17pc rise in tourists visiting Wadi Bani Khalid last year

MUSCAT: The number of visitors to the water pools in Wadi Bani Khalid last year reached 182,648, showing an increase of 17 per cent compared to 156,129 of 2016. The water pools are one of the main tourist destinations in the Sultanate throughout the year. This is because it attracts tourists from both within the Sultanate and abroad. In 2017, there were 111,730 foreign tourists who visited these water bodies, pools and ponds, whereas the number of Omani tourists to these destinations was 66,492. The Ministry of Tourism is keeping track of the growth of tourists visiting these destinations including Wilayat Bani Khalid, which is one of their major attractions.
Talal bin Khalfan al Shuaibi, Director of the Department of Internal Tourism in North Al Sharqiyah Governorate, says the wadis in the Wilayat of Wadi Bani Khalid are constantly flowing throughout the year.
The water flows through narrow passages on the southern side of the eastern Hajar Mountains. A traditional dam was built by Omanis to provide water storage for irrigation of the plantations and date palm trees in the wadis of Miqall.
The splendour of this wadi is because of its clean water pools and large number of fish living in these flowing waters. This adds to the attraction for visitors who prefer to take a leisure stroll in the area.
He said that around these water pools are stunning scenes, short walking trails and old houses which encourage tourists to enjoy the beauty of the area.
Wadi Bani Khalid is located in North Al Sharqiyah Governorate on the double road coming from Bidiya and heading towards Sur. It is around 250 kms from Muscat Governorate. The wilayat has many tourist spots with diversity in its facilities.
Miqall village, a tourist village, is the first destination in the wilayat because of the water pools which are full throughout the year.
It is spread all across the wadi and one of these water pools is deeper than the other. There is also a coffee shop which caters to the tourists along with public toilets. Among the tourist destinations most liked by tourists is the cave of Miqall. It is located on the heights of the water pools in Wadi Bani Khalid. It is a small water body, access to which is very difficult.
The entrance to the cave is about 30-minute walk from the parking area in the western part of the water pools. In the dark of the night, the bubbles of the water flowing inside the cave are clearly audible. There are small nests of nocturnal bats which come out among palm trees in the wadi.
Waterfalls: Talal says that among the tourist attractions which attracted visitors to the waterfalls of Hawar was located near the village of Bidiyah in the wilayat.
The village is situated along with natural high mountains and running wadis. The Hawar park is one of the major tourist destinations of the wilayat.
It has deep water pools and waterfalls on the high mountains. These waterfalls start from the village and travel through to Seeq village coming under the Wilayat of Al Kamil W’al Wafi. It has adventure, sports and swimming tourism destinations in summer and winter.
He said the wilayat also boasts of traditional handicrafts which are displayed in the centre of the wilayat as tourist attractions. They include silver crafts and handicrafts in various shapes, sizes and designs. They are in the form of tables, sticks and shoes which have silver paintings, in addition to toiletries, gift items and products of incense.
There is also a handicraft centre where a number of the people of the wilayat work on producing lots of beautiful useful things.
Archaeological village of Owaina: Talal further mentions about an archaeological village Al Owaina. It has a number of monuments, including Al Owaina mosque, which is considered as the major masterpiece of art due to its arches. One of the most famous fortresses is the Al Mawalik Fort, which is located in Al Owaina village. In the early days, it was considered as a meeting place for the governors and judges of the area.
Rescue and ambulance company: The department official says the ministry has signed a contract with the Arabian Beach Tourism Company to provide rescue and ambulance services in water pools of Miqall area of Wadi Bani Khalid.
This was because of a number of drowning cases reported from the area and it is major attraction of tourists. The rescue and ambulance services has a crew of seven trained Omanis.
General guidelines: Talal said that there were guidelines for tourists to be followed by them during their visit to the water pools and ponds. These are apart from their required adherence to the rules regulations and traditions of the Omani society.
They must wear decent covering dresses and must avoid creating hue and cry and high volume of music while passing through residential areas.
They should not take photos of people when they enter into their private properties, or throw litter everywhere but use garbage boxes. They should also make sure that the tourist guide accompanying them carries card of their licence issued by the Ministry of Tourism.