Mohammed and Said met us outside of a small coffee shop in the chilly 17-degree temperature. Both at about four feet ten inches, they have smiles on their faces when they greeted us, their heads were well covered by their thick caps, protecting them from the cold. We hadn’t anticipated that the temperature would drop as much in this part of the Al Sharqiyah Governorate. We were somewehere between Samayil and Nizwa, on a paved road that seldom sees traffic, at least to my observation.
At six in the morning, the soft rays of the sun didn’t do much to stop our knees from shivering. We left Muscat early, drove about an hour and a half towards Samayil, took a few turns to reach one of the sleepy villages of Dima W’attayeen.
There were eight of us in the group all gathered under Oman Outdoor Adventure led by Ahmed al Jaabri. With the majority of us dressed in walking shorts and shirts and the cold breeze was a sheer torture.
Ahmed had contacted Mohammed and Said days before. They were brothers who call this area their home. They served as our guides — not only was there an unidentifiable path to where we were heading, we also did not know the dos and don’ts of the community we were visiting. Ahmed is very particular about paying respect to local traditions and customs. It is one of the core tenets of the group — one that I really liked and adored.
Over the last few weeks, social media was in a frenzy when one of the most influential bloggers in the country uploaded the photo of the White River of Wadi Dima on Facebook. Just a few minutes after its upload, hundreds of likes and comments poured in into the social media influencer’s page. The top question in everybody’s mind was: “How do we get there?”
When it comes to lesser known destinations, Ahmed is my guy. His group, a leisure outdoor adventure community comprised of about 20 other like-minded individuals. They had been to some of the remotest places in Oman — destinations that are not only tricky but challenging. For this trip, only seven men — Nooh, Bin, Ahmed al Rawahi, Mohammed, Ahmed al Jaabri, Haytham and myself) had the time to come with Jasmina, a Croatian who had a strong passion for hiking, the only lady brave enough to join our posse of burly men making the group a total of eight.
“We are headed to Ain Qabt — a warm spring with crystal clear waters located here in Wadi Dima. About 200 kms drive from Muscat, this warm spring is known for being one of the most beautiful ain or spring in the country,” Ahmed told the group.
From the sleepy village where we met our guide, our two 4wd car convoy headed farther deep into the mountains of Wadi Dima passing houses and a few farms peppered with date palms. The roads were littered with pebbles and stones and at some point curved sharply which made it inaccessible for sedans or non-4wd cars.
“You definitely need a 4×4 to explore this Wadi. You can go with a Sedan but you would have to leave it somewhere where it still can pass through the rugged tracks. With smaller cars, it means you would have to walk a longer distance. I prefer to take a 4WD to save on walking time,” Ahmed said.
THE ALABASTER WATERS
As safety is always first, the group went through a quick touchpoint where everyone was reminded of the trekking protocols.
“The hike would approximately take an hour. It should be fairly easy and even amateurs can do it,” Ahmed had forewarned.
Set against a backdrop of a concrete cistern where water was collected since the evening before, the guide brothers told us that the pool of water we were seeing came from the spring strategically collected using modern plastic tubes that allowed the water to travel a far distance from its source.
A farmer with a long firearm hanging on his back, his son running behind him, was busy cleaning up the falaj where the water would eventually be let out to flow.
The area where we were at was actually where Wadi Dima and Wadi al Tayeen merges. The water coming from these two wadis contribute to the water collected a few kilometres away in Wadi Dayqah Dam in Qurayat.
After hiking for about 30 minutes passing through huge boulders and serpentine roads, we came upon the first crystal clear pool with its bottom totally turning into the colour of alabaster.
“These are minerals that got collected at the bottom of the pool. It can be sulphur as these springs are warm,” Said shared.
We saw several pools of varying sizes as we made our way farther and farther towards the deeper end of Wadi Dima. Their depths also varied but majority of them had turned cloud white as if milk was poured into them and the water and milk refused to blend. It resulted in the pools of water giving out bluish hues, the minerals clouding the clear waters.
Several of us gushed how amazing the water looks, photography ready and definitely very inviting after the long trek.
The whole stretch of Wadi Dima with the white pools on it runs for about three kilometres. As we made our way back after reaching the farthest end, we asked Mohammed and Said for permission if we can test the water out.
Although some other groups who visited the place were not given permission, the two guides allowed us to test the water out for a few minutes.
We headed towards one of the largest pools wanting to experience its warmth and noticed that unlike the other pools in the area, the water was flowing. Several of the guys took a quick dip just to sample how swimming in these waters would feel like.
It was unanimous, the swim was refreshing and the warm water was rejuvenating, reminiscent of the effect of Ain al Thowarah on the body.
LIMIT THE NUMBER OF VISITORS
“The locals here, they go there all the time. They really like this place as their secret escape,” Said shared.
“We like it that not many people come here. When many visitors come, problems also come. They bring with them trash and causes a lot of noise,” Mohammed added.
“People here don’t like that,” he emphasised.
The brothers wanted people to understand that the area is “grazing ground for cows and goats which are used in the farms and primary source of milk. Keeping the area clean means healthy farm animals.”
“The waters are used for different agricultural and commercial purposes. We get water here for watering farms and washing household items. Every once in a while, visitors are good but we definitely like to set a limit to the number of people coming here. It’s also to protect this place,” Mohammed said.
“Large number of visitors can help turn this clean waters to become dirty fast,” the brothers said.
For Ahmed and the Oman Outdoor Adventure group, sustainable tourism is definitely something everyone must be aware of and pay attention to.
“I told my colleague Jasmina that we should go on adventures to find out where we truly belong. But going on this adventure also means looking after the place and making sure it’s not disturbed in the process. As is the common saying among outdoor enthusiasts, people should definitely take nothing but pictures and they should not leave anything except footprints.
YERU EBUEN & TITASh CHAKRABORTY