Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Camping on Jebel Shams in Summer

Camping on Jebel Shams during harsh summer, when rest of Middle East is roasting under scorching hot Sun, sounds crazy right? But here is our story, which was not a disaster but filled with fun, outdoor time and surprises.
Cave Camping in Summer 

This summer since we are not going on vacation anywhere, when I found about amazing weather during summer on Jebel Shams, the tallest mountain of in Oman, we immediately started packing our bags.

Road trip To Jebel Shams from Dubai

Here is my zero waste packing for road trip and camping! More on my successful zero waste experience later.
Zero waste camping and road trip packing

We opted for a road trip to Jebel Shams from Dubai just after Eid holidays, so we were sure we won't find much of traffic at border crossing. As we left Al Ain, there are mountain ranges in sight through out your drive. Oman is blessed with ground water, we could see many shrubs, bushes, trees and even grass patches from road. This part had rich soil too. I noticed one olive tree look alike tree, later their population increased as we climbed on Jebel Shams. These are Juniper trees.

On the way to Jebel Shams from Al Hamra Village
The journey took almost 8 hours to reach on top, including our 2 hour lunch and shopping break in Nizwa. Our route was, Dubai- Al Ain- Border Crossing- Ibri- Nizwa- Al Hamra village- Jebel Shams. On the way back we saved time by skipping Nizwa and took route through Bahla.

We wanted Nizwa on the way to buy food supplies for our dinner that day and breakfast next morning, also thought being bigger town, we can get more food options for lunch that day. There is Grand mall in Nizwa, where you can find Carrefour. We opted for Lulu, from what I read, but I was not impressed. Though we could find what I wanted, the fresh items like milk, chicken was 2 days old. There was a big camping equipment section and supplies in Lulu even during summer, gave me a feeling of relief that our camping experiment is not such a bad idea. One more point, don't expect the petrol pumps in this side of Oman as equipped as UAE. Their convenient shops were closed through out our two way journey. But petrol is cheaper there, Shell is one of the best I guess.

Unpaved road, beautiful scenery
As soon as you leave Al Hamra village, where you find the last petrol pump, the road winds up in the mountain from a wide wadi, a delight for any driver. The  temperature starts dropping as you climb up. You can take sedan car up to Jebel Shams, ours was all wheel drive made our drive smoother and more comfortable than sedan. We reached the top of first mountain from where road was going down in valley, which made us think if we are on right route? So we asked few Omani men who were driving behind us, they were friendly and confirmed the route. After you start climbing another mountain, the unpaved road starts and so is the greenery. You can see dry water streams everywhere. We stopped after seeing local tribal girls selling some kind of berries. Those Omani men, driving along side us stopped and gifted those berries to us. The Omani guy couldn't speak much of English but he insisted pointing at our son that it's a gift for him, as we are visiting his country. We experienced same homeliness from Omani people through out our journey.

Summer Camping on Jebel Shams

When we reached at the base camp of Jebel Shams around 5 in evening, the weather was amazing! The winds were blowing and temperature dropped by 12 degrees or more. Actually you can camp anywhere on Jebel Shams. But we chose Jebel shams heights resort, for camping that night so that we can always opt for a room, if our summer camping would fail. Also this camping option provided us proper toilets and dedicated facility by resorts. There was a pomegranate tree in full bloom with lot of pomegranate dangling from the branches near the reception. My son was so fascinated, he touched the fruits and even tried counting, one of the staff just picked ready to eat fruit and handed over to my son. We set up our camp in the cave at Jebel Shams Heights resort. It was beautiful, had a view of wadi around the base camp.

My son had good time playing in their smaller play area holding his treasure, a freshly picked pomegranate! My son even got acquainted with an Omani family, who were one of the guest in resort. The resort provided us key to nearby room for washroom as their dedicated washrooms for campers were far from cave.

Freshly picked pomegranate, such a delight
As it started getting dark, we started preparing our barbecue dinner. The resort has provided lights near cave, but while walking around we needed torch. There is dedicated place for barbecue and camp fire right in front of cave a circle built with stones. We had to keep watch on our son all the time as there were no fence around cave, which was situated at some height. But this dedicated place for fire made things safer. Ruhaan kept himself busy keeping watch on ants with torch in his hand all the time. Every time I had to wash fruits or vegetables, he accompanied me proudly lighting up our path with his torch. He played with his one car in between, but we almost didn't have to worry to keep him busy.

Our Home for a night
It was such delight to cook dinner outdoors without feeling hot. The temperature might be little higher but it was feeling like 24 degrees, specially because of lack of high humidity. So then we decided to have a small camp fire after dinner with left over burning coal and some wood lying around. We had our dinner while watching stars above us. After dinner we had fresh fruit from Oman. The berries Omani people gifted us were so sweet and addictive, though it had big seeds in it.
Omani Berries

Before bed, my husband read a camping story to Ruhaan in tent. After few failed attempts this was Ruhaan's first camping experience. Last time we camped on a beach in Fujaira and it started raining with thunderstorm, which was predicted a week after! So he never really had a full experience of camping. At first he was little bothered by flying moths and bees sitting on outer surface of tent. But he soon got used to it and made it fun game to flash torch on them.

Enjoyed his first camping
The night was peaceful apart from braying of donkey once or twice! We could all take a good night sleep without any disturbance. Not many mosquitoes were there and we made sure to keep tent closed at all times in evening. We didn't sleep in the sleeping bags, instead we used them as mattress. Also we kept tent door open, with only net closed for ventilation.

 Jebel shams heights resort staff were friendly and co-operated us at every step. They even stored our food in their fridge overnight on our request. We didn't use the swimming pool, there was lot of sand in it, neither we had any meal at resort. But our cave camping experience was good. The best part was cave was cooler till late morning so my boys slept till late without bothering by any temperature rise. The cave provided shade for us during morning and while having breakfast. I would recommend to bring your shade or opt for shaded camping option at resorts in summer. Though it's not too hot, there is breeze almost all the time, but it's same scorching Sun.

Amazing weather on Jebel Shams in Summer

Our car showed 50 degrees in Al Ain in the morning, 47 degrees in Nizwa that afternoon. When we were climbing up car gauge showed 34 degrees and 30 degrees when we reached on Jebel Shams early evening felt like 27-26 degrees without humidity. At night car showed 25 degrees felt like 22-21 degrees and we had to use our light blankets.

My husband was so fascinated by the temperature drop, he kept on taking photos of temperature gauge in car at different times. He even took a quick snap, when he woke up in the middle of night!
Our Car's Dashboard, Temperature 25 degrees at 3 am 

The temperature drop was the main attraction of Jebel Shams! Coming up my next post about what outdoor fun we had on Jebel Shams and what are things to do when you are there specially during summer.

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