloud cover so sun protection is essential. The most important variable in these arid mountains is the temperature. The warmest in winter will be 25 ºC at the lowest elevation but it can freeze on the summit where it snows every two or three years. Strong winds and rain are rare, but when it does rain it usually blows as well. This means tents are not that useful (except for privacy) because there are few fixing points except heavy rocks that are not reliable when your tent becomes a sail. If you insist on all-weather protection in addition to the recommended good quality light rain coat then breathable bivvy bags are better than tents. Weather forecasts for the Western Hajar in winter are reasonably accurate and there is a weather station on the web for Jabal Shams. Winter rain is usually light from the northwest while summer monsoon storms can be torrential causing flash floods. Check the weather forecast every three days, and if it does rain seek shelter in a cave, overhang or shawawi camp and wait for the sun.

Tracks

There is no concept of public rights of way in the mountains and deserts of Oman. The public can walk anywhere without a physical barrier indicating private property, such as walls surrounding a house or yard and irrigated garden perimeter fences. The only restrictions are on tracks passing directly through villages where men from neighbouring villages need permission. This does not apply to tourists. Most of the tracks on the traverse cross land that is used by semi-nomadic pastoralists, called shawawiya, to browse their goats and collect firewood and medicinal plants. The economic benefit of this territory, called isbah, belongs to the shawawiya but there are no restrictions on anybody crossing the land.

There is a considerable variety of tracks on this traverse. Some have not been used for generations while on others you will see donkeys carrying supplies. They include major and minor donkey caravan routes, unladen donkey routes to man tracks requiring scrambling by hand. One of the side tracks is a horse track, although it has not been used by horses for three hundred years. This horse track has elaborate stone staircases built for the less robust but faster horse caravans. The major donkey trading routes have their own names and are built with stone stairs and walls to provide sufficient room for a laden donkey. Donkey barriers made from stones and sticks keep them away from overhanging cliffs with insufficient clearance for their load. Unladen donkey tracks have narrow sections that are impassable for a laden donkey. The caravan routes still in use, easily identified from the continuous line of donkey droppings, carry provisions to the semi-nomadic pastoral settlements not serviced by roads.

The tracks between the summer and winter villages of sedentary farmers have stones polished from hundreds of years of footfall. These shiny rocks remain visible even when the track is disused and overgrown with acacia bushes. Six of the tracks on the traverse have recently been painted with stripes of yellow, white and red or have reflective green dots from recent ultra marathon races for which GPS navigation is not required. A few other tracks show earlier applications of infrequent paint . All the paint marks are reliable, although different vintages follow slightly different routes. High cairns on cliff tops mark the start of descents. The most difficult climbs on the traverse are a 2.5m cliff, though this has plenty of handholds, and on the high option a 12m cliff that has a chain ladder. All the climbs are shown in photographs in the book Wilderness Trekking Oman. The easiest tracks to follow are trading routes that link villages to the large market towns below the mountains, to the coast and to each other if they are growing complementary crops. For example, lower warmer villages grow dates while higher cooler villages grow wheat if their terraces are mostly in sunshine, or walnut and pomegranate trees on narrow shaded terraces.

Be careful asking directions. A villager from As Sawjrah who accompanied me on my first walk to Ar Rus knew the first 5km extremely well as that was within the range of his foraging goats. The route we followed from there to Ar Rus was based on his mountain instinct, not specific knowledge of a track, while my second attempt was 3km shorter. The shawawi semi-nomadic pastoralists' knowledge of tracks is more extensive than villagers as their isbah could extend 25km from their homes. As of publication date, no one has knowledge of the entire traverse, although this is expected to change, and it is necessary to be confident with a navigation device to walk this traverse. However, if you prefer not to walk this traverse alone then Omani guides will keep you safe. You would be guiding the Omani with your navigation device and the Omani will keep you company and would be able to get help in an emergency.



Donkeys

Walking with a guide and donkeys is recommended for the last four days because it is safer for you, carrying heavy local food is possible and they are an interesting experience, although it is not any faster than walking alone. These mountain donkeys are trained to carry loads and know most of the tracks, but neither village donkeys that are only used for agriculture nor desert donkeys are capable of walking in the mountains. The only village donkeys you will see on the traverse are in the extensive terraces at Misfat Al Abriyyin.

Abdullah Al Khambashi and the shawawiya who live in the satellite settlement of Al Jammah to the west of Yiqa have nine mountain donkeys and are keen to use them for tourism. Abdullah and most of the men from his extended family had military jobs before retiring. Trekking tourism helps utilise their numerous semi-nomadic campsites and remote gardens. Typical of shawawiya, Abdullah’s family own five simple storehouses in the wadi, plus their modern house in Al Jammah. There is water and a donkey enclosure at each of their campsites.

The etiquette section has details on what you should and should not pay for including donkeys, and how much.

Donkeys prefer to have company, so hiring a pair of compatible donkeys for four hikers is easier to manage than a single donkey. They walk quickly for four hours then need to drink, eat and rest for two hours. They are fed hay, which they carry in a bag tied above their load, with a bowl of dates. Abdullah made a point of being totally silent to avoid disturbing his donkey when it was drinking. The donkeys have to be unloaded for their rest, when they immediately roll on the ground to scratch their backs. This unloading and subsequent loading procedure is done carefully. There are five saddle blankets that spread the point loads of the saddle tree, which has a pair of wooden loops that fit into two pockets on the fabric saddlebag. The heaviest items are loaded into the saddlebags, then the rest of the load is tied on top with the hay bag last. If the loaded donkey is lopsided it is balanced by adding rocks to one of the saddlebags. Balance is more important than weight.

The shawawiya will lead or let their donkeys loose depending on the track. They are led when the track climbs steeply or when negotiating something difficult, such as boulders in a wadi. The only time Abdullah threatened his brother’s donkey with a stick was on a track that had not been used for forty years. Two places on this eroded track were too steep for a laden donkey so we carried the saddlebags ourselves. Most of the donkey tracks from Yiqa are in frequent use and well maintained. When donkeys are not on leads they will walk briskly ahead then stop and look behind or turn around to face you. Sometimes they will not stop and you have to run to catch up, especially if you pause to take a picture. They will trot to the end destination when close to a familiar campsite. The first few kilometres starting from their home is the hardest; a solo donkey will exchange bellows with the herd back in the village and try to rejoin them by swerving off the track. The herd, while all in separate enclosures, are in frequent communication.

When donkeys are not imminently required for a caravan they are released for grazing into areas of a wadi's natural barriers. These barriers, such as cliffs, are augmented with short fences across any ledges that are on donkey tracks exiting the enclosure. These fences, made from a tangle of branches, are called shiggy and function as gates; they have to be dismantled and reassembled when travelling on these tracks. A donkey’s working life is from three to twenty years.

