Saturday, February 04, 2023 | Rajab 12, 1444 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

The seventh hole: The baby Majlis Al Jinn

Khalid Abdulmalik


Located in Al Sharqiyah South Governorate one of the four sink holes draining the rain water into Selma plateau cave system is known as The Seventh hole or Aaqabat Khashal for the locals living in this area.


Around 2.5 hours drive from Muscat it is at 1,300 metre altitude above sea level.


From Muscat take the coastal road to Sur and leave the highway at the exit for Fins. Then take the road to the mountain direction Taab and Harima. Keep driving uphill until you reach the plateau of Selma. Once you reach the top and after a few kilometres the road splits in two (if you take right you can visit the entrance of the famous Majlis al Jinn) , continue straight leaving a road to your left. After passing a village on the right side of the road, take left at 22° 51.188’N 59° 6.088’E ( just before the road starts going uphill) . Drive through an old airfield and at 22° 51.377’N 59° 6.369’E follow the track until you reach the sinkhole at 22° 51.565’N 59° 6.979’E Careful don’t dive into the hole !


A massive opening in the ground measuring around 50 metre in length and 8 metre minimum in width is the start of a 120 metre abseil into a magnificent natural cathedral carved by the water in the lime stone for millions of years , probably through a fault. It joins underground 3 other sink holes forming with 12 kilometres the longest cave system in the Middle east.


My first trip to Aaqabat Khashal was on the 3rd of October 2004 with my masters in climbing Patrick Cabiro and Nathalie Henriot along with Alun Davis an English journalist visiting Oman.


Since that time I went back there with my family and many friends to share the beauty of this amazing site.


Inside , the walls of that chamber are either white at the places where the water flows or light brown becoming golden at a certain time of the day where the walls are not exposed to erosion.


The descent starts on the wall of the opening for around 10 metre after which you slide down the rope in a free fall of 108 metre to reach the ground lit naturally by day light. From here you can climb out using the same rope or use another climbing route to reach a wadi plunging in the cave east of the main entrance in the plateau. Otherwise you can continue further dropping another first pit of 50 metre followed by another 100 metre drop to reach the lowest part of the sink hole. Once you reach the bottom your journey begins in an underground canyon for around 3 kilometres to reach the resurgence with the name of Tahri cave, an impressive opening measuring 80 metre in height and across ! On the way to Tahri cave one has to climb some walls and drop a few abseils in order to progress.


After rains swimming is a must to cross many pools that are normally empty.


Abseiling into these remote sinkholes is not something that should be done without adequate training, In case of accident be prepared to wait for a very long time before rescue can be organised and reach you.


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