The Balcony Walk hike in Jebel Shams was a thrilling part of our 5- day self-driving tour of Oman.
We traveled from Nizwa to Jebel Shams in the heart of the Al Hajar Mountain range, the highest in the Arabian peninsula. The area has several hiking trails providing spectacular views into Wadi Nakhur and Wadi Ghul. But the most popular trail by far is The Balcony Walk. The road approaching Jebel Shams was not paved for the last 13 km, but it was not bad as it was graded and well maintained. Our SUV rental vehicle made the driving easier but we did see some other tourists managing with a sedan style vehicle.
We reached the Jebel Shams plateau at nearly 2,900 meters. Jebel Shams is often referred to as the “Grand Canyon” of Oman. We met a German couple on the plateau who has been traveling in this ex-army truck for the past 12 years, covering all of Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. Next stop is North and South America. They told us that the cost of this truck was 125,000 euros, but it serves as their home as they travel the world.
Next we drove over to the village of Al Khitaym, the starting point of the Balcony Walk hike. Two families live here, herding goats, raising chickens, at the southern end of the plateau. The family members, including the man and the goat, does not seemed too bothered by us snapping photos.
I also had a chance to chat with a group of Omani from another part of Oman visiting Jebel Shams. They also did not mind when I suggested a photo together.
The trail head for The Balcony Walk is unmarked but the beginning of the trail is quite easy to spot. From afar, the canyon vertical wall with a 900 meter fall to the valley floor below appeared intimating; but as one descend closer, the path is wide and flat enough to be reasonably safe for experienced hikers.
The hike winds around cliffs halfway up the rim of Wadi Nakhr with kilometer-high cliffs and birds of prey such as the Egyptian vulture hovering silently above.
We stood in awe in front of a view of the huge plateau and the town of Al Hamra below. The scenery is magnificent throughout the hike.
We reached the abandoned village of As Sab. This village was home at one time to about 15 families. It was well-protected against enemies and had a good supply of water.
They cultivated crops on mountain-side terraces included watermelon, onion, chili pepper, tomato, wheat, pomegranate, lemon and basil. The families also had livestock herds, including goats, sheep and donkeys.
We reached what looked like former agricultural terraces. Remarkable to think that people used to farm in such hostile conditions.
Then it was time to turn back and re-trace our way out. The total return trip including our photo breaks was about 3.5 hours.
We captured this sunset as we drove down the mountain.