11 Dec The Balcony Walk
One of my favorite Oman Hikes: The Balcony Walk
Oman’s diverse natural landscape ranging from mountains, gorges and wadis to coastlines, plantations and plateaux, makes it an excellent destination for experiencing the great outdoors. Hiking in Oman is adventurous, with a variety of levels of difficulty, from paths used by goats and donkeys to more established routes, providing a few hours’ stroll or a couple of days of epic trekking. The mountains never disappoint and the further off the beaten track you get, the more likely you are to find interesting villages, where people still live in much the same way as they always have.
The Ministry of Tourism has gone to the effort of Marking and signposting paths all over the Hajar Mountains, making 100km of different grades of hiking trails accessible.
One of my favorite hikes is “The Balcony Walk”. This is a pretty easy-going trek with limited elevation, but it offers amazing views over the Grand Canyon of Oman: An Nakhur. The trek leads to abandon village and a natural pool and several caves. You will hike along a ledge on the edge of the Grand Canyon to the abandoned village of As Sab. The hike is also called “W6” by the Ministry of Tourism.
To reach the start of this hike you have to drive all the way up Jebel Shams towards the Jebel Shams Resort. Afterwards you continue the track and drive up to the small village of Al Khitaym. Al Khitaym is the starting point of the hike.
From the parking area, find the coloured flag-shaped markers for the W6 hike and follow these for the length of the route. Head in a south-easterly direction through the scattered houses that make up the village, then turn left along what becomes a less-steep side wall of the canyon, passing two distinctive corners marked with cairns. This is the most stunning aspect of the trek, curving around the inside of the canyon wall on a ledge which looks like a balcony overlooking the canyon from the top of 1,000m-high cliffs.
After 3.5km – about an hour from Al Khitaym- you’ll reach the abandoned village of As Sab, formerly known as Sab Bani Khamis. As Sab was home to about 15 families in its day, and was well-protected with a good water supply and a flour grinder to make food from the wheat grown in the local farms. The villagers also kept livestock and would cultivate watermelon, chilli peppers, onions and other crops in the fertile land, which is also home to acacia, Christ’s thorn, juniper and olive woods. Its stone houses still have owners, even though they may have moved to more accessible cities and towns for work.
The walk is pretty easy going, as long as you manage to take your eyes off the incredible scenery long enough to see where you’re going. There is some exposure to heights, although the route is pretty level with little climbing to speak of.
Above As Sab village, there is a diversion to a water pool and a cave called Bi’r Dakhilyah. This is a beautiful picnic spot. There is an information sign including a location map for these features just before you reach the village. A little further up from the pool you’ll find a via ferrata (a climbing route with a fixed safety wire) which leads even higher up to the plateau, but only climbers with appropriate safety gear should use it.
The route to the Abbandon village As Shab is around 4km and it took me 3,5 hours to go there and come back. If you visit Oman this is really one of the “must-do” activities.
Rob van Klingeren