It was our noisy laughs that pierced the silence. The echoes of it bouncing from mountain walls to caverns and canyons. There was no one else there except our group of eight and for that, we were not only happy but ecstatic.
Our joy comes from the discovery of something beautiful.
On most days, the place is empty. The pristine, cold waters are left to their own devices to run the long stretch of Wadi Tiwi. A few metres away is a waterfall, about 30 to 40 feet high, loud thunderous and a pleasant sight but in this part, hidden further down from the waterfall, is a sanctuary — shamrock and kelly green pools, a few banana and date palms mixed into the scene, an open sky and the surrounding mountain walls protecting all of it from the harsh elements, most especially from the Middle Eastern sun.
This is the best-kept secret of Mibam village — a sleepy habitation of farmers and mountain dwellers who kept to their own but protector of what to us, is one of the countries least visited sites but equally breath-taking destination.
While common consensus among explorers and travelers is that Wadi Tiwi fails in comparison to the more popular Wadi Shab and Wadi Bani Khalid, it is an opinion that is not only misguided but may have stemmed from the fact that people don’t know where to look.
And ‘looking’ is a term that connotes patience, persistence, and a free-spirit to go the distance — to jump of a cliff, if necessary, to bear pain from scratches and slips, and to swim on uncharted waters without hesitation.
On a Saturday morning, November 11, Mibam village was the target destination of Outdoor Adventure Camp led by Ahmed al Jaabri and his band of explorers comprised of Nooh, Ahmed al Raisi and Bin.
In attendance are new members of the group, Dutch teacher Peter Varenkamp, and his two friends Betina and Jasmina including this writer.
“Mibam village is part of Wadi Tiwi. It is my favourite place to visit when my mind searches for peace. I have been there many times for relaxation and to find serenity. I’ve always believed that nature is a great place for people to find themselves,” Ahmed shared.
Departing early from Muscat, the trip was more than 160kms long — an hour and half-hour drive minus the time the team spent for eating breakfast in one of the gas stations along the way.
With the National Day just a few sleeps away, the team decided to make the trip their tribute to the momentous event. So with them, they brought flags with the intention of raising it on one of the peaks and beautiful spots of Wadi Tiwi — a declaration that this is Oman and it is beautiful and worth being proud of.
Up in the mountains where people don’t usually go
“Compared to other wadis that have lots of foot traffic, Wadi Tiwi is not that known yet which makes it definitely worthy of adventure. The village is 30-minutes deeper into the mountains and as you enter the road that leads to it, you will notice that they also get narrower,” Ahmed forewarned.
“The road obviously can just accommodate one car at a time. Make sure to give the right of way to the locals there because they will not back off once they are on the road face to face with your car. Four wheel drives are recommended and always use low gears when going down. It can be a challenging climb for your vehicle,” he added.
The road to Mibam Village is as picturesque as that of Wakan. And just like Wakan, it is unpaved, bumpy and there are sudden turns. Although it’s not as high, the view from the top of the mountain is photograph-worthy — dates thriving everywhere, gargantuan stones defying gravity in many instances, table-top mountains ideal for wall climbing and small, forgotten villages content with all the rustic scenes, fresh-air and lush vegetation they get to enjoy.
“Who would have thought there are places like these deep within these mountains? I really enjoy being out in nature and this is truly beautiful,” Croatian Jasmina shared as the car we are on pushed its way farther into our destination.
The journey stopped at the foot of a village with the car parked under a tall tamarind-like tree— although most of the 20 houses that comprised the village are made of concrete, they aged a lot and many are in some form of ruin.
Local kids came to greet us with some adults hovering for a moment. A small mosque was at the centre of everything, hidden behind the tree while further down, where we were supposed to go to see the waterfall, was a date palm plantation.
A briefing ensued.
“We will be walking for about 10 minutes. We will have one of these kids guide us cause it’s quite a maze going downhill. The first thing we will check out will be the Mibam’s waterfall. Spend a few minutes there and jump into a clear pool and swim our way around this huge rock. Once we reach the beach, we will face another pool (about 200m long), swim it to reach the mother pool in this area,” Ahmed said.
The trek was manageable but a good, sturdy walking boots are required. There’s also not a clear, direct path and you would have to walk pass through thick underbrush. From the 10-minute walk alone, it is understandable why others would have given up. The first challenge is going into the right direction. Get it wrong, and you’ll end up on cliff that would prevent you from experiencing the beauty of that part of Wadi Tiwi.
An afternoon well-spent
It’s the sound of running water that astonishes your senses first. Then there’s the serene scene — pure nature with water carving its way into hard rocks creating this ideal place of bliss. We were the anomaly in that setting — loud, boisterous, adventure-seeking people trying to breath everything in.
“I’d been to different parts of the world — from Africa to Asia,” Jasmina shared. “But I fell in love with Oman again by going to Wadi Tiwi,” she shared on her social media days later. Both Peter and Betina also have good thing to say sharing that it was an afternoon well-spent and a good hiking and outdoor experience.
For Ahmed, such a reaction wasn’t new. He has brought several others to Mibam and they always go home with the same impression.
A lot of things in Mibam are done traditionally. There are no amenities for tourists. There are toilets at the very entrance of Wadi Tiwi but after that, nothing more.
“Everyone who goes to Mibam must bring food and drinks with them because they are unavailable there. People should take note that if you are high maintenance and have sensitive needs, it is definitely not a destination for you.
We spent almost an hour in Mibam’s mother pool enjoying the cold water under the mountain’s shadow. Before that, the adventurous Ahmed AR and Nooh have climbed on one side of the waterfall spreading Oman’s flag after which doing a headstand.
As we find our way back into the main Mibam village, fighting some more palm leaves that block our way, climbing through steep slopes and wonky mountain edges, and breathing heavily every five minutes, all of us didn’t send to mind the many challenges we faced along the way.
Before we left, we had a photo op with the kids and one adult resident of Mibam. We would share it amongst ourselves and post it on our separate social media accounts. It was our reminder of a fruitful adventure, one that we will definitely not forget anytime soon.
On the photo, the kids were beaming while the rest of us were just as happy. Modernity has not fully crept its way to Mibam, the same way that it has been kept hidden from the radars of big numbers of travel marauders. For a few years, it will stay as it is and when other people do go there, I hope they will remember not to defile it. I hope they will keep in mind, it is the Mibam’s villagers’ sanctuary and that for a brief moment, you are allowed to share it with them.