The Road to Wadi Ghul — The Grand Canyon of Oman

lthough I did not rent a vehicle with four-wheel drive, I was already in Nizwa and thought I would drive the 50 or so kilometers to see if I could be able to be at Wadi Ghul, which forms what is known as the Grand Canyon of Oman and is near the mountain with the highest peak in Oman, known as Jabal Shams.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Varying in direction between north and west, I drove the winding roads through the mountains towards Wadi Ghul, totally expecting not to be able to see it — but along the way, I was treated to some natural sights along the way which reminded me of the American West.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

With few exceptions, the road was paved well and smooth as it wound through the rugged terrain comprised of jagged mountains and rocky landscape occasionally dotted with trees and shrubs.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The sun beat down through the cloudless sky with sheer intensity. Fortunately, the temperature was not uncomfortably hot on that February day.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The road started to wind more with sharper curves as the elevations of the different mountains, buttes and cliffs seemed to gradually become taller and taller as I drove.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The utility poles and lines were occasional reminders that I was not completely in the middle of nowhere.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Less than an hour later, I reached the end of the pavement of the road, where it became a gravel road. Two cars were parked on the side of the road in what became an ersatz parking lot; while two more vehicles were parked on the side of the road in the other direction.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

You can see the tire tracks left in the unpaved area of the ersatz parking lot. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

A man — probably in his thirties — came out of a sport utility vehicle to speak to me in broken English in an attempt to convince me to park the rental car and ride with him to the Grand Canyon of Oman.

“Hello, my friend,” he said to me. “That car will not be able to drive on the roads to the Grand Canyon.”

“I figured that; but I thought I would see for myself if I could get there anyway. Apparently not.”

“Come — you come with me. I show you Grand Canyon. Very beautiful.”

My senses told me no. He had no official identification. There was no one to monitor the rental car, which had my belongings in the trunk as I was not checked into a hotel at the time. Most importantly of all, I did not want to enter into the vehicle of another person whom I did not know at all, as I would be at his mercy. Maybe he would try to scam me — or perhaps worse — and being potentially vulnerable without access to the rental car, there would be little I could do about it.

“I have little cash,” I replied, knowing that he was not offering his services for nothing. I was not lying, either — I really did need to get more Omani rials; and besides, I had been using credit cards for some of my transactions while in Oman.

“No problem, no problem. How much cash do you have?

I thought that was rude; but because I had little cash, I told him that I only had a few rials — totaling no more than ten dollars.

“Oh, no problem. We can work it out.”

“How? Is there an automated teller machine in the Grand Canyon?”

“There is hotel near the canyon. You can get cash there.”

Apparently, there is a hotel located in the vicinity of Wadi Ghul; but I did not know it at that time because I had no reason to know, as I did not plan on staying there — rather, I was going to return to Muscat later that day or at night.

“Thank you; but I am okay. I will just head back.”

“No, look, my friend. See that man over there?” as he pointed to an older man wearing a traditional thobe while seated in a white sport utility vehicle across the street. “He will take you to Grand Canyon. He will be happy to accept reduced price.”

“No, really — thank you, but I will just head back.”

The more I resisted, the harder his selling to me became; and I was more and more disinterested as the exchange went on for at least another 20 minutes. For example, when he said that it is just like the Grand Canyon in the United States — he probably had never been there — I simply replied that I can always see the Grand Canyon in the United States when I return.

I finally rolled up the window and backed up to turn around and head back; but I wanted to take another photograph or two before I returned to Muscat, so I pulled into the ersatz parking lot.

Bad mistake, I thought. The man jumped into his green sport utility vehicle and pulled up next to my car, apparently thinking that I changed my mind.

“Do you have credit card? I take credit card and will get cash for you at hotel.”

Now my senses were screaming at me not to accept his offer under any circumstances — even if he offered his services for free. He was really pitching hard to me.

“Thank you, but no; I am just going to take a few photographs before I return to Muscat.”

He was relentless; but he kept lowering the price until he reached what I thought was 13.

“13?” I asked, wanting to ensure that I heard him correctly.

“No, 30,” he said. “Three-oh. New lowest price. I do favor just for you, my friend.”

30 rials? That is approximately $78.00. He was not even in my ballpark, so to speak. I was starting to get annoyed but still remained polite yet firm.

“All I have is three or four rials. That is all. Take it or leave it.”

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Objects may be closer than they appear? Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

“Have a good day,” he said — clearly unhappy about not scoring what he probably initially thought would be an easy sale…

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

…so I looked in my rear-view mirror as I started my trek back towards Muscat…

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

…and I stopped at points along the way to take additional photographs.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I must say that I wonder what he and his colleague were originally going to charge me — and other than transportation to the Grand Canyon, I had no idea what else was “included” in the price.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Sure, his service could have been legitimate; but I did not want to find out the hard way — and besides, I had seen plenty of the scenery in Oman to be satisfied.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

That includes the drive on the way to Wadi Ghul and the drive between Nizwa and Muscat; as well as my visit to Wadi Shab and Bimmah Sinkhole in Hawiyat Najim Park.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I did see one hairy lone goat, though.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I might be wrong, but I could not imagine the Grand Canyon of Oman to be so different that I would regret not seeing it.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Off in the distance on the right in the photograph shown above is a lone residence, well off the beaten path of the paved road.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The drive was actually quite pleasant.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

You can see the hairpin curves in the photograph shown above.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

You can see the road after the hairpin turn beyond the guard rail in the photograph shown above — both near on the bottom left; and far in the valley at the foot of the mountain range.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The photographs do not do justice to the views I saw.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The road was empty of traffic…

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

…except for the occasional car now and then — such as the one shown in the photograph above.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Part of the drive is along Highway 21 between Nizwa and Wadi Ghul.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

If you happen to already be in Nizwa, I would say it is worth taking the hour or two out of your day to drive along the scenic road to Wadi Ghul or Grand Canyon of Oman; but if you want to see the canyon itself, you may want to rent a vehicle equipped with four-wheel drive — or at least hire a reputable driver to take you there.

All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

6 thoughts on “The Road to Wadi Ghul — The Grand Canyon of Oman”

  1. alexander says:

    Man, that story had me nervous. I wouldn’t have gone either. Then again I commend you for driving alone in the first place.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you, alexander; but I did not find driving alone in Oman to be all that different from driving alone in similar places in the United States — so I did not even give that a second thought.

  2. Ryan says:

    Nice pics! Yeah I would have stayed clear of the “tour” offer, too. It may have been fine but being in an isolated spot like that, without seeing other tourists using the same person’s services, better safe than sorry. Like you said, better to research ahead and find a reputable guide or proper vehicle to begin with.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you, Ryan.

  3. Brian, Thanks for the mention on TBB……Speaking of Baseball (last week) I know you are too young for this but maybe your dad told you about this as a bedtime story. Comedian with a local NYC area show on channel 9, Soupy Sales, was fired when he said ” I like taking my girlfriend to ballgames because I get to kiss her between the strikes and she kisses me between the balls”. RIP Soupy. …… FOR EVERY The Gate reader, today only, click on my link above for free pizza.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I do remember Soupy Sales, Enrico Palazzo’s Flying Free Points and Miles Secrets — although I was indeed quite young at the time and never watched his show — as well as when Channel 9 was a worthwhile television station called WOR in New York and not this WWOR in Secaucus.

      They do not even have their own news program anymore!

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