Its arid desert landscapes may dominate our imaginations, but Oman is also home to many oases of tranquillity. Wadi Shab is one of the most popular spots for both local Omani and visitors to unwind and cool off before settling in for a picnic lunch. A "wadi" by any other name is a valley, canyon or a river bed where fresh water flows freely. There are countless wadis across Oman – around 20 in the Gulf alone and many more snaking their way throughout the 11 governorates.
The vivid blue waters of the Wadi Shab are located in the township of Tiwi, Ash Sharqiyah, around two hours south of Muscat. One of Wadi Shab's most alluring features is the fact that there is no well-worn road to the secluded site, meaning four-wheel-drives are a common feature on the riverbank. There's a great deal of scenic off-road driving to be had in Oman and it may be worth your while to hire an all-terrain vehicle if you're seeking adventure beynod the city.
Bring your comfortable walking shoes, sun protection and a bottle of water if you choose to make the 40 minute journey from the entrance of the wadi under the concrete bridge to the turquoise pools and waterfalls down the valley, where joyful splashes echo around a partially submerged cave as dappled sunlight streams in. Alternatively, you can enjoy a lunch in the shade of the overpass but you might find many others have the same idea.
Travelling a few minutes down the road brings you to the Wadi Tiwi, around 30 kilometres from Sur. The colourful canyon walls enclose a sparkling blue spring, which weaves by plantations of date palms and fruit trees alongside local villages. A visit to either or both wadis warrants at least a day and is particularly rewarding (and refreshing) when the mercury soars high. While the wadis are popular places for leisure, they are also vital to Oman's villages as a source of water for agriculture.
Some tour companies offer a visit to Wadi Shab (also called Wadi Shaab) in conjunction with a trip to the Bimmah Sinkhole – a stunning emerald-hued limestone hollow in the Hawiyat Najm Park that has become one of the most visited natural attractions in Oman. You won't regret a journey off the beaten track, clambering over boulders and narrow rock ledges to experience the magic of the Wadi Shab.