Everyone knows of Suhar. Who wouldn’t? It was once the capital of the country before the advent of Islam. Formerly called Majan, even today, Suhar has been identified as one of the most important wilayats in North Al Batinah Governorate.
It is a beautiful city, thriving on its own despite being 230 kilometres away from Muscat. Now filled with modern infrastructures and different entertainment centres, it has also become home to one of the most artistic mosques in Oman — the Sultan Qaboos mosque which recently has been recognised for the multi-faceted, colourful design of its front exterior.
But have you ever wondered what else is in North al Batinah? Did you even know that other than Suhar, it is comprised of four more just as astounding wilayats of Al Suwaiq, Al Khabourah, Saham, Liwa, and Shinas?
For many outdoor adventure lovers, Al Sharqiyah and Al Dakhiliyah and the wilayats therein are easy to remember. One can easily argue that Al Sharqiyah has some of the best beaches and wadis. South Al Sharqiyah is home to Sur and Masirah Island, and within its long stretch lies Al Kamil, Al Wafi, Jaalan Banu Bu Ali, and Jaalan Bani Bu Hassn. If one is to rank the best wadis in Oman, Wadi Shab, Wadi Al Arbeein and Wadi Tiwi will definitely be on the top 10 and all found within this region.
Al Dakhiliyah, on the other hand, is home to popular places like Nizwa, Bidbid, Samayil, Izki, Manah, Bahla, Al Hamra and Adam — all of which offer not only historical sights but scenic landscapes and beautiful mountains.
But what do we know about Al Batinah? Other than Suhar, what lies between the mountains of Shinas and Al Khabourah? Has this place been forsaken and not gifted with beautiful wadis?
Undiscovered natural treasures
At the early quarter of 2019, our team explored some portion of the north of Oman to see if its barren as they say. Our search led us to a place four hours away from Muscat, into the heart of Liwa, near a village called Bat. In Google, the long stretch of its canyon-like wadi is called Wadi Fazah, and it is here that we discovered the seldom talked about Wadi Bat (named in honour of the closest village where the wadi is located.)
It is easy to understand why not a lot of people venture into this part of Oman. The roads are untamed, rough and challenging one would think it’s not even worth it.
Guided by a resident of Suhar, we drove deep into the heart of its mountains, in places where even cell towers are afraid to go.
And after a series of stops and muddy pools, we found ourselves in a village frozen in time, where the villagers rode donkeys to sell their produce to the nearby souq.
In Bat, the gardens remain lush all year long as they have access to water the whole year through. The canopies of date palms dance with cool breeze while below it, tomatoes and different kinds of legumes grew thanks also to the very fertile soil.
Beyond the village is its prize possession — a wadi which reminds one of a blue cocktail swirling in a creamy pool of milk. Like Wadi Shab, it needs stamina. Giant walls of rocky mountains well hide its pools. In its almost 5-kilometre stretch, one will find caves, waterfalls and the most beautiful of serene natural swimming pools.
In the weeks that followed after we featured Wadi Bat, dozens of trekkers and outdoor lovers ventured to this seldom-seen part of Oman. And even several of them were in agreement that it definitely is a welcome addition to outdoor destinations in Oman.
The small but charming Ain Sahban
A few kilometres before Liwa is the charming Ain Sahban. It’s easy to mistake this warm spring to be sulphuric, but some experts on the matter pointed out that the powder collected at the bottom of the pools are not sulphur but some form of chalk.
But it is this powder that gives Ain Sahban its unique personality. Just like Wadi Bat, the collected chalk powder at the bottom elevates the colour of the pools making it a beautiful azure and light blue.
Ain Sahban is not a new discovery. In fact, come on a holiday and you’d find locals in the area flock here to picnic and swim. But it has always been one of the best-kept secrets of Al Buraimi.
The pools of Ain Sahban are surrounded by mountains and small villages. The main source of water for farmers, it is a sacred place treasured for the life it extends to gardens and the local falaj.
Even Ain Sahban exploded in 2019 and the number of visitors flooding here on weekends is proof that it was a site just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
The Sinkhole and
Hiking Trails of Shinas
When one asks about sinkholes, Bimmah will always be the first to come to your head. But did you know that Shinas also has its own sinkhole?
The ‘sinkhole’ is a misnomer though because the fact is, the hole was formed because of mining activities. Over the years, the hole was filled with water creating a beautiful emerald pool resembling so much of the popular Bimmah Sinkhole.
While Shinas Sinkhole looks inviting, it is forbidden however, to swim here primarily because the depth has never been tested and one’s safety cannot be guaranteed while swimming.
From the sinkhole, one can drive half an hour to find farms thriving in Shinas’ stark landscape. From one of these farms, you can begin hiking and explore the nearby villages. While hiking trails are yet to be properly mapped out in Shinas and the nearby wilayats, it won’t be long that these attractions will make Al Batinah an even more inviting place to explore.
A lot of people used to think that Al Batinah is only about Suhar. This hasn’t been true for a long time. As attractions in Al Batinah grow in popularity, the local tourism is also rising, and this is good news. We couldn’t be happier to see the north finally rising to the fame it truly deserves.