Jebel Shams (Sun Mountain)
Jebel Shams, translated as Mountain of the Sun, is Oman’s highest peak. The mountain is also featured by its view into the spectacular deep Wadi Ghul lying alongside it.
The mountain lies in the heart of the Western Hajar Mountain chain in Al Dakhiliyah region, hosting Jebel Akhdar as well.
With views of the Al Nakhur Canyon labelled as “The Grand Canyon” of Arabia, Jabal Shams Oman is one of the must visit attractions for any visitor.
This is the highest peak in the Arabian Peninsula, rising to an altitude of 3,004 metres above sea level, and has plenty of slopes and summits.
Reason of Name
Jabal Shams is so called because it is the first place to greet sunlight at dawn and the last to say farewell at dusk.
Why to Visit Jebel Shams
Life on the summit is different from what most people are used to, as the weather is mild in summer and cold in winter.
Close to the peak lies a deep chasm called the "An Nakhr Balcony", one of the most beautiful places tourists visit. It is a deep ravine in the heart of the rocks that can be viewed from the top, which directly overlooks the ravine.
At the bottom of the ravine rock formations chiselled into different forms by erosion lie at breathtaking depth.
Tourist guest houses have been built where the visitor can spend time enjoying the serenity of this scenic mountain.
Things to Do in Jebel Shams
For many tourists, the main thing to do in Jebel Shams is camping by the edge of the canyon. It offers a great escape from the heat during summers.
The most well known location to camp is by the edge of the canyon, just a short drive after the road stops, following Jabal Shams Resort.
Note that there are only a few suitable camping spots which can be crowded on public holidays or weekends.
Jebel Shams is the perfect spot for sky gazers. It is an escape from the city light to the starlit night sky.
You will just need the right conditions like a clear moonless sky, and you will get to enjoy a view of the milky way as well.
The accessible areas are reasonably fine for living this experience. However, there is still a bit of light pollution from the nearby hotels, and from Al Hamra village in the bottom.
For better results, stargaze closer to the peak, as it is away from light pollution sources.
There are three hiking routes at Jabal Shams: The Jebel Shams Balcony Walk, Al Khitaym To Wadi Ghul Hike, Jebel Shams Summit Hike.
Jebel Shams Balcony Walk
The Jebel Shams Balcony Walk is the most popular and most recommended route for casual hikes. It is an easy one through the rim of the ‘Grand Canyon’.
It starts from Al Khitaym village, lying at the end of the road at Jebel Shams. As soon as you get in the village past the ‘stalls’ set up by the villagers, you will see the white, red and yellow flags marking the start of routes W6 & W6a.
Al Khitaym To Wadi Ghul Hike
Hiking from Al Khitaym Village to Wadi Ghul (W6a route) in either direction is an option. One-way trek is an option, if you leave a car at the other end or arrange transport back to your starting point.
Jebel Shams Summit Hike
Hiking the summit is the best hike in Jebel Shams, and is a steep climb up the plateau all the way to the ‘summit’. The summit hike is steep and can be tiring especially if you’re a casual hiker.
A roundtrip will take roughly from 10-12 hours, with the ascent taking 5-7 hours. It depends on how many stops one takes.
Many hikers choose to split the hike over two days by camping up near the peak, in order to make the most of the visit and enjoy the hike instead of rushing to do it in a single day.
An hour into the hike, you’ll get to the edge of the canyon with some more great views. Take great photos, and this is a place worth going even if you don’t intend to do the full hike.
Note that the ‘summit’ you will reach is not the actual summit. It is 2,997 m high whereas the highest summit (3,009 m high) is a restricted area due to a military outpost location.