Rescue

In an emergency ring 9999 and have your GPS coordinates ready for the operator. This is a general emergency number which will initiate a foot search by police and local villagers followed by Air Force helicopters if necessary. If you activate a personal locator beacon your request for help and coordinates will be sent to the emergency services automatically. There are no charges for rescue services in Oman, however the Royal Omani Police recommend both domestic and international adventure tourists carry an appropriate level of insurance for their intended activities.

Water Location

Drinking water is available at each campsite other than Jabal Shams summit, and during some days, with the location listed by day in the following table. There are three sources of water: public village taps, hotels, and remote locations of water that are indicated with blue text. Remote water can be springs, cave pools, tanks, open reservoirs and wadi dams. The three sources of water are split between three 1:400,000-scale maps: overview map, hotel locations, and the map of remote water locations. The higher resolution 1:50,000-scale maps in the chapters on each day’s walk display all the water sources on the same map, which are all included in the GPX file of waypoints.

Drinking Water Treatment

Aini falaj water is from springs, described in detail in the Irrigation chapter in the book Wilderness Trekking Oman. Water from springs, cave pools and cliff drips does not require treatment. The water from the public taps in Hadash and Wukan comes from nearby springs while that from the villages of Hayl Ash Shas, Hayl Al Khadra, Kurb and Al Marrat is from regularly used tanks and tastes fine. All tanks in semi-nomadic pastoralists’ campsites, for example above Misfat Al Abriyyin and to the west of Jabal Shams, are large closed plastic containers filled with rainwater that has a slight plastic taste due to infrequent use. Treating this water is optional. The tap for these tanks has usually been removed and placed nearby to avoid any accidental emptying, for example by a goat nibbling the tap. This tank water is available for any traveller to drink sparingly. These semi-nomadic pastoral camps are described in the Culture chapter. The only tank water you are likely to use will be during the last four days, and it is advisable to forewarn Abdullah Al Khambashi or one of his relatives in Al Jammah who own them. Water from open reservoirs and wadi dams should be boiled or treated before drinking, for instance the water at Burkat Ash Sharaf and Al Barbad on the high option as it approaches the summit.

Day Day's journey Water at start Water midway -- Water in blue text is on map of remote water locations
1 Al Afyah to Hadash Al Afyah falaj none
2 Hadash to Wukan Hadash public tap spring near Wukan
3 Wukan to As Sawjrah Wukan public tap, falaj, or hotel Sama Wakan Heritage Lodge Aqbat Wukan tank after two hours
4 As Sawjrah to Ar Rus As Sawjrah spring or hotel The Cliff none
5 Ar Rus to Ash Sharaf Ar Rus public tap or Alila Hotel none
6 Ash Sharaf to Misfat Al Abriyyin Shorfet Al Alamin hotel or Al Hoota Rest House Hayl Al Jawari tank after four hours
7 Misfat Al Abriyyin to Hayl Ash Shas Misfat Al Abriyyin has at least four hotels, and falaj Daan Daqayqah tank after two hours
8 Hayl Ash Shas to Jabal Shams summit The View hotel Hayl Al Khadra tank after one hour
9 Jabal Shams summit to plateau none none
10 Kurb road to Yisab road saddle Sama Heights Resort or Jabal Shams Resort Ayn Shigib spring after two hours
11 Yisab to Naqa Ar Ruways Yisab falaj Naqaat Al Harf tank after seven hours
12 Naqa Ar Ruways to Kurb Naqa Ar Ruways tank none
13 Al Marrat road to Daan As Sanin Sunrise Resort or Sama Heights Resort, or Al Marrat tank Hayl At Talhat falaj after two hours
14 Daan As Sanin to Ghayl Shadhan Daan As Sanin tank Ghayl Shadhan spring after six hours
15 Ghayl Shadhan to Dar Ar Ruways Ghayl Shadhan tank As Safa tank after three hours
16 Dar Ar Ruways to Al Jammah Dar Ar Ruways tank Sinfat tank after one hour, Dar Al Bayda spring after two hours
Water locations on the two options
6 Ash Sharaf to Al Barbad Shorfet Al Alamin hotel or Al Hoota Rest House Aqbit Al Qalean open reservoir after four hours, Burkat Ash Sharaf open reservoir after five hours
7 Al Barbad to Jabal Shams summit Al Barbad open reservoir Sab An Nar cave pool in one hour, Hawd Al Qattar cliff drip in two hours
13 Al Marrat road to Al Iqaybah Sunrise Resort or Sama Heights Resort, or Al Marrat tank Hayl At Talhat falaj after two hours, Naqa Ar Ruways tank after five hours


Logistics and Cooking

You should treat this traverse as an expedition because there are no shops in the villages where supplies can be purchased. Lightweight freeze-dried meal packets are ideal because water is available every night. It is advisable to establish how many of these food packets you will need to sustain yourself for continuous eight- to ten-hour walks for sixteen days, and test how many you can carry which will determine how many supply rendezvous you will need, for example at hotels. This will depend on the weight of your pack, which is partly determined by how much drinking water you carry. Daily drinking water consumption will depend on the month you are walking. Three litres per day is enough in the optimum walking season, mid November to March. Load your pack, including this water, to determine how many days’ food you are comfortable carrying, remembering there are 1000m climbs. A reasonable pack weight is 18kg. You need to carry enough food and water for a minimum of two days to complete the summit section. Donkeys are recommended for the remote four day section at the end of the traverse because they can carry heavier local food. One donkey can carry food supplies for two walkers.

There are several alternatives for organising delivery of meal packets for the first twelve days. The least expensive option is to purchase freeze-dried packages in your home country and post them using tracked delivery to your choice of hotel rendezvous at least a month before your trip. Include in your package a letter with your name and expected arrival date, and a request for an email confirmation when your package is received. To ensure your package is collected promptly by the hotel you should track it as it passes customs in Muscat, and email your hotel when it arrives at their P.O. Box in Muscat, Nizwa or Al Hamra. There are four hotels or guest houses at or near three campsites on the traverse to whom I have posted my freeze-dried food in advance for collection. A quicker but more expensive option is to use online shopping from desertcart, a company based in the Emirates who supply towns in Oman including Nizwa. Oman and the United Arab Emirates are part of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area so an Emirati online company such as desertcart has access to the Omani market. They sell the Mountain House brand of freeze-dried food. Your order should be in the name of the hotel manager, who will have to collect the package on your behalf from Nizwa. This works well for the restored village hotels because the hotel managers' names and mobile numbers required by desertcart for the Nizwa collection are known and listed. I have used this service for three hotels: The Cliff, Shorfet Al Alamin and Hospitality Inn. Bringing food parcels to Oman with your luggage and arranging a series of vehicle rendezvous with a tourist services provider is the most expensive alternative for food resupply, and at the date of publication there is only one Omani company that can deliver parcels in the mountains. They can also provide a more elaborate campsite service. The road network makes it possible to rely on friends and family if you are accompanied by non-walkers. They could hire a vehicle and meet you at some of the villages with your food supplies. Driving instructions to each road intersection are included in the daily track descriptions.

