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Letters from the Oman Trail – The dry delta

Letters from the Oman Trail – The dry delta

Wadii are your only way to get through the mountains. Communication routes since the beginning of time, knowing your way through this ever changing maze is a must. Thousands of dead ends, a lot of detours, and very few connections leading you to where you intend to reach. Welcome to the labyrinth !

What strikes me the most when looking at satellite images of the Arabic Peninsula, is the how its landscape has been shaped by water. How an arid desert land without a single river can have so many river beds ? It’s like a virtual delta. A “normal” river would start from a source somewhere in the mountains and find a way to the sea. Here, the water does come from the mountains as the rain drops occasionally, but instead of streams running continuously towards the sea, getting larger on the way while merges with other rivers, you have a multitude of run-offs inevitably disappearing in the desert sand. Water either evaporates in the atmosphere due to the heat, or filters through sand on its way to a vast underground lake. Just like the California desert, Arabia has a very large reservoir of pure water underneath its inhospitable surface. And just like the western american states, Arabia has a few big new cities that pumps it up at a much faster rate than nature can sustain.

Water run-offs, or flash floods as we like to call them, can be very impressive. They are also very dangerous if you are caught in a “Wadi” (river bed) when it happens. Each year a few tourists drown unaware of the potential threat. It hardly ever rains, but when it finally does, it is as if someone above had realized they forgot to give us water for a while, and had to compensate by pouring on us the full refill at once. In a matter of minutes the water comes rolling and tumbling through the narrow valleys, bringing down everything on its way to the bottom – Bushes, trees, animals, humans, cars, roads, etc… Yet, those wadii are your only way to get through the mountains. Communication routes since the beginning of time, knowing your way through this ever changing maze is a must. Thousands of dead ends, a lot of detours, and very few connections leading you to where you intend to reach. Welcome to the labyrinth !

wadi al hajar mountains
The narrow & rocky wadii of the Al Hajar mountains.
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