WIN­TER IS HERE

HI Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - STORY SHRUTHI NAIR AND SALEM AFIFI • PHO­TOS SALEM AFIFI, SUP­PLIED

If you want to en­joy the chilly weather, feel the win­ter sun and make full use of it while it lasts, then the best way would be to get out of your homes and ex­plore the length and breadth of the Sul­tanate, as sug­gested by Salim and Shruthi.

Ire­mem­ber one of my friends ask­ing me once about the win­ters in Oman. I’d just ca­su­ally said that we don’t re­ally have win­ters, but it just gets slightly cooler than usual. But this year, I’m not sure if my tol­er­ance for cold whether has gone down or if the gods wanted to prove me wrong, but it has been feel­ing like le­git win­ter for al­most two weeks now.

This sea­son is su­per ex­cit­ing for me. Be­ing an out­door per­son, who can’t spend more than a cou­ple of hours at home, the pleas­ant whether pro­vides the per­fect ex­cuse to stay out and ac­tu­ally en­joy what the coun­try has to of­fer with­out hav­ing to melt in the other­wise fierce sun. Hence, I thought that it might be a good idea to put to­gether some of my favourite win­ter des­ti­na­tions in Oman that you could visit while the win­ter still lasts.

Camp­ing

Ac­cord­ing to tourist reviews on­line, Oman proves to be an ideal camp­ing des­ti­na­tion. There are a num­ber of camp­ing ways that you could try in the vast coun­try start­ing from set­ting up a ba­sic tent bought from Sul­tan Cen­tre and set­ting up a camp­fire near it to the more so­phis­ti­cated and re­cently trend­ing glamp­ing where you get to en­joy the best of both worlds i.e lux­u­ries of life whilst be­ing as close to your favourite nat­u­ral spot as you want.

The Sul­tanate is prob­a­bly one of the rare few coun­tries that is blessed with all the three topo­graph­i­cal fea­tures that all na­ture lovers look for - moun­tain, desert, and beaches. So you might as well make use of it this chilly win­ter.

Moun­tain

The ma­jes­tic moun­tains of Oman con­sti­tute a good per­cent­age of Oman’s en­vi­ron­ment. Like the coun­try’s re­lief fea­tures, the moun­tains too are var­ied and di­verse. Two of my favourite Jebels (moun­tain in ara­bic) in Oman are Jebel Akhdar and Jebel Shams, both of wich are ex­tremely pic­turesque and gor­geous in their own unique ways.

Jebel Akhdar or the Green Moun­tains are per­haps the most veg­e­ta­tive part of Oman. With a range of flora and fauna, these moun­tains of­fer so­lace to na­ture lovers who get a chance to get

ac­quainted to dif­fer­ent species of plants and trees found ex­clu­sively in this re­gion. Jebel Akhdar is also fa­mous for its wide plateau close to the sum­mit, which is usu­ally and ideal camp­ing point. Try camp­ing near the ju­niper trees or the trees that pro­duce fruits such as apri­cots, plums, figs, grapes, ap­ples and pears to sort your meal out dur­ing your chilly stay here.

Jebel Shams, on the other hand is the high­est peaks of Oman. Need­less to say, it is also the coolest places in the coun­try be­cause, well, the higher you go the cooler it gets. The tem­per­a­ture is al­ready lesser than -1 up there and is only ex­pected to get cooler as the days go by. The best camp­ing spot would be the An Nakhr Bal­cony, which is a deep ravine in be­tween the rocky moun­tains.

Desert

Be­ing a desert, it is not sur­pris­ing at all that Oman has enough and more op­tions when it comes to desert camp­ing. How­ever, what stuns me the most about Oman’s desert is how dif­fer­ent the tex­ture of sand is in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, mak­ing me have a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence in dif­fer­ent deserts.

Shar­qiyah Sands is of course a top pick be­cause of its easy ac­ces­si­bil­ity and serene beauty. You can ei­ther be all ballsy and ven­ture out on your own into the desert and set camp amidst the mid­dle of ab­so­lute nowhere pro­vided you’re con­fi­dent that you won’t get lost or you could go for one of the many con­crete camp­ing op­tions pro­vided by travel agents and tour com­pa­nies. Ei­ther ways, you won’t be able to es­cape the cool and will need to make sure that the camp­fire burns if you want to sur­vive the night.

The Empty Quar­ter is eerier and isn’t as com­mer­cial as Shar­qiyah Sands. You will ac­tu­ally feel like you have left the world be­hind and en­tered into a no man’s land. Make sure you take ev­ery camp­ing es­sen­tial with you and try to keep it sim­ple and not too com­pli­cated. The empty quar­ter is ex­tremely warm dur­ing the sum­mers and ex­tremely cold dur­ing the win­ter. So if you are a fan of the ex­tremes then go for it.

Beaches

You have numer­ous op­tions when it comes to beaches. You’ll find blue, green, and trans­par­ent beaches and beaches that are highly saline or just mod­er­ately saline. You will find pri­vate, iso­lated beaches and those that are crowded with peo­ple es­pe­cially dur­ing week­ends. You will find beaches that are home to mishkak ven­dors and oth­ers that are home to tur­tles and other aquatic an­i­mals and am­phib­ians. I can cer­tainly not say that I have ex­pe­ri­enced all of this, but out of the few that I have been to my favourite beaches to camp by would be the Peb­bles Beach and Da­maniyat Is­land.

The Peb­bles Beach, which comes on the way to Sur is gor­geous blue beach with huge white peb­bles adorn­ing the shore. It is calm and breezy and pretty much iso­lated, which is ideal if you are look­ing for some pri­vate time with just your group. Also, you get to sleep un­der a blan­ket of stars when you are at this beach.

Daminiyat Is­land, which is about an hour from Mus­cat is per­fect for those who are into any kind of wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing swim­ming, snor­kel­ing, scuba div­ing etc. The tiny is­land sur­rounded by highly saline wa­ter comes to your res­cue after a tir­ing day of ex­cit­ing ac­tiv­i­tites where you can just chill with your pals and en­joy the noth­ing­ness and feel su­per close to na­ture.

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