Oman beloved by visitors and locals alike, not for towering buildings of downtown areas and shopping plazas, but for its natural beauty. So weekends for those of us lucky enough to live here are best spent exploring the scenic vistas and lesser-travelled byways to discover gems like the picturesque town of Manah in Ad Dakhiliyah.
I set off on my journey towards the south-east from Muscat in a brand-new, red, AWD Mazda CX9. The car had been parked outside my building, calling to me to hit-the-road, and attracting attention from passersby. The bright late morning sunlight bounced off its big shiny, well-defined body. Though I just had the car to road test for the weekend, I swelled with (temporary) owner’s pride as I hopped in and took hold of the cool, black steering wheel, running my thumb over the stereo control, cruise control, and other buttons perfectly positioned on my ‘command station’.
The seven seater beauty, with its 4-cylinder, turbo charged engine, classy, beige seats, and supremely comfortable, spacious interiors, was an absolute pleasure to drive. Gliding on flat roads and transforming into a growling powerhouse off road. Which was a great thing, as we planned to spend the day exploring the towns of Ad Dakhiliyah, many of which can only be accessed by leaving the main road. What we discovered is that the village of Manah is one of Oman’s most best kept secrets.
Although we went during day, there was an eerie mystery about the place when we first arrived—barren lands along wide stretches of road, punctuated by hints of an erupting dust storm. But as we went deeper into this lost city, I discovered a fascinating abandoned village that was inhabited a few hundred years ago by some very smart locals.
I feel I can safely state that they were smart, because the ruins of their well-planned infrastructure reflects a high-level of sophistication, not often found in similar ruins in other places I’ve been.
To access the ruins, we had to veer off the main road and navigate through narrow dirt tracks and take steep turns, (which my Mazda executed effortlessly) until we finally spotted a big fort. But what really grabbed my attention were the sprawling ruins of what looked like a residential colony.
We got out and began wandering through structures made of stone and mud, in which we could still make out where the kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms had been. Each room had circular hollows that ensured ventilation and a kind of air conditioning so the residents never felt hot (smart).
Just casually strolling through the lost town felt like an adventure, but I was ready to see what else the charming area had to offer, so we headed back to the Mazda, parked under a date palm, and set out along another road featuring a sign board that read ‘Noor Majan Camp’.
A Google-search told us that this little place in the middle of nowhere offered little huts with all the basic amenities, and a small restaurant.
We arrived and, to be honest, I was kind of unimpressed. The entrance to the camp looked like someone had started work on a construction site and gotten bored. I continued ahead to find a little children’s garden and a cluster of huts. I realised that I might have judged the place too soon. I went to the reception to collect a room key, and I found the simple accommodation equipped with AC, clean toilets, and a king sized bed, just as advertised. The only thing missing was the restaurant, which is undergoing renovation. Nevertheless, it was a fine place to take a rest amidst trees and other little huts after an afternoon of exploring.
Investigations complete, we turned back towards Muscat, stopping atop a big, hilly dune to enjoy the sunset before grabbing a karak chai from a stall in Manah and starting our journey home along the quiet highways. —[email protected]
How to get there?
Once you reach the Nizwa roundabout, turn towards Salalah. About 5km ahead you will see a signpost saying “Manah”. Take the turnoff.
Noor Majan Camp
+968 2543 7357
Details on the car:
MAZDA CX9 2.5 TURBO AWD LUXURY
Seating Capacity: 7
Power: max. output 170 KW/5000rpm;
Max Torque 420Nm/2000rpm
Engine displacement: 2488cc
Fuel tank capacity: 74
Fuel Economy: 12.0