Picture this: a panorama where soft, billowing clouds cascade down the mountain slopes, creating an ethereal landscape reminiscent of a dreamscape. In the morning, as the warm oranges and reds reflect off the Sea of Clouds, the colors dance, revealing the undulating mountain peaks. This scene alone makes Jabal Shams an ideal destination for those seeking a unique winter camping experience.
Standing tall at an elevation of 3,028 meters (9,934 feet), Jabal Shams becomes a surreal realm during the winter months. The road to the 'mountain of the sun' is an adventure in itself, winding through the dramatic landscapes of the Al Hajar Mountains.
Travelers are treated to sweeping vistas of deep gorges, terraced fields, and traditional Omani villages clinging to the mountainsides. The journey is not merely a means to reach the destination but a captivating experience that showcases the diverse beauty of Oman's interior.
Over the weekend, a group of like-minded campers decided on a whim to check out what is happening at Jabal Shams. Other than the expected drop in temperature to 8 degrees Celsius by nighttime, our group was looking forward to a nice bonfire while gazing at the dark night sky, not expecting the magic that would wake us up the next day.
While Oman doesn't have snow-covered peaks commonly associated with winter mountain activities, it offers unique mountain experiences. In previous years, during the same period, we have explored the rugged terrain and scenic trails by taking long hikes and treks, particularly towards the abandoned village of Sab Bani Khamis and ultimately the peak of Jabal Shams. I've also joined a group that did rappelling and rock climbing, as Oman's tallest mountain offers challenging routes and breathtaking panoramas.
For last weekend, we were set on just enjoying the clear, crisp winter nights, knowing the excellent conditions for stargazing. We set up camp about 5km away from the viewpoint. After a fun night of playing cards, indulging in home-cooked meals, and grilling marshmallows over charcoal, we settled for the evening by 12 midnight.
Early the next day, we woke up to a cold mist entering the tents, and once we roused from our sleep, before us was a magnificent, awe-inspiring view as thick white clouds hovered by the canyon, with some of the mountain peaks peeking every once in a while between the ebbing, moving fog. The thrill of waking up to a frost-kissed landscape and misty morning added an extra layer of magic to the camping experience. I'd always dreamt of seeing and having photos with the sea of clouds in the background, and as I anticipated, it was as magical as I always dreamt it would be.
Camping in the mountains during winter is an unparalleled experience that combines breathtaking natural beauty with a unique cultural setting. If you're headed out to Jabal Shams to experience this magic, here's what you have to bear in mind:
1. The drive can be challenging, and while salon cars can go up to the mountain, it is highly recommended to take four-wheel drives for safety.
2. In our experience, the sea of clouds only makes an appearance in the morning and will usually be over by around 10 am (lots of environmental factors to consider). This is why we recommend being already in the mountain at night to enjoy the scene the next day.
3. There are times when the fog can be so thick that it covers the road. Mixed with dust, the drive can be quite dangerous, so make sure to drive safely.
4. If you are camping, remember that the temperature can drop drastically. So, secure your tents and make sure to dress appropriately for the weather. For a cozy sleep, make sure to bring thermal mats and tons of blankets.