From being an oral surgeon to an explorer, it has been an exciting journey for a person who had fear of heights.
The secret of his easy transition is by being with good company — people who love nature and had passion for the outdoors. This love for exploration rubbed off on Dr Khaled Abdul Malek who has been exploring the country for years now.
Two decades in his stay in Oman, Dr Khaled has been to almost all the charted and uncharted canyons of Oman. His being here was no longer just about his job posting.
As to how it all started, the doctor shared, that his family met a French couple when they were still fresh in the country. It is through them that he learned the intricate details of mountain climbing. From this experience, he would write two books and more recently, he is releasing a film.
“The story goes back to the mid-90s when I came here with my family to establish myself as an oral surgeon. In the beginning, I was a person-oriented with water activities such as diving and snorkeling. A few years later I met this fantastic French couple who taught me the ABCs of climbing and so since then, I began to visit some unchartered areas in the Sultanate to take pictures,” he shared.
He added, “One day, one of my patients saw some of the images that were used as screen savers on my computer at work. He thought the pictures were from abroad. He was so impressed that he convinced me to share them with the public and thus came the first book published in 2008 – ‘In search of the sublime – a journey through Oman.”
The year 2014 saw him publishing his second book completely dedicated to a canyon.
“It was the canyon we crossed for the first time in Oman,” he said. ‘Canyoning in Oman through exceptional wadis’ was a record of the various adventurous journeys exploring the different sites of the Sultanate.
His latest venture is a film – ‘Adventure has an address – Oman’ was launched this month.
“This film is about a family who came to Oman and began to discover the beauty of the Sultanate, which is pristine. It was a long project because it took us two years. The Ministry of Information supported us. The camera work is by Pierre Petit. The French filmmaking team came to Oman five times to complete the shooting of the documentary. We are hoping to participate in some of the international film festivals,” he said.
Most of the wadis Dr Khaled has explored so far are unchartered. He first begins by studying the wadis through satellite pictures, then on the terrain.
“In one wadi, it took me approximately three months to be able to join both ends and able to cross it. I always mention this wadi and it is Wadi Halfain,” noted the explorer.
Wadi Halfain starts in Jabal Akhdar and ends somewhere in Samail and Izki. It took them 30 moving hours non-stop without resting or sleeping. When the darkness fell they used the headlights. And they came across waterfalls as well.
“In the film, you will get to see the waterfalls ranging from a few meters to the biggest I have come across, which is about 385 meters in one drop. When we talk about waterfalls, they are not running with water all the time. But when it rains they are in action.”
When it is an aquatic wadi, Dr Khaled suggests the ideal time to visit is when the climate is hot. So you should not cross them before mid-April. In the winter time, the water is very cold.
“In winter entering the water can cause problems like hypothermia. In summer, however, you do not have to wear wetsuit and could easily move around in your shorts and t-shirts.”
One canyon Dr Khaled describes as one of the most aesthetically pleasing is Wadi Tiwi. The full length of the wadi is seven km to cross. It takes about 11 to 14 hours to cross.
“There are also pools to swim through too — some of them reach 400 metres in length in one pool. It is fantastic with limestones on either side going up two to three hundred meters,” he explained.
Dr Khaled meanwhile has been getting international response with messages expressing their desire to come to Oman and explore the country.
“Professional canyoners and mountain climbers have conveyed their positive impressions.”
Asked if this is an activity everyone can easily try out for themselves, he said: “Not at all.”
“Do not try if you are alone. If you are with someone who knows the area and the terrain as well as knows what he is doing then it is very safe. The only thing is that one needs stamina and needs to be really fit. It depends on the canyons – some of them can be covered in six to eight and others can go on for 24 to 26 hours of moving time. Please go and explore this fantastic country but safely,” concluded Dr Khaled.