It is recommended but not essential to use camping gas to boil water for your freeze-dried food. Camping gas is sold in the department stores in Muscat. Alternatively there are plenty of dry fallen branches for a fire, which is easily started but they should be used judiciously. Use existing fireplaces whenever possible and be aware that cutting live hard wood is illegal due to conservation measures. Open fires may become illegal on parts of the mountain range as part of planned measures to preserve the environment.

Sleeping

You do not need to carry a tent or bivy bag as only two campsites are low enough for mosquitoes, and the dew is not heavy. Wild camping is permitted in Oman and is the only choice for the five nights in the wilderness when you are not near a road or hotel. There are no fixed campsites. The terrain is mostly rock so you will need to choose a site carefully. Sleep under juniper trees on needle beds when at high elevations. Elsewhere disused goat enclosures have soft build-ups of dried droppings. Ledges under rock overhangs or caves often have comfortable layers of dust. Wild donkeys create stone-free dust bowls when they roll on their backs, which are conveniently sized for one person.

There are a few natural pools in which to swim and it is not acceptable to bathe in the irrigation systems known as aflaj. For showering, plan to use hotels, of which some offer washing and toilet facilities for campers.

Pests

The main pests are mosquitoes but these only occur on the two nights where you sleep at low altitude near exposed water, 950m at Misfat Al Abriyyin and 1140m at Yisab. Mosquitoes can be avoided at Misfat Al Abriyyin by sleeping at one of the guest houses but bring mosquito repellent for the overnight stay at Yisab. Malaria tablets are not necessary. There are other noxious animals but it is very rare for them to cause problems. Scorpions live under rocks, which you may disturb when preparing fireplaces. You may encounter racers, which are non-poisonous snakes sometimes seen near or in water, but all other snakes should be considered venomous, although most are not and are rarely seen. None of the villages on this route keep dogs. Goats are determined to be fed but will not bother you at night, but do not leave edible belongings unattended during the day or they will be eaten. It is better not to feed them.

Packing

The suggested packing list corresponds to the photograph of the contents of my pack. A 65-litre pack is big enough. A -20 ºC down sleeping bag is recommended. If you sleep wearing just light walking clothes in freezing conditions then you need this rating to remain comfortable. Therm-a-rest NeoAir mats are designed to be used inside a tent, so you need to provide the equivalent protection from thorns and sharp rocks, for example a rubber sleeping mat under it will protect it and provides more cushioning. With this double-mat combination you only need a flat surface on which to sleep; even sleeping on hard rock is possible. This rubber mat will not fit inside your pack; the ends will protrude when secured under your pack's top cover and will be ripped by acacia thorns probably necessitating its replacement after sixteen days, but they are inexpensive and available in Muscat in most large department stores. Spare mats should be included in your rendezvous food parcel. You need three clothing layers for cold evenings and a raincoat as a windbreaker. At night you will swap your sun hat for a woollen hat, both of which should cover your ears. Lightweight OMM insulation clothing is ideal, though expensive. Clothing layers should have front zips so they can be adjusted for changing temperatures. Hiking clothes and sun hats should cover as much skin as possible for cloudless days

Pack Contents

A cooking pot to boil water for the freeze-dried food should be light. Collapsible water containers are preferable to bladders because water levels are easier to monitor. Purification tablets or a straw are for drinking stagnant ground reservoir and wadi dam water; an unlikely scenario. A back-up Garmin is recommended in case you drop and break one. To keep to within a few metres of a recorded track, which is sometimes necessary, you have to hold and continually monitor the Garmin except when climbing with both hands. It is a good idea to make a dry run of carrying all this gear in your pack.

If you have arranged for a vehicle support team to meet you on consecutive evenings, give them your main pack and walk with just a 20-litre day pack. In this case bring the day pack with you to Oman as there are no quality camping shops in Muscat. If there is space in the support vehicle load it with a stretcher, pillow and camping gas cooker for comfortable roadside camping. Check that the support vehicle has a USB charge socket for recharging phones and cameras. An adequate standard of roadside camping gear is stocked at the Carrefour department stores in Seeb and Qurum.

Pack and Sleeping Gear
  • Pack, 65 litres
  • -20 degC down sleeping bag (in reality only comfortable at -5 degC)
  • Rubber sleeping mat (spare with rendezvous supplies as they get ripped)
  • Inflatable Therm-a-rest NeoAir upper body sleeping mat or equivalent
Night-time
  • Warm zipped jersey
  • Insulation jacket
  • Woollen hat covering ears
  • Light raincoat with hood (provides extra layer for wind as well as rain)
  • Head-torch, spare AAA lithium batteries
  • Mosquito repellent
Cooking
  • Ultra light titanium pot
  • Matches
  • Camping gas and cooker
  • Spoon/fork
  • Freeze-dried food
  • Omani Riyals, large and small denominations
Toiletries
  • Toilet paper (also used for starting cooking fires)
  • Dry wash soap
  • Toothbrush and paste
First Aid
  • First aid kit
  • Ibuprofen
  • Blister plasters
Walking
  • Collapsible water bottle capacity 2.0 Litre (x 3 for summit, the campsite without water)
  • Chlorine dioxide tablets or LifeStraw water filter with micro filter for treating water from open ground reservoirs or wadi dams
  • Light quick-drying hiking trousers
  • Light quick-drying long sleeved hiking shirt
  • Leather boots, socks, underwear
  • Sun runner cap with flaps for ears and neck
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Sunglasses
Navigation and Communication
  • Garmin and spare AA lithium batteries, two Garmin per hiking group
  • Maps, either folded sheet or book
  • Mobile phones for 4G (smart phone) and 2G (for example Nokia dual SIM)
  • Power bank and leads for mobiles
  • Optional Emergency Beacon (for example PLB1 from Oceansignal)
Camera
  • Camera in soft case, spare batteries or rechargeable from power bank

Logistics Support

www.omansportszone.com

SportsZone can arrange your food delivery to mountain rendezvous if you did not organise an early postage or online delivery of freeze-dried camping food to any of the hotels, and if you are not being supported by family and friends. This will require a driver making a four-hour round trip in a 4WD from Muscat, which will be expensive. Freeze-dried camping food is not available in Oman so you either bring it with you, or make an online order from desertcart to be delivered to SportsZone.

"SportZone LLC is a small Omani run company established in 2016 by two experienced Omani athletes, and specialises in organising a wide range of events. Our mission is to promote the Omani culture and present the most stunning parts of our beautiful country to visitors from around the world. We are able to support your trekking adventure in a number of ways."

