Al Hoota Cave - A frozen architecture of huge lion shape stalagmites and stalactites
Al Hoota caves nestled at the feet of the highest Mountain in the vicinity of the Tanuf Valley in Al Hamra Al Hamra is a 400-year-old town in the region Ad Dakhiliyah, in northeastern Oman, called Jebel Shams (sun peak) in Al Hamra district and still a part of Nizwa. It is home to the mountainside village of Misfat Al Abryeen. It is more than 5km long traversed by underground River.
It was founded by shepherd around 70's and after carefully researched, it's revealed 2 main entries of the cave. it is 3km long with underground river. The highest peak can reach 800 above sea level. The cave humidity is high, it is full with stalactic and stalagmites and column. The stone is mainly limestone with some carbonate. In one part of the cave, it formed like a big pillar and create a huge lion-shape rock overlooks the bottom part of the cave.
A stunning scenery greets you just before you reach the place. The cave has an extraordinary dimension and features an electric train that starts from the visitorEoe1/4aos centre reaching the mouth of the tunnel arriving to the caveEoe1/4aos main entrance. But these days the train is under maintenance. So, you need to walk straight (a short distance) into the cave.
The 840-metre illuminated walkway with railings make finding your way inside the cool cave easy. The cave, punctuated with dozens of intriguing ancillary chambers and offshoots, carves its way from north to south tapering through the flanks of a large mountain. A 5km passageway has been mapped.
Tourists are awestruck to see the wonder of nature that surpasses human creativity.
Journey to the interior
Pamper your inner caveman with a trip to one of Oman’s stunning and ecologically diverse underground vaults The concept that men are from Mars and women are from Venus gripped the imagination of a literary world, and generated a host of explanations for qui rky, gender-related behaviour. One of these is the idea that men have caves while women have covens, meaning men tend to retreat into themselves in the face of some issues, while women prefer to talk issues through. Whatever you are a man or a woman, one thing is for sure. The idea of descending into the bowels of the earth will either have you running for the hills or phoning a friend. Oman is definitely the right country for it. The Sultanate offers some of the best caving in the world, bar none.
Put the words cave and Middle East into one sentence, and many tourists might immediately think of Aladdin’s cave, that literary treasure trove described in The Book of 1001 Arabian Nights. In a way they could be right. The caves of Oman are certainly more underground vault than repository for trinkets and trophies, but they offer treasures of another kind.
Meeting of Jinns
One of the Sultanate’s most famous caves is Majlis al Jinn, located some 100km south- east of Muscat on the Selma Plateau. Although it is currently closed to the public after over-exploitation by tourists and base jumpers, plans are underway to make this the country’s showcase cave.
One story holds that Selma was a young shepherdess who left her flock while she went to fetch water. She found a leopard eating her goats when she returned, and she fought it off with an axe in a terrible battle that killed them both. In her honour, the heavens sent down seven stars to the spot where she was found, and these became the seven caves that people from around the world now come to explore.
When it was first surveyed in 1985 by American geologist Don Davison and his wife Cheryl, Majlis al Jinn was the second largest cave in the world by volume. Since then other larger caves have been found in various parts of the world and Majlis al Jinn is now listed as the ninth largest cave chamber in the world. It has featured in National Geographic magazine and countless internet tourism blogs.
The name means “meeting place of the spirits” in Arabic after local legends which hold that centuries ago, people saw Jinn, or spirits, meeting inside the cave. It is likely that light piercing the interior of the cave from a hole in the roof created a ghostly play of shadows on the walls, creating the effect of a meeting of shadowy creatures! Actually, locals these days refer to the cave by the somewhat less evocative name of Khoshilat Maqandeli, meaning a refuge for goats.
Visitors to the area will see three natural potholes leading into the huge chamber. These are called First Drop, which is 20m wide, Asterisk, which is 15m wide, and a much smaller entrance called Cheryl’s Drop. All three are visible on Google Earth by the way. The cave is about 310m long and 230m wide, with a 120m-high domed ceiling. The volume is about 4 million cubic metres, which would contain the Great Pyramid of Egypt, or 12 Boeing 747s! In the past cavers had to abseil down 200m of specialised rope to access the bottom of the cave. The experience became so popular that word spread and the cave was at risk of being degraded. At present the Omani government is deciding on how best to showcase Majlis al Jinn to the public. The demand is certainly there as is shown by the popularity of the Sultanate’s first cave opened to the public, Al Hoota.
When these two million-year-old ecologically diverse and stunningly beautiful caves were opened to the public in 2007, more than 75 000 people flocked to get a glimpse into underground Oman. And they were reportedly more than happy with the experience! Situated between the silversmith town of Nizwa and the World Heritage Site at Bahla, a three- hour drive from Muscat, at the foot of the Jabal Shams mountain range, Al Hoota Cave is one of the largest cave systems in the world, which used to be part of an ancient coral reef on the sea floor.
A variety of techniques was employed to create a well-lit pathway for visitors — concrete, elevated walkways, steel steps and bridges. And keeping the safety of the tourists and the ecosystem in mind, a 1,300-metre stainless-steel handrail has been installed along the pathway.
