We departed Muscat at 7:30 pm on Thursday, arrived in Sur a couple of hours later, made a stopover at a roadside diner for a quick dinner and drove another couple of hours through the Jaalan Bani Bu Ali road to reach Al Ashkharah.
It’s quite a challenging drive as not all the highways are lit. Outside, we can hear the loud complaints of the wind and the sand it carried made this lulling, rustling sound as it hit the exterior of the car.
At almost midnight, Al Ashkharah was at a good 24 degree Celsius. Even during the day, the temperature peaks at 30 degrees which isn’t bad compared to the rest of the country. The waves on the beach nearby were big we can hear their thunderous crashing as the water hits land.
On weekends, even on that Thursday evening, the wide expanse of the beach area is peppered with campers. The shed distributed every few metres served a great purpose of shielding many of them from the elements.
Al Ashkharah has grown in popularity in recent years. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it rightly deserves to be visited. With its long stretch of sandy beach and cooler temperature, it’s a perfect getaway for families wanting to escape the summer heat. But it is a curse because with people come litters and without proper supervision, there’s quite a number just left on the sand and others floating on the water.
Al Ashkharah can use further developments. The public toilets are quite a challenge with a few of the restrooms either missing water or had left totally not functioning. But beyond the usual challenges, here are the four reasons why Ashkharah deserves your visit.
A beach that runs for miles
For those who love long walks, the beach area of Al Ashkharah will definitely become your favourite. Because it’s mostly flat, you can see how far the whole beach area runs and for sure, you won’t be able to explore the whole expanse in one leisure walk. In recent years, kitesurfers, surfers and other water adventure enthusiasts had found a home in its wavy shores. With a year-round strong wind, it’s a great place to ride waves but during the summer, a large number of outdoors lovers find their way here to frolic in its cold, sometimes, foamy water.
Camels come to the beach early each morning to scour for food. While it’s saddening that they usually end up eating garbage, the interaction, however, allows for a reality check that humans should dispose of their garbage properly. A full-day camp by the beach opens to many different adventures. From horseback-riding to ATVs, from swimming to just lounging under the sun, from sandcastle building to playing different games, there’s plenty of activities for everyone. You might need to arrange for activities like ATV riding or horseback riding in advance since the waiting time can be long.
Explore the wind and sand embattled villages
Al Ashkharah has its own historic port that serves as home to hundreds of small boats and even dhows. The villagers’ main source of income has always been fishing so if you love some fascinating stories, sitting down with the locals can open up a totally different world. Ashkharah is also one of the summer destinations for the Bedus. While several of them still prefer heading to Adam, few families had been coming here to wait out the hot season. Walking through the maze-like alleys of some of the villages you’d find some small restaurants and shops selling halwa or the favourite karak tea. An afternoon can be well spent doing as the locals do.
I’ll come back just for the drive
Seeing sand storm is both scary and fascinating. For our particular trip, seeing the sand cross the road came out almost magical I’d definitely come back just to see it again. Ashkharah is but a few kilometres from other interesting villages as well. On the way back to Sur or Muscat, you’d pass through the different coloured lakes of Jaalan Bani Bu Ali. There are also some small pocket beaches that are only frequented by fishermen in the area. If you have adventurous friends who like long drives, a trip to Ashkharah is definitely worth your time.
GPS coordinates: N21°43’57.5” E59°29’01.4”