  • Transportation services
  • Food and water delivered to your prearranged stopping points
  • Set up of camps at each of your chosen stopping points
  • Anything else you may need

Hotels and Dried Food Parcel Delivery

Hotels to give you relief from wild and roadside camping are located within walking distance of the end of seven of the sixteen days’ walks as shown on the hotel map. The distance from the end of the track to the hotel is in the fourth column of the hotel table. It is also possible to use a hotel on Day-12 finishing at Kurb if you phone for a hotel taxi for the 9.2km journey. Some of the hotels (The Cliff, Hospitality Inn, Bait Bimah and others) provide shower facilities for a reasonable fee if you are camping nearby, drinking water and they all have restaurants. The water in hotels that is delivered by tankers and piped desalination water is safe without treatment.

The Alila Hotel and The View are expensive so most hikers will stay at the other hotels for a total of five nights, including the three restored village houses. Advance booking is recommended during the winter tourist season. This map and the table below do not include all hotels on the Western Hajar.

At the end of Day 3, Day 5 and Day 6 are hotels who have received my posts from the UK of dried food parcels for collection; The Cliff in As Sawjrah, Shorfet Al Alamin at Ash Sharaf and Hospitality Inn and Misfah Old House posted via Canyon Adventures and Tours in Misfat Al Abriyyin. These hotels are highlighted with red in the table. The tracked postage took between fourteen and twenty-one days. Their postal boxes are in Muscat, Nizwa or Al Hamra that are some distance below the mountain villages and visited infrequently, accounting for these long postage times. It is recommended to use a parcel tracking service, and email the hotel when your package has cleared customs in Muscat and arrived at their Post Office Box. The village hotels are occupied throughout the year, regardless of guest occupancy, so summer postage to them will be successful. The contacts and addresses for postage for five hotels are listed below the table of hotels. As more walkers use their facilities it is likely all these hotels in future will accept posted dried food for their walk-in guests.

Ordering Mountain House freeze-dried food from the online provider desertcart was successful for the same four hotels. Desertcart will send your order by courier to their office in Nizwa, from where your hotel is called to collect it. The delivery times were between eight and twelve days. To use this service you need to provide desertcart with a physical address, name and mobile number; this will be the hotel name and village, and the hotel manager's name and mobile number. This information is listed below the table of hotels.

Day Location Nearest Hotel Road to Hotel Hotel Web Address
2 Wukan Sama Wakan Heritage Lodge 0 www.samaresorts.com
3 As Sawjrah The Cliff 0 www.thecliffguesthouse.wordpress.com
4 Ar Rus Alila 3.5km www.alilahotels.com
5 Ash Sharaf Shorfet Al Alamin 0 www.shorfetalalamin.com
5 Ash Sharaf Al Hoota Rest House 800m www.alhootaresthouse.com
6 Misfat Al Abriyyin Hospitality Inn 0 al-misfah-hospitality-inn-ludhiana
6 Misfat Al Abriyyin Misfah Old House 200m info@misfaholdhouse.com
7 Hayl Ash Shas The View 0 www.theviewoman.com
9 Jabal Shams plateau Sama Heights Resort and Spa 0 www.samaresorts.com
9 Jabal Shams plateau Jebel Shams Resort 2.7km www.jebelshamsresort.com
12 Kurb Sama Heights Resort and Spa 9.3km east www.samaresorts.com
12 Kurb Sunrise Resort 9.2km west www.sunriseresort-om.com
  • Sama Resorts are at Wukan and Jabal Shams plateau. Mail is driven up the mountain in a weekly journey, sales@samaresorts.com, Phone +968 2448 9853, Postal address: Golden Oryx Tours, 6th floor KFC building, Al Khuwair, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
  • The Cliff, thecliffguesthouse@gmail.com, Mohammed Al Sheriqi, +968 9883 6356, Postal address: P. O. Box 1069, Postal Code 611, Nizwa, Sultanate of Oman. (Tracked parcel postage from London took sixteen days, online delivery from desertcart via Nizwa took eight days)
  • Shorfet Al Alamin Hotel, shorfetalalamin@gmail.com, Ayetullah Sharif, +968 9026 8418, Postal address: P.O. Box. 3435, Postal Code 111, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman (Tracked parcel postage from London took fourteen days, online delivery from desertcart via Nizwa took twelve days)
  • For both Misfat Al Abriyyin hotels, Hospitality Inn and Misfah Old House, contact Canyon Adventures and Tours, info@canyonadventurestours.com, Abdul Rahman Al Abri, +968 9941 2660, Postal address: P.O. Box 64, Postal Code 617, Al Hamra, Sultanate of Oman. (Tracked parcel postage from London took twenty-one days, online delivery from desertcart via Nizwa took twelve days)
  • Jabal Shams Resort, reservations@jabalshamsresort.com, Postal address: P.O. Box 344,  Postal Code 617, Al Hamra, Sultanate of Oman.

Guides

  • As Sawjrah
    The Cliff Hotel www.thecliffguesthouse.wordpress.com
  • Wadi Bani Awf
    The Bait Bimah Hotel, www.baitbimahoman.com
  • Misfat Al Abriyyin
    Canyon Adventures and Tours www.canyonadventurestours.com
  • Yiqa and the last four days
    Abdullah Al Khambashi +968 9569 8833 who lives at Al Jammah 2.4km west of Yiqa. Guides for this long remote section will insist on bringing donkeys to carry their own provisions as well as yours.
  • Some tracks
    www.omantrekkingguides.com

Donkey Owners

For the last four days finishing at Yiqa, Abdullah Al Khambashi +968 9569 8833 who lives at Al Jammah 2.4km west of Yiqa, will arrange guides and donkeys to carry their own provisions as well as yours. If you walk this section by yourselves you will probably drink water from Abdullah's tanks. Please forewarn Abdullah of this intention

Mountain Etiquette

Omanis are renowned for their hospitality, enthusiastically practicing their Arab generosity towards travellers. You will meet many Omanis on the mountains and experience their kindness. It is respectful to cover shoulders and knees to avoid embarrassing your hosts

Drinking water is freely given and taken from a house tank even if the owner is absent. The water adjacent to village mosques is available to everyone, and it is considered offensive if payment is offered. Their generosity extends to coffee, dates and a full meal. If you are offered food you should accept as this is an important part of Omani culture, especially in remote areas. In the cool evenings you are likely to be invited into a majlis (pl. majalis), which functions as a sitting room used for greeting and entertaining guests. Private houses have two majalis, one for men and one for women. Some villages, such as Ar Rus, have communal majalis next to the mosque. Shoes must be removed before entering a carpeted room, the walls of which are lined with cushions. Once inside you will be greeted with a bowl of dates, Omani coffee and water. The strong and bitter coffee is served in egg-shaped cups, which are thought to be a legacy of early trade with China. Cardamom was introduced to Oman centuries ago from the Malabar coast of India and is often used for flavouring coffee and tea. Traditionally you drink a few cups of coffee then shake it from side to side to indicate you have had enough. Whenever a newcomer enters a room everybody rises in greeting. At meal times a plastic sheet will be put on the floor with bowls of fruit and trays of meat and rice, and everybody leaves their seats to sit on the floor around the meal. The custom in Oman is to eat with your right hand and not to use cutlery. Most majlis have an adjoining washroom to wash your hands before eating.

