It’s Like The Grand Canyon, But Without the Tourists

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Can you imagine hiking the Grand Canyon and being the only one there? That’s what it’s like to visit Oman’s Jebel Shams – the second largest canyon in the world. We’re talking dramatic peaks just under 10,000 ft, deep canyons with ancient mountain villages, and miles of clearly marked walking trails – often without a soul to be seen.

I know it’s shocking, but I spent yesterday, the holiest of holy days, the day of gluttony and deep-fried turkey, EXERCISING. In my defense, Oman seems to be oblivious to such a momentous holiday, and I was forced to go outside, get some fresh mountain air, and hike to Oman’s highest peak (or at least intend to). There were some families picnicking around the lookouts (a favorite Omani pastime), but the trails were empty, save for a donkey or two.

Here’s what you can see:

1. Wildlife! Along with the ubiquitous goats, snakes, and scorpions, Jebel Shams is the best place for watching the majestic Egyptian Vulture soar above the canyon’s updrafts – don’t forget your binoculars. With some luck you’ll spot the wild donkeys as well, though they are often too shy to approach (I got lucky yesterday).

2. Foliage! This harsh environment breeds only the most durable of plants and it’s interesting to check out the hardened, thorny shrubs that manage to survive. The large, gray, twisted trees are Juniper – offering up the sweet smell of Christmas.

3. Ruins! Follow the W6 walking trail to reach an abandoned village tucked under the lip of the canyon with its falaj (aquaduct system) and terraced plantations still in tact.

4. Rug Makers! The Omanis living in the tiny villages that dot this massive peak are known for their woven goat-hair rugs. They also sell bracelets,keychains, and hunks of quartz.

I was thankful for another day in paradise with my love. Happy Thanksgiving from mine to yours!

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