'A delightful adventure': why retired Omanis are heading to Barr Al Hikman beach

Camping on the sand is the perfect way to 'push the cobwebs from old minds'

For retired Omanis, Barr Al Hikman provides the perfect escape from routine as the country’s unpolluted beaches offer them the chance to reassess their relationship with the environment.

People in their 60s and 70s who may have spent a lifetime in a tedious working routine say beach camping can help improve their mental and physical health.

For 69-year-old Abdulamir Al Shaibany and his close friends, remote beaches are ideal spots. They travel for more than five hours from Muscat to Barr Al Hikman, a popular but out-of-the-way town in central Oman‘s Al Wusta region.

“It is worth the long drive to go camping to places like that,” Mr Al Shaibany, a retired accountant at Oman Refinery Company, told The National. “The beach there is unpolluted and no big crowds around. The beauty and the surrounding areas are stunning.

“For me, a place like Barr Al Hikman is an escape route from the boring city at a time when I want to fully enjoy my retirement years.”

Mr Al Shaibany and a group of friends stock their four-wheel-drive vehicles with food and supplies plus tents, bedding, chairs, cooking stoves and mobile toilets to last them for three days or longer.

Mohammed Al Hashmi, a retired army officer, said visitors coming from Muscat should leave the motorway and head for the village of Mahoot, about a 30-minute drive to the beach of Barr Al Hikman.

The unpaved roads are bumpy, sometimes rocky and muddy after rain. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is not a luxury but a necessity to arrive without getting stuck.

“But being retired, you have all the time in the world,” said Mr Al Hashmi, 68. “I take every bump, curve and rough track on the road as a delightful adventure. As I negotiate these hurdles, I am forced to slow down and take a closer look at nature. I look at birds, iguanas and even wild foxes who cross my path with great enthusiasm.”

Once at the beach, visitors say the beauty that awaits them makes the bumpy ride worthwhile. The waves rushing to the shore and the bubbles of white foam breaking on the crystal sands are “perfect for old minds”, 71-year old Jalal Al-Saadi, a retired electrical engineer, told The National.

“A sight like that pushes out all the cobwebs from my old mind,” he said. “It is just perfect to feel the breeze on my face, to see crabs make lines on the sands as they run and birds flapping their wings over my head. It is heaven on Earth.”

But Barr Al Hikman attracts the young as well. Mannan Al Rawahi, 24, an airport management graduate, said it is hard to believe such places exist until you get there.

“Why travel when we have beautiful places like this in our own country?” he said. “Until you get here, you will not know that Barr Al Hikman is also a nature reserve where we have lots of migrating birds from different neighbouring countries.”

Oxana Chorna, a freelance photographer and lecturer at Modern College of Business and Science in Muscat, called the area’s beauty “exceptional“.

“I like to travel around in Oman but the beach and the surroundings of Barr Al Hikman is exceptional for its outstanding beauty,” she said. “The clouds over the beach are amazing to look at. You can spot birds on the beach of many different species.”

By now, those who live nearby are used to weekend or weekday campers in their town. They drive in pick-ups and four-wheel-drives to have fun, much like their visitors.

Most of the locals are fishermen or farmers supplying fruit and vegetables to cities such as Muscat, Nizwa, Salalah and Sohar.

“We are used to people from Muscat and even tourists,” 15-year old Omar Al-Mahooti, who was born in Barr Al Hikman, told The National.

“They like it here and our friendliness. We take Barr Al Hikman for granted because we were born here. I must say we see a lot more old people from Muscat than young ones, perhaps because it is a laid-back and relaxing place.”

Updated: November 6th 2021, 10:59 AM