If you are served a full meal you must insist on paying for it. The cost of food such as goat meat in Oman is the same as the price of lamb in the UK, New Zealand or anywhere else, as Oman is part of the global food supply chain. Therefore pay as for a home cooked meal in your own country. While your Omani host will resist accepting payment, it is unreasonable for foreign guests to accept this extent of their generosity as the traditional mountain lifestyle is marginal. There is no need to pay for a place to sleep except if it is a commercial establishment. You are likely to sleep on a terrace or in a compound associated with a house, or under trees in a hala or diyar, which is a shawawi campsite.

Purchasing the services of a guide or a donkey to carry your pack is a different proposition. The Omanis that offer these services are most likely to practice the shawawi (adjective) lifestyle, one of the two traditional mountain societies; the other being sedentary farmers. Shawawiya (noun) are semi-nomadic pastoralists who browse goats on natural vegetation. Traditionally they divided their time within their territory, called isbar, between their numerous campsites that, on Al Jabal Al Akhdar, are either called hala (a single stone storehouse, under a cliff overhang or under a large tree) or halil (multiple houses). Before roads were built between villages shawawiya led many of the long-distance donkey trading caravans on behalf of sedentary farmers, hence they have the most knowledge of mountain tracks and their donkeys are practiced on walking them. Nomadic people throughout the Middle East have always provided a transport service for settled people, historically in a barter system, now for cash. Consistent with this tradition will be their enthusiasm today to offer you commercial guide services and a donkey if they still have them. It is appropriate for you to bargain the price before you commit. The daily rate of a donkey and its owner is comparable to the daily rate of hiring a vehicle in Oman.

If you see goats being shepherded on a track, move away to avoid disrupting them. A startled goat that becomes separated from the herd can go feral. The rules on not leaving litter are universal; what you take in you must take out.

Women in Oman

Oman has an impressive record of equal opportunity for women in both education and employment. Women science graduates outnumber men and many women hold professional positions in both the public and private sectors. These opportunities extend to women living in the mountains if they are prepared to migrate to one of the larger towns, but their lifestyle, as well as that of men, is more conservative. This is probably related to the cultural rhythm in the Middle East rather than being specific to Oman. Prior to 1970 the interior, including the Hajar Mountains, was a closed area and had been for a hundred years. There had been little exposure to outsiders until they were opened to tourism in 2005 after the military restriction on the road up Al Jabal Al Akhdar was lifted. This is the opposite of the coast where, in Sohar in 1982, a researcher recorded eight languages spoken by the resident souk traders. Despite this isolation, society in the mountains was not as conservative as it is now. In 1837 Wellsted quoted the desert Arabs who told him that the mountain people were not jealous of their women. In 1992, during a trek between villages, I was greeted by both men and women at the entrance to each village. The women wore their dowry of ornate silver jewellery and colourful clothes. Today they are more likely to be dressed in black. If you are a male visitor you will share coffee and eat meals with the villagers and shawawiya but may not see any local women. You should not initiate shaking hands with any women you meet.

A female visitor will not normally join the men in the main majlis, instead if you are invited into a village house it will most likely be to the women’s majlis. There will be no men inside and the women’s heads may not be covered. You will receive traditional Omani hospitality and kindness, and should partake of any food and water offered.

Should you meet an Omani man on the track he will probably offer to carry your pack and inquire as to whether you need anything. If he is carrying water he will offer it to you. La shukran, meaning “no thank you”, is what you should say if you wish to politely decline the offer. Omani men and women will treat you very courteously and will be thrilled that you have made such an effort to see their country. The respect offered to strangers is an Omani tradition and it is a very safe place for both male and female guests and residents.

History and Culture

This is a picture summary of the Culture and History chapters in the book Wilderness Trekking Oman. These are scenes you are likely to encounter during the traverse. There are video clips from 1992 of villages that you will pass on Day 4.

Side Tracks and Loops

These tables of side tracks and loops are in addition to the traverse described in Days 1–16. The total length of the side tracks and traverse described on this web page and in the book and GPX files is 604km. Short excursions covered in some of the Day 1–16 chapters are not repeated in these tables. The best sidetracks for a family looking for a short walk to a swim are the 2km from Dukum to the pool at Wadi Al Kawr and the 2.3km from Al Alya to Ad Dar where there is a string of wadi pools.

The side tracks do not overlap with each other or any of the traverse tracks. Many of them are branches from other tracks, and only a few have paint marks. Twenty loops have been created using these sidetracks and portions of the traverse, and are described in the second table following the side track table. GPX files of the traverse, sidetracks, loops and waypoints are available for download. It is possible to append track segments to make your own loops using Garmin BaseCamp software.

The times provided for these tracks are one-way times without allowing time for breaks. They allow for some time spent referring to a navigation device, but this will depend on the hiker’s skill. It is recommended to employ a guide for your first walk to become familiar with the terrain, and to carry the paper map and a satellite navigation device.

Several of the donkey tracks have man track short cuts not included in this table, but are shown on the maps and in the GPX files. Most of these short cuts are only marginally shorter and, due to their increased difficulty, may not save any time. They are included on the maps to avoid confusion when walking past the track branch. Until you are familiar with the terrain it would be prudent to stay on donkey tracks.

The side tracks in this table include nearly all the donkey trading routes that intersect or are near the traverse, but it is not a complete list of all donkey tracks on the Western Hajar. Historically important tracks not included are the trading routes ascending the south side of the mountains from the interior, for example the tracks up Wadi Kamah, Tanuf, Muaydin and Imty, most of which have their own name. The track from Imty is called Alerurqub. These tracks are excluded because they are far from the traverse and being near the developed side of the mountain range are sometimes crossed by roads.

Side tracks that need ropes are also excluded. For example the one out of Wadi An Nakhur to Jabal Shams is a 2200m climb with two exposed 15m cliffs. When it is surveyed and has chain ladders installed it will be added to the GPX file and digital maps on this web page.

