Text by Ray Petersen –
Photos by Lena petersen –
High above Al Hamra, on Jebel Hat, in the Dakhiliyah region, sits a very popular hotel and tourist destination, Shorfet Al Alamin — the balcony on the mountain.
Lena and I found ourselves at a loose end recently, so we decided to take up the recommendation of a close friend, and visit the balcony hotel. We have often been up the nearby Jebel Shams, and Misfat Al Abriyeen, but were on the lookout for a different kind of experience.
A major plus for this destination, ahead of other mountainous regions becomes clear very early in the piece, as after winding our way through the township near the Al Hoota Cave complex, we start climbing upwards through significant new house constructions either side of an absolutely superb road. This is a cool, clear family destination that can be reached by sedan because of the magnificent road, with no need for a 4WD, and that opens this particular destination up to so many more people!
As we ascend, more and more cars are parked on the roadsides or just off the road, with families sharing picnics, and we pass the occasional private accommodation house, some excellent photo opportunities in laybys, and the ever-present mountain goats, feeding on whatever post-picnic detritus they can find. That was possibly the one regret I felt, that even though there are rubbish bins everywhere, there is still too much litter in the way of bottles, cans, and plastic bags, lying around.
Soon we arrive at our hotel destination. Interestingly, it is right on the border of the Ad Dakhilyiah and Al Batinah South Governorates. You don’t need your passport, the currency is the same, but it’s just a unique little quirk of this uncomplicated, unpretentious little hotel complex. They boast basic, yet very clean rooms, chalets, a kids playground, and a restaurant that serves good food. No, it was very good food, surprisingly so for a ‘back of beyond,’ tourist outlet. The hotel itself exceeded my expectations.
So we parked up the car, and explored the walkways in the area. Some of the views take your breath away, and you only have to walk a few metres in any direction to get a totally different perspective of those views. I was taken too, with the way the large crows ‘surfed’ the thermal currents around the mountains, as they looked to be having so much fun!
Balad Seet could be seen in the distance, a tiny village oasis sitting like a ‘best kept secret,’ in the middle of a ‘conversation’ of rugged mountains. I pondered whether the mountains are guardians to keep the locals in, or the tourists out, but that’s just my natural flippancy at work. Why would you want to leave such a nice, quiet little spot, sheltered, clean and green? I’m sure they treasure their solitude, and I think that’s maybe a destination for another day.
We were hailed by an Omani family, and invited to join them for coffee, as often happens here, and how could we refuse? It was a nice little half hour with Badr Al Ghammari, his brother and their families, and yes, Omani hospitality is something to be treasured.
We made our way across the top of the plateau searching for the best spot to observe the sunset after that, having noted on tripadvisor that it was pretty amazing. However maybe there was too much dust around, or we never got to the prime spot, but for us it was a bit of a ‘damp squib,’ and poor Lena was disappointed. The evening saw her in her element though, as she is an inveterate stargazer, and she wandered away from the ambient light of the hotel, settled down, and gazed, at the stars, to her heart’s content.
The mountain descent, on a bright clear day, was really something, as each turn in the road opened new views, new photo opportunities, and we were rather leisurely in our return home, but happily so. The balcony is unlike any of the other mountain destination experiences in the Sultanate, and because ‘anyone’ can drive up there, is a ‘must do!’