Oman is the adventure playground of the ex-pat workers in the Gulf States. The opportunities are endless and include hiking, rock climbing, Via Ferrata, canyoning and scuba diving to name a few of the activities available. Oman is probably the friendliest country in the region and the Omani people are very welcoming to visitors. We visited the county twice in the space of six weeks in 2011 when I had business in the Gulf. On one occasion we flew into Muscat, the capital, and on another we travelled by bus from Dubai. On both times we hired a 4x4 vehicle in Muscat and stocked up on provisions at the massive Carrefour hypermarket just outside Muscat. A four wheel vehicle is essential in Oman as many of the mountain roads are steep and unpaved. The extra fuel consumption of a 4x4 is more than offset by the cheap petrol price of about 15 cents a litre! On both visits we wild camped either on beaches or in the mountains and never felt unsafe.
This trek, to the highest point in the Arabian Peninsula, would be difficult to do in one day in the heat of the summer. Even when we did it in springtime the daytime temperature soared above 40 degrees centigrade and we opted to do the route over two days. The route starts on the plateau to the NW of Wadi an Nakhur, a spectacular incised valley over 1000m deep and locally called the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Arabia. Much of the route follows the rim of the canyon and is irregularly marked along the way . We camped in a wadi at the start and began walking just after dawn the following day. Progress was slow as we had to carry the weight of at least 6 litres of water each for the two days (there are no sources of water en-route) plus our camping gear. By midday the heat of the sun slowed us down even more. We reached the Jebel Shams ridge, at an altitude of 2700m, by late afternoon and were delighted to find a limestone overhang beneath which we could sleep. We slept soundly, only disturbed on occasions by the feral donkeys who were none too pleased that we had occupied their normal sleeping quarters.
In the morning of the second day we stashed our camping gear and headed for the summit. The highest point contains a military radar station and is off limits but Qarn al Ghamaydah at 2,997m is only a few metres or so lower and we soon reach this. The views from the summit were spectacular over the arid and treeless Al Hajar Mountains. Returning from the summit we collected our camping gear and retraced our route back to the start, camping again overnight where we had begun.
The walk is not too difficult but is longer than started in many guidebooks (we measured 23km return compared to the guidebook distance of 18km). The rock is limestone (which reflects the heat) and there are few trees for shade. Because of these factors you need to be able to survive in this hot arid climate, bring ample sun protection, wear a hat and carry at least 6 litres of water each. For more details of hikes and other activities in Oman please see the Oman Tourism website on http://www.omantourism.gov.om
There is a video of our trek on Youtube https://youtu.be/yhVeErelJGI