I was surrounded by jagged canyon walls jutting up from the pools of water and shading me from the sun. I wondered if it could get any more beautiful than this – and my answer to that question came as I rounded the corner out of the canyon and stepped out into the sunlight. This is when I saw my first glimpse of Bilad Sayt – a fairytale-like village typical of the old Omani communal settlements of the past. I was stopped in my tracks, “wow” slowly and quietly rolled out of my mouth as my eyes scanned the area and took it all in. A little haze blanketed the village that was built upon a hill with closely clustered homes made of mud and stone. The perimeter of the village was surrounded by date palms making it look like a desert oasis. Jagged brown mountains surrounded and loomed over Bilad Sait, dwarfing the whole village.
Getting to Bilad Sayt took a little work – but it’s worth it as it’s one of the unique places to see in Oman. It was literally off the beaten path as we had to get there by 4×4 and then by foot. After visiting nearby Nakhal Fort we sped along the lovely new highway snaking around the valley following a dry riverbed. The good news about Oman is that the infrastructure is great – however it’s not all finished yet – so it didn’t take long for our newly paved highway to come to an end and deposit us on dirt roads. We started climbing the mountains in our 4 WD vehicles and the fun began – it was like riding a roller coaster with the most spectacular views in the world. Some of the inclines were so steep that I found myself trying to sit up to see over the hood of the truck to see what descent coming next leaving my stomach full of butterflies.
After an hour of offroading, we parked the cars and then went on foot through the wadi scrambling through water, clinging to rocks, and eventually finding the mountain oasis of Bilad Sayt, the home of one of our Exodus guides, Zahir.
Zahir, walked us around the village explaining the date farming and the complex maze of falaj (irrigation canals) systems. Water gently trickled throughout the whole village via the falaj system giving it a feeling of tranquility on top of the picture-perfect setting. Zahir welcomed us into his family home and introduced us to his grandfather and a younger brother who served us Arabic coffee spiced with cardamom and various sticky-sweet dates from his family’s trees.
Oman is quickly growing, but it was lovely to be able to find mountain villages like Bilad Sayt still existed. Sometimes it just takes a little work to get to them – but getting off the beaten track is the real adventure.
How to get there: (instructions from www.nizwa.net)
Bilad Sayt is within easy reach of Al Rostaq town. From the town centre, drive towards Al Awabi, and turn right in the direction of Wadi Bani Auf. Drive for about 25km through this wadi until you come to an intersection that will take you to Bilad Sayt. The 15km route to the mountain hamlet traverses very rugged terrain and in one place skirts the precipitous edge of the wadi that meanders past Bilad Sayt. The final approach to the village involves a steep climb and an equally dizzying descent before the mountain oasis comes into view. If you are coming from Barka, drive towards Nakhl and Al Awabi beyond. A few kilometres from Al Awabi, an intersection appears on your left taking you to Wadi Bani Auf. The rest of the route is as described above.
Disclosure: While in Oman I was a guest of Exodus Travels on their Oman Hiking Tour. However, all of the opinions expressed here are my own.