The seagulls flutter with ease despite the strong wind coming from the sea. They were hovering several metres above the fishermen playing tug of war with their nets as the men hauled school after school of defiant fishes.
The water smells a bit odd during our visit in the first week of February. While usually crystal clear in summer, the colour of the water plays between emerald and turquoise, the intensity of which was dependent on the level of concentration of the algal bloom.
It is what attracts thousands of fishes to this shore nearly 600 km from Muscat. As the fishes had their feeding frenzy, so did the seagulls. Whatever the fishermen missed, the seagulls swooped in with gusto.
Ras al Ruwais is a vast expanse characterised by an isolated long stretch of shore with the desert serving as its massive wall. It is what makes this place a paradise, albeit a sandy one, with the desert sand abruptly giving way to the ocean.
It’s hard to cover the whole stretch of beach area by walking. I tried, but there was too much ground to cover. In a chilly afternoon, it is one of the most interesting beach areas for an afternoon walk.
There were several turtle carcass by the shore. The freshly killed one has fallen victim to human neglect. A wantonly thrown rope caught the sea turtle by one of its flippers. When the tide flipped it over, there was no way for it to move away, so it remained there on its back, eventually perishing.
A 30-minute walk by its beautiful shore revealed how tough it is to live in this remote place, especially for young animals. It’s not just sea turtles which ended up with harrowing fate. Even the seagulls and different shorebirds end up dying by the cliff or buried under the shifting sand.
But Ras al Ruwais is not a place for grief. It is a paradise for the living — a welcoming, peaceful wonderland that embraces anything and everyone who is trying to escape.
Our group was no different. We too were there to escape. Having arrived just right before sunset, the sand welcomed us glittering under the late afternoon orange hue. It was but our loud laughs that betray life.
There are many adventures one can do in Ras al Ruwais. Dune bashing is on the top of the list followed by sand gliding and a game of football. A few kilometres away from us, a family of six was doing a picnic and a few kilometres farther; a few guys were doing somersault and water activities by the shore.
In winter, the temperature can drop to below 15 degrees, so the crackle of a controlled bonfire was one of the highlights of our first evening.
Because it is a long drive, nearly 6 hours in total from Muscat, it is not advisable to do a day tour. To enjoy the view and the beach, one has to camp here for at least an evening or two. Accessible only by four-wheel drives, precautions have to be made because the sand can be unforgiving to those who don’t know that tire pressure needs to be adjusted if one is to venture in the sand.
The evenings in Ras al Ruwais can be quiet. Even the small fishing village looked lifeless at eight in the evening.
But weekends can turn this isolated location into a haven for sun worshippers, especially in winter. While it is very far from Muscat, by Friday, groups after groups of tourists start to come in. Others are happy camping here with their own tents while those who can afford to pay can get a little bit of luxury even in the middle of nowhere.
Why the edge of the world?
Ras al Ruwais is far from restaurants or stores. The nearest mosque is about 15 minutes drive away by the main highway. If your group is coming here, you have to make sure that you bring your own supply that would last you the duration of your stay.
The preparation should include lots of water. While not as challenging as the more popular Rimal al Sharqiya, what makes Ras al Ruwais memorable is the long stretch of sandy beach, the astounding cliffs and when seen from the top, the sudden drop of desert sand into the ocean.
During winter, the temperature can fluctuate and expect strong winds any time of the day. But since it is far from villages, there was little to no light pollution, so if you are one of those that enjoy stargazing, you would appreciate its remoteness. For those who like convenient trips, glamping is an option.
A local man has set up about 5 to 6 tents during the winter season which he rents out to interested visitors. His services already include meals as well as a portable comfort room. It’s a first come first serve basis so if you are going on a weekend, expect it to be full. The location is kid-friendly.
During our visit, several families brought along their kids with them. It is advisable, however, to select spots that do not lead directly to the cliff. From Al Ashkarah, Ras al Ruwais is nearly two hours farther.
For this reason, you can make many detours from visiting pink lakes along the way or stopping by Ras al Jinz to watch the turtles. Take note however of the proper season. It must be because of the cold weather, but during this season, the pink lakes are currently not pink. If you are one of those that enjoy remote locations with a good view, this is a place for you.
Photos by Ahmed al Jaabri