Side tracks crossing the traverse listed from east to west Difficulty Time (hours) Track (km) Up (m) Down (m) Description
Wukan man track to Hadash (track name Ayn Al Ghurab) Man track, difficult scrambling 2.5 4 336 384 Unpleasant walk up, down and across exposed steep loose scree slopes. This walk is for fit day walkers returning to their vehicle after finishing the more interesting ridge walk between Hadash and Wukan. This Hadash–Wukan–Hadash loop takes ten hours
Ras Al Aqbah to Wadi Halfayn (track name Safat Halfayn) Easy donkey track 6 12.4 25 1605 From saddle Ras Al Aqbah this trading route links the mountain villages Sayq, Wukan, Hadash, As Sawjrah, Al Fawq and Al Alya to Izki. 2km road joins track to Highway 15
Sayq (hotel) to Ras Al Aqbah (track name Widyan Al Aqbah) Easy donkey track 2.5 6.2 330 68 Trading route from the Jabal Aqhdar Hotel on the edge of Sayq to the saddle Ras Al Aqbah. Originally the track started at the centre of Sayq but is now overbuilt
Aqbat Wukan to Ras Al Aqbah Easy donkey track 2.5 5.3 610 220 Trading route linking two saddles with track junctions reaching an altitude of 2500m
Al Alya to Aqbat Wukan Horse track 5 9.7 1232 152 Fabulous stairs at the top of the ascent from Wadi Bani Kharus built for horse caravans. The track passes the Al Jahm well and Jahm Al Jabayl grazing plain
Al Jahm to Al Fayq (track name Al Fayq) Horse track 2.5 4.4 57 728 Ancient horse-trading route linking the grazing plateau and the villages on Al Jabal al Akhdar with Wadi Bani Harras and the village of Al Fayq
Ad Dar to As Sawjrah via wadi (track name Al Ilayah) Very difficult, boulder and cliff climbing 4 7.8 922 44 Man track best done in the company of a local guide who can pull you up the boulders. The wadi has numerous swimming pools and is spectacular
Al Alya to Al Mikhayti (track name Al Furs) Easy donkey track 5.5 9.8 1400 371 Main trading route linking the end of Wadi Bani Kharus with Al Jabal al Akhdar villages. This is the track and stone stairs that impressed Colonel S.B. Miles in 1876
Al Alya to Mazraat Riyad Al Jabal (track name As Safah) Easy walking track, then donkey track 5 9.3 1526 125 Track originally continued to Al Hayl. Dramatic climb out of Wadi Bani Kharus made easy with steel ladders. The plateau portion of this track is a donkey route
Burkat Al Zahat towards Talhat Easy donkey track 4 7 667 256 Branch trading route crossing both the As Safah track and Al Furs track
Talhat mosque to Al Hijar (track name At Talhat) Easy donkey track 3 4.8 0 1307 Main trading route linking the villages surrounding Ar Rus with the middle of Wadi Bani Kharus, and then to Ar Rustaq. This walk does not have much shade
Ar Rus to Masirat Ash Shirayqiyyin Easy man track 2 4.1 0 754 Track via wadi to abandoned village and extensive gardens with seven springs and aflaj
Masirat Ash Shirayqiyyin to Ar Rus Easy donkey track 2 4.7 18 750 High return for donkeys. Masirat Ash Shirayqiyyin is the winter village of Ar Rus
Al Hilaylat to Aqbat Al Biyut Easy donkey track 4 9.2 518 745 After 3km the track passes abandoned Masirat Al Jawamid village and gardens
Al Hilaylat to As Sarab Easy donkey track 1.5 5 150 266 Easy walk linking As Sarab and Ar Rus with the excursion to Masirat Al Jawamid
Dukum Hayl At Turuq via gardens (track called Rufsit Al Wid) Exposed man track, cliff climb on sticks 4 6.2 1300 126 Spectacular track through two gardens and springs to a 95m cliff climb on a natural ladder. The climb is not difficult but there is significant exposure
Dukum to garden loop in Wadi Halhal Easy donkey track 4 6 643 400 One way up the wadi from Dukum, then a loop passing two gardens and falaj, and a wadi pool deep enough to swim. Good day trip
Ridge near Ar Rus to Al Hijayr (track name Sab At Turuq) Difficult donkey track 7 10.6 267 1482 Track not used by donkeys for fifty years. It crosses many ridges and is difficult to follow. Better described as a man track
Aqbat Ajz Mikbar to Al Hijayr (track called the SAS route) Easy donkey track 5 9.1 23 1491 Track passes through a cleft in a cliff, and numerous steps. It was used by the British SAS to supply a decoy attack during Al Jabal Al Akhdar War, 1957–59
Hat to Aqbat Ajz Mikbar Donkey track 3 6.4 1100 33 Track not used by donkeys for fifty years, but easy walk. Track continues to Qiyut
Aqbat Sofit Said to Hat (track name Al Khaniq) Exposed man track 2 2.9 0 857 Near the top of the walk there is an exposed cliff climb of 2m above a 2m rock pile. There are handholds. This 4m cliff is best negotiated with two people
Balad Sayt to Hat (track name Ar Rawdah) Easy donkey track 1.5 3 288 46 Useful track to make a round trip with other tracks. There is a gravel road between these two villages
Balad Sayt to Sharaf Al Alamayn (track name W8) Steep donkey track, painted 3 2.8 1067 0 Not used by donkeys since the last one fell and hurt itself. It is spectacular, and there is archeological evidence suggesting it dates from the Bronze Age
Salma to Balad Sayt Easy man track 1.5 2.6 194 385 Track crosses Salma garden terraces and short tunnel at saddle above Balad Sayt
Bait Bimah to Salma Donkey track 1.5 2.7 324 7 Track passes pre-Islamic rock art in Wadi Bima
Salma to Aqbit Al Qalean Steep man track 3 2.7 976 0 Difficult track to follow, scrambling with no exposure
Wadi Al Hajur upper Snake Gorge Easy man track 0.5 0.75 52 0 No swimming or climbing required. Shaded cliffs have rope fixtures for rock climbing
Snake Gorge right or left fork right fork 23m abseil 5       Swimming in deep pools, cold in January, left fork only scrambling, back on 5km road
Al Hiwayb to Burkat Ash Sharaf Man track 2 2.2 840 0 Dramatic stick bridge on an interesting man track
An Nid towards Burkat Ash Sharaf Easy donkey track 4 6 1190 54 Main trading route to the saddle Burkat Ash Sharaf linking Wadi Sahtan with the interior. This track intersects the traverse route 2km from the saddle
Misfat Al Abriyyin to Burkat Ash Sharaf Easy donkey track 4 6.1 852 0 Main trading route linking interior village Misfat Al Abriyyin to Wadi Sahtan. Track passes an occupied shawawi camp, Aqbat al Hamra
Wijmah from junction on track An Nid to Burkat Ash Sharaf Difficult donkey track 1.5 2.1 10 207 Branch from track An Nid to Burkat Ash Sharaf to the large abandoned village of Wijmah
Ayn Al Habnah to Masjid Maillah Easy donkey track 0.5 0.8 26 72 Branch to spring from track An Nid to Burkat Ash Sharaf starting near Masjid Maillah
Misfat Al Abriyyin high view Easy man track 1.5 2.5 448 130 Ridge walk opposite Misfat Al Abriyyin with views across terraced gardens. Return on the traverse track for a half-day walk
Dar Al Bayda to Misfat Al Abriyyin via Al Muzara in wadi Difficult man-track in wadi with exposure 3.5 5 70 461 Popular wadi walk past village and terraces without road. There are a few exposed climbs on smooth rock with concrete ridges for handholds
Dar Al Bayda to Misfat Al Abriyyin Easy donkey track 1.5 2.6 0 344 Return walk from Al Muzara wadi scramble. Track joins traverse 1.3km from Misfat
Dar Al Bayda to Al Harf in east wadi Easy donkey track 3 6.2 565 134 Al Harf is a four-way track junction with a single house and open reservoir. This track passes a cave and a cliff drip. The cliff drips are fine to drink
Dar Al Bayda to Al Harf in west wadi Easy donkey track 2 4 565 54 Great one-day loop when combined with previous walk from Dar Al Bayda to Al Harf in east wadi
Al Harf walking track short cut Man track 1 1.9 21 147 Slightly shorter track with one easy climb, little exposure
Al Harf to Al Barbad Donkey track 1 1.24 250 0 Donkey track to mountain hut for public use
Al Harf to junction on track Al Barbad to Aqbit Saydran Donkey track 1 1.4 378 0 Donkey tracks used for transporting cut foliage from high pastures
Al Harf to Safih Abu Habshah Donkey track 1.5 2 336 8 Donkey tracks used for transporting cut foliage from high pastures
Al Qiwaytu towards summit Man track 3 6.6 1197 86 Easy walking track that joins track Hayl Ash Shas to Dabk Awlad Siwayid
Hayl Ash Shas to Dabk Awlad Siwayid Man track, one climb 4 7.4 1291 29 Easy walking track that joins track Hayl Ash Shas to the Jabal Shams summit. Just before this track junction called Dabk Awlad Siwayid there is a climb on a stick bridge
Sab An Nar cave pool Man track 0.5 0.6 30 30 Pool 30m along dark cave tunnel. Branch from track Al Barbad to Aqbit Saydran
Hawd Al Qattar to Safih Abu Habshah Donkey track 0.5 0.8 10 84 Cliff spring drip and collection pool. Branch from track Al Harf to Safih Abu Habshah with loop return on 700m track directly to chain climb at Safih Abu Habshah
