Jebel Shams sits 3000m above sea-level and is the highest mountain in Oman. It is a part of the Al Akhdar Range and overlooks the town of Al Hamra. Like the typical formations in Oman, Jebel Shams is rugged and rough, without much greenery that grace damp tropical regions.
Jebel Shams: Ups & Downs
Alongside the famous Jebel Akhdar, Jabal Sham lies amongst the Omani canyon, which is some 4 hours away from Muscat. The mountain provides stunning views from its plateau and has not a soul during the colder seasons. In addition to Wadi Dima and the Wahiba Desert, the peak beside the resort in Jebel Shams is yet another of my favorite camping ground in Oman.
During my initial weeks in Oman, many recommended me to visit the summits of Jebel Shams. Nonetheless, I couldn’t find the right time or people to embark on the journey.
First off, the roads to the mountain top can be treacherous- especially if you prefer the more scenic route.
Second, Oman had a few storms during my visit. No lie, it was just my luck for the commonly hot and dry Arid region to grace me with 3 storms. But truthfully, it was really fun to see kids running around the wet weather with excitement.
To my delight, a week before my departure, my friend surprised me with a visit to Jabal Shams, a peak in Jebel Shams. It was while attending a friend’s bachelor party that the plan was made-thus haste and unprepared.
We prayed upon good temperatures and began our trip the next afternoon, heading straight to the stretch of mountains that reached the skies.
After a few hours, we arrived at Al Hamra, the village that sat at the foothills of the Al Akhdar Ranges. Looking up at the layers of sharp ridges that plunged into one another, I was stoked to spend the night wandering its premises. Unlike those in Muscat, the ranges here seem higher. Much more closely knit. They are rid of the warmth and pleasantry and seem to only offer refuge to those daring and worthy.
Jabal Shams: Into the Abyss
It started off as a smooth journey. But our destination quickly led us off of the well-conditioned cement surface. Once away from the road, we began hobbling up and down loose rocks, patches of dirt, and puddles of muddy water from the days prior.
As we began ascending, the path became narrower and more unattended. An hour in, the majority of the trail could barely hold one vehicle, when at times, two would be squeezing carefully past each other.
There was no barrier, no mirror for around-the-corner action, it was all luck and skill and prayer.
Looking at the cliff into an abyss, I was instantly brought back to a trip down from Tungnath, the tallest Shiva temple in the Himalayas.
It was a chilly November evening. I was on a local bus that often transported between the mountains and nearby towns. It was already dark outside. Half of the people in the bus were sound asleep but I could barely close my eyes. Our driver, a lean Indian man, sped down the unbarricaded Himalayan mountain roads with frightening nonchalance.
Yes, he probably did this a thousand times over. Yes, he’s definitely unquestionably skilled.
But I’d stiffen every time he hammered against the bus’s horn.
The driver never slowed down at these turns. Instead, he’d honk a couple times and rush to the edges before braking harshly against the edge of the cliff.
The brassy notes shrieked into the distance and echoed against rolling peaks.
As I peer out the window, I could see that the front wheels would come inches away from nothing but darkness. The headlights shone on a few branches that scattered near the cliff. It shone into an abyss that terrified my soul.
Coming back to Jebel Shams, I was already a seasoned pro at weathering unformidable driving sessions, so I sat back, blasted some ACDC, and enjoyed the unavoidable back massage.
As we climbed uphill, I noted the descending sun peering through the peaks. The blue sky faded into a pumpkin orange. I nudged my friend and urged him to drive a bit faster (which you probably shouldn’t do)-I really didn’t want to miss the sunset!
We bumped up a tad more towards the summit and finally pulled to a stop at a small parking area, just before dusk.
The colors in the sky were unbelievable. To the west, the sunrays painted nearby clouds into a field of orange and yellow. To the east, there were a few layers of pink and purple that overlooked the valley.
Out of nowhere, a group of sheep jogged toward the edge of the cliff. Most of them munched on grass and branches without much as a raise in their head. I guess they were accustomed to the view.
When the sun finally set, we drove a bit further into Jebel Shams and set up camp at the edge of the cliff.
After staying in Oman for a month, I quickly fell in love with every camping spot there was. Aside from Jabal Shams, a peak in Jebel Shams, Jebel Kwar, and Jebel Akhdar are also great places to hike and camp. Although similar, each mountain also possesses a different viewpoint.
Remeber to always bring extra layers. Despite the beautiful weather known to Oman, these summits can be extremely chilly. This is especailly the case during the winter months, when the temperature on top can drop to 0.
When it comes to people, I thought the Omanis were extremely kind. I’d recommend the country as a top choice for those looking to travel solo. Of course, it’d be a pain without a 4X4 as Oman is full of deserts and mountains.