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Talefeathers: The Latitude 35 Blog

Wadi Shab and Bimmah Sinkhole: Oases of Stunning Beauty in Oman

Updated: Mar 12

Much of Oman is brown rock, dirt, and sand. So when you come across a lush, vibrantly colored green and blue oasis, it's rather mindblowing.

Glowing, emerald-green river running through the eroding walls of wadi shab.

I had spent the morning and early afternoon on a journey to the Jaylah Beehive Tombs, up high in the Hajar Mountains: seven hours of dry, dusty, rocky terrain; very sparse vegetal growth; and not another tourist in sight (yay!). Had it not been for the blue sky, I would have wondered if I was going color blind.

Descending 1600 meters from the tombs, my view turned from monochrome to the basic eight Crayolas, to a full-fledged cacaphony of every blue and green and in-between.

Highway pillars with "Welcome to Wadi Shab" and grafitti-like paintings

What is this surreally beautiful place? It's Wadi Shab, or Wadi Ash Shab, which translates to "gorge between cliffs." And boy, is it gorge-ous!

On boat at the river's mouth / the stone pathway through the gorge

Part of Wadi Shab's majesty comes from thousands of years of erosion. Water has sliced through the mountains and carved steep walls and caves. It's fascinating to look at the pocked walls, sedimentary layers, and crumbling rock and to imagine prehistoric ice floes, torrential rains, and Arabian and Eurasian plate collisions that contributed to it all. At times I felt like I was in Land of the Lost and expected a dinosaur (or sleestak!) to jump out at me!

emerald-green water and tan-brown stone walls

Further ahead, there's a hidden, partially-submerged cave where you can swim to a "secret" waterfall. Unfortunately, I was short on time so skipped that part. But if you look carefully in the photo below, there's a 6" waterfall just left of center. :-)

a clear water pool

After Wadi Shab, my driver and I headed to the Bimmah Sinkhole. Frankly, after Wadi Shab, it was pretty anti-climactic; although if it had been a sunnier day, it would have looked more emerald-like.

A big hole in the ground with a lake in the bottom and people swimming

I love the Arabic name, though — Hawiyyat Najm — which means "the deep well of the falling star," because local legend says the sinkhole was caused by a meteorite. In fact, it formed when the surface layer of stone collapsed due to the underlying limestone's dissolution. The lake is about 50m x 70m wide and 20m deep. The sinkhole itself is more than 90 meters deep.

A big hole in the ground with a lake in the bottom and people swimming

I recommend visiting the Bimmah Sinkhole before Wadi Shab so you can be impressed by both. Take your swimsuit if so inclined, but be aware of local customs and dress modestly out of the water. I wore Teva water sandals at Wadi Shab and they worked out great.

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