Wadi Ghul to Al Khitaym (W6A) Donkey track 3.5 6.7 1142 18 Painted track passing an abandoned village above Wadi Ghul, views of Wadi An Nakhur
Al Khitaym to As Sab Bani Khamis (W6) then via ferrata Easy donkey track, Grade 3 via ferrata 3 4.9 367 308 This balcony walk is easy and spectacular. Most people return the same way. The optional via ferrata ascent follows the original extreme man track. It needs a harness
Al Khitaym to the Jabal Shams plateau Easy and a bit dull 1.5 4 153 88 Option to taxi or walking on the road to start of W6 balcony walk from Shams resorts
Jabal Shams Resort to Al Mnthar Easy donkey track 3.0 6.9 7 1098 Descent on dip slope to tarmac road leading to Ghul
Yisab road saddle to securiy fence near Jabal Shams peak Man track on narrow ledges 4 7.7 1533 128 Access to summit is blocked due restricted area around the communications dome. Track passes cave drip
Al Mazari to Yisab road saddle Man track with some scambling 1.5 2.6 672 20 Steep sections, but no exposure. Track short cut to yisab road saddle, then 3.7km road to where two other tracks start from the yisab road saddle
Yisab to Kurb via wadi Man track with one exposed climb 2 2.9 642 11 Shortest route between Kurb and Yisab. There is 2.3km of flat gravel road from the track head to Yisab
Yisab to Kurb high track Man track with exposed narrow ledges 3.5 5.6 740 60 Even with a GPS this track is difficult to follow without a local guide. The climbs between the ledges are easy to miss, and everything off track is dangerous
Yisab to Al Qabil Man track with one difficult traverse 4 10.1 186 798 Difficult traverse on sloping limestone shelf with exposure 2m drop into water, then a difficult climb out of the pool. Otherwise an easy walk. Date plantation enroute
Hayl At Talhat to Al Iqaybah, part of the shorter option detailed in the traverse summary table Donkey track 7 14.5 575 1465 Dramatic track passing a single inhabited house, Naqa Ar Ruways, finishing with an easy wadi walk to the shawawi village of Al Iqaybah that is 4km by gravel road to Yiqa
Branch to Aqbat At Tariq Donkey track 6 12.3 381 754 Dramatic and easy track following ledges on the opposite side of the previous track
Aqbat At Tariq to Al Iqaybah Donkey track 2 4.1 0 677 Easy descent then flat wadi walk
Al Iqaybah to Dalil Donkey track 2.5 5.6 153 52 Interesting donkey track inside and on wadi shoulders to a shawawi camp
Al Iqaybah to Al Jammah Easy man track 1 2 58 87 Short cut between two shawawi villages, alternative to using the road via Yiqa
Al Allahlanah to Aqbat At Tariq Easy man track 2.5 4.7 33 840 Track branch starts midway between the traverse track Aqbat At Tariq to Dar Al Bayda
Al Jammah to Khitam Al Wahshi Steep donkey track 10 15.7 611 1734 A long track with a steep 200m zigzaging climb out of the wadi 2km from Al Jammah. Water is available at Wadi Al Batih spring 10.2km from Al Jammah
Al Jammah to Dar Al Bayda inside wadi Unladen donkey track 3 5.9 780 98 Ledge and stair exit out of wadi then gentle ascent, mostly in the shade. This track is described with photographs as an alternative at the end of Day-16
Al Jammah to Ar Rimaylah Man track 9 19.5 1533 1168 Walk above wadi system across toe of the mountain range. It is not very interesting
Daan As Sanin to As Safa Donkey track 1.5 2.6 31 205 Alternative to shorten the traverse bypassing Ghayl Shadhan gardens
Dar Ar Ruways to Wadi Al Batih Man track, one climb 0.5 1.3 55 327 Wadi Al Batih is a spring and swimmable wadi pool. There is a climb into the wadi
Loop walks using sidetracks and portions of the traverse Difficulty Days Track (km) Up (m) Down (m) Description including water
Al Afyah to Wadi Halfayn via Hadash Difficult scrambling to Hadash, then a donkey track 2 29.8 2287 2311 There is water at Hadash, Al Manakhir and at the end of the descent into Wadi Halfayn where you can swim. There are baisa buses and taxis on the 5km of highway between the finish at the entrance to Wadi Halfayn and Al Afyah. This loop includes Day 1 described on pages 86 to 97. Maps are on pages 98 and 99.
Hadash loop via Wukan Donkey track out, scrambling on return 1 13.7 1247 1264 Allow 10 hours. There is water at Wukan and Al Qawrah. It is an easy walk to Wukan, which is Day 2 described on pages 100 to 107, but the return to Hadash has some steep scree climbs. Map on page 98.
Wukan high loop A scramble up a steep slope to the saddle, then a donkey track 1 11.8 1063 1063 There is tank water at Aqbat Wukan 300m beyond the saddle above Wukan, although Aqbat Wukan is not on the loop. This is a high walk, with a minimum altitude of 1500m, so suitable for warmer temperatures. Map on page 119.
Al Alya loop via As Sawjrah All donkey track 2 28.5 2108 2127 There is clean well water at Al Jahm, tank water at Aqbat Wukan, spring water and The Cliff hotel at As Sawjrah, dam water at Burkat Al Zahat and spring water at Ad Dar where the pools are large enough for a swim. Maps on page 118 and 119.
Halal gardens loop Donkey track 0.5 7.7 643 643 There is spring water and a swimming pool at Wadi Al Kawr, and springs at Suhub and Halhal gardens. Map on page 134.
Al Hijayr loop This is all a donkey track, though half of the loop is difficult to follow 2 29.3 2122 2109 There is no water. This is a donkey track but the east half of the circuit has not been used for fifty years and is better described as a man track. Maps on page 134 and 135. A shorter circuit ascends from Dukum instead of Al Hijayr, but there is an exposed though non-technical climb before reaching the ridge (see photo on page 229).
Hat loop One exposed climb 1 15.8 1259 1259 A long one day walk. There is tank water at Mikhatta Jabir and the hotel Shorfet Alalamin is near halfway. There is an exposed and difficult climb near the start of the descent off the ridge above Hat (see photo on page 243). Maps on pages 136 and 147.
Balad Sayt loop via Hat One exposed climb 1 10.7 1235 1235 There is no water. There is an exposed and difficult climb near the start of the descent off the ridge above Hat (see photo on page 243). Map on page 147.
Balad Sayt loop via Salma Man track, steep but not exposed 1 12 1538 1538 There is spring water at Salma and dam water under rocks at Aqbit Al Qalean (see photo on page 145). The cliff between Salma and the ridge is an infrequently used man track, not exposed but steep and hard to follow. Maps on page 146 and 147.
Misfat Al Abriyyin summit loop Donkey track, except for two chain ladders 2-3 37.4 2746 2746 There is tank water at Aqabat Al Hamra, dam water at Qil Azut, Burkat Ash Sharaf and Al Barbad, a 600m diversion to a spring at Sab An Nar, and water at villages Hayl Al Khadra and Hayl Ash Shas and the hotel The View. Maps on pages 154, 155 and 162. This loop is described in Days 6 to 8, pages 138 to 163.
Misfat Al Abriyyin high loop Easy walk 0.5 5 466 466 View over the Misfat Al Abriyyin terraces and the star clock towers. Map on page 154.
Misfat Al Abriyyin wadi loop Slippery scramble 1 10.9 680 680 There is water in the wadi with a few exposed slippery climbs. Map on page 154.
Dar Al Bayda loop All donkey track 1 10.3 687 687 There is a wall drip at Hasat Al Arid and a tank at Al Harf. Map on page 154.
Al Hiwayb to An Nid near loop Man track ascent, donkey track descent 1 9.2 870 1231 There is a spring Ayn Al Habnah on a 500m diversion. The circuit is incomplete; there is 4km of steep gravel road between the two track heads at An Nid and Al Hiwayb. Maps on page 154 and 155.
Hayl Ash Shas loop One exposed climb 1 16.3 1384 1384 There is no water, an exposed branch bridge at Dabk Awlad Siwayid, otherwise easy. Map on page 162.
Kurb loop via yisab Three climbs 3 31.4 2194 2194 This circuit is described in detail with maps on pages 172 to 191.
Wadi Yiqa loop Donkey track 2-3 35.7 2135 2135 Tank water at Naqa Ar Ruways and a spring at Hayl At Talhat. Maps on pages 202 and 203.
Al Jammah one day loop Unladen donkey track 1 11.4 850 850 There is no water, with some walking inside a shaded wadi on an unladen donkey track. This walk is described on pages 224 to 227. Map on page 211.
Al Jammah five day loop Donkey track, with a few easy climbs 5 72 3480 3480 This is four days of the traverse plus the one day option described in detail with maps on pages 192 to 227.
Wadi Taysa loop Donkey track, with one easy climb 2 27.4 1554 1554 There are springs at Wadi Al Batih and Dar Al Bayda, and tanks at Dar Ar Ruways and Sinfat. Map on page 211.

