Touring the Batinah Plain

The Batinah Plain is Oman's most populous region and, with its magnificent old forts, hot springs, thick date plantations, and fields of improbable crops flourishing among the gravel plains, it warrants at least a day-trip from the capital. Better still, hire a 4WD and explore the region's wadis as well. These dry river beds, with their pockets of spring water and abundant bird life, are the real jewels of the Batinah Plain; connecting the flat coastal expanse with the high Hajar Mountains, they offer the visitor a glimpse of village life that still beats with the rhythm of age-old customs, oriented around the seasons.

An easy two-day trip from Muscat begins in Barka and then circuits through Nakhal and Rustaq, continues on to Sohar and returns to Muscat via Al Sawadi. Although difficult to accomplish if relying only on public transport, particularly as there is limited accommodation, it's easy to navigate with your own transport along good roads. On the Muscat–Sohar Hwy (Hwy 1), elaborately decorated mosques reflect the Persian influence of the Farsi people who have settled in the region. Also look out for forts guarding the coastal strip at Al Suwayq, Al Khabura and Saham. None particularly warrant getting off a bus for, but they may be worth a leg-stretch from your own vehicle.

With an extra day, a 4WD side trip through Wadi Bani Awf and Wadi Sahten opens the door to some of the most dramatic landscape in the country. Alternatively, it’s also possible to combine a visit to Al Batinah Plain with a few days exploring the western Hajar Mountain region by using the exciting but challenging 4WD mountain track via Wadi Bani Awf to Sharfat Al Alamayn. This route climbs to a high pass and descends to the village of Al Hamra, near the main town of Nizwa, on the southern side of the mountain range.