More importantly, platforms have been built at strategic points for visitors to get the best views.
The subtle use of lights and their placement retain the mystery we associate with caves. Bats hanging from the ceiling complete the sense of enigma.
Al Hoota Cave is one of the largest cave systems in the world, which used to be part of an ancient coral reef on the sea floor.
See more Al Hoota Cave Images
The power of water is evident in Al Hoota Cave. You can see how the water has sculpted the rocks over the years. "This is shaped like a lion," says the guide, after which the group of 40 start imagining every possible shape in the rocks — from a meditating lady to an elephant deity, Ganapati.
The water had indeed sculpted beautiful shapes as it sliced through the rocks to form the cave. There are stark white-gold calcium deposits along with the dull reds and the pale pinks of magnesium.
And in case you thought rock was boring, think again. Al Hoota depicts the timeless dance between water and rock, as slow drips over countless millennia have sculpted and continue to sculpt a frozen architecture of stalagmites and stalactites. These eerie structures are shaded in pastel hues of gold, pink and yellow.
The main lake in the cave is around 800 metres long and 10 metres wide, 15 metres at its deepest point. The dark recesses of this cavernous lake house life. The deep green subterranean lake is home to hundreds of tiny fish, the blind Garra baremiae, which is unique to this ecosystem. The fish are delicate and transparent and visible only in lights or torch flashes.
Al Hoota has another claim to fame - Oman’s first train. Admittedly it is only a 36-seater and covers a mere 550m of track, but the experience of travelling through a 150m long underground tunnel through a limestone hill to the entrance of the cave is really a one-off trip you will not forget in a hurry.
As you walk through Al Hoota caves, keep an eye out for these rock and mineral formations caused by water erosion and chemicals in the water dissolving the rock.
The 2.7-kilometre underground tunnel at the foot of the Jebel Shams (Sun Mountain), about 150 kilometres northwest of Muscat, has been lit in a way that puts tourists at ease but at the same time maintains the natural ambience of a cave.
Al Hoota Cave is the two-million-year story of how rock dissolves under water and how water sculpts rock.
However, until about 50 years ago, the cave's existence was not known. "The cave was discovered in the 1960s by a dweller from the nearby Hoota village," said Ahmad M. Sabra, founding CEO of Promo Oman. Sabra, whose company manages and markets Al Hoota Cave, added that the unknown villager was letting his goats graze on the slopes when one of the goats wandered off.
"The goat fell through the natural entrance of the cave and as the shepherd searched for it, he discovered the cave," Sabra said.
Also to preserve the cave, bulbs that produce minimum heat were chosen for the lighting system. The walkway is the vantage point from which tourists can gaze upon an 800-metre lake containing Garra bareimiae, pale pink fish that have remained underground for so many generations that they have lost the ability to see and have eyes that are covered in skin. The cave also boasts of its own species of spider, Spariolenus secundus.
As with most caves open to tourists, there are geological formations within the caves that look earily like objects from life up above ground. Among these is a section of rock that resembles a lion opening its mouth.
Al Hoota is also an indication of the Oman government’s commitment to eco-tourism. The caves provide direct employment to local communities and all construction has been designed to be environmentally sustainable. Tourism boosts awareness about Oman’s natural treasures and adds valuable educational experiences for visiting school groups.
Know before you go
- Only 750 people are allowed into the cave each day.
- Contact Hoota cave management on +968 24490060.
- Timings of the cave facilities are from 9am to 6pm.
- Cave visits are guided and last around an hour.
- Mondays are off except for groups with prior reservations.
- The show-cave is closed between July and August.
- You will need special permission to photograph inside the cave
- If you plan to visit any of Oman’s caves, make sure you are properly equipped.
- Take with you a heavy-duty torch or flashlight with replacement batteries and bulbs. Make sure you always have plenty of drinking water and high-carbohydrate snacks. It is advisable to wear strong hiking boots and lightweight, durable clothing.
- Oman offers thrilling cave adventures, but should only be attempted by experienced, fit cavers, accompanied by an experienced guide.
- Many caves in Oman are essentially underground wadis (rivers). Do not attempt any cave exploration if you suspect it may rain, or if it has recently rained in the area. Flash floods can be fatal.
- Recently the Oman Porsche Club brought speed and style to Al Hoota Cave, when they visited the Cave on the 2nd January, enjoying first class hospitality at our Zajal restaurant before Speeding off around the Jabal Shams mountains. More than thirty five exclusive cars and drivers had fun at our unique attraction.
- The ticket for the cave is 5.5 OMR/person and some discounted fare for kids.
- Main building has: coffee shop with restaurant, souvenir shops and they said there will be a museum in the future.
Al Hoota Cave Project
Al Ghobra, 18 November Street, Villa 13
PO Box 1115, PC :130
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Telephone: +968 24490060
Fax: +968 24490134
Tel for reservation: +968 92404444
E-mail: rese...@alhootacave.com , i...@promooman.com
Reservation(booking) of the Cave visit is required in advance.
Reservation working hours from 8 am- 4.30 pm.
Also Check: The road to Nizwa, Oman - A Virtual Tour