Ultra Marathon tracks in the Western Hajar Mountains

Four ultra marathon tracks have been created in the Western Hajar Mountains; 10, 50, 130 and 170km, which overlap with parts of Days 5 to 9 of the traverse and corresponding side tracks. They all have reflective green dots for night running so they can be followed without a navigation device. Red dots indicate incorrect routes. In places these marathon tracks take a less scenic but smoother route than all the other tracks, and portions of these tracks are on gravel roads. They are shown on the 1:50,000 maps as a dotted grey line. GPX files of these ultra marathon tracks are also available for download. These ultra marathon tracks were surveyed and marked by OmanSail in 2018 and 2019, an organisation responsible for bringing international sporting events to Oman. The 170km track uses the two chain ladders that were installed to make the Day 6 high route possible for a non-climber carrying a pack.

Ultra Marathons Difficulty Fastest Time (hours) Track (km) Up (m) Down (m) Description
Omansail 10km Starter running track 0.8 10.5 924 923 Loop from Al Hamra including a section of road
Omansail 50km Moderate running track 5.5 52 2517 2517 A loop on the ridge and south dip slope between Qiyut, Misfat Al Abriyyin and Ash Sharaf
Omansail 130km Extreme running track 18 126 7283 7205 Starts from Birkat Al Mawz up Wadi Muaydin on the south side of the mountains heading north to the mountain spine via two deep wadi excursions near Masirat Al Jawamid and Masirat Ash Shirayqiyyin, turns west along the ridge sometimes dropping south by several hundred meters off the historic trading route between Ar Rus and Ash Sharaf as in Day 5 where the terrain is less scenic but smoother for night running, loops north off the ridge to Balad Sayt by road and back by track, then more ridge before finally descending south to Al Hamra via Misfat Al Abriyyin. Portions of the track are on roads
Omansail 170km Very extreme running track 36 168 10052 9974 Extends the 130km track with the addition of the Day 6 high optional route to Jabal Shams using the chain ladders, then Day 9, sidetracks down the edge of Wadi An Nakhur to the gravel plain at the base of Wadi Ghul, back up the dip slope to Hayl Ash Shas finishing with Day 7 in reverse to Misfat Al Abriyyin and down to Al Hamra


4WD Access Roads

The maps in the book and separate folded map show 4WD access roads on both the north and south of the mountains. These connect to many of the side tracks from the traverse. GPX files of these roads are available to download. They will be useful if you have a support team who are driving a 4WD vehicle.