Tawi Atyr Sinkhole – Dhofar, Oman

Last week, we went for a three day holiday to Salalah.  We rented a car, and set out with our trusty “Oman Offroad” book.  Trust me to have forgotten the GPS.

High on our list of priorities was the Tawi Atyr sinkhole.  The mountains in Dhofar are limestone, and it is thought that this sinkhole was the result of a giant cave ceiling falling in.  In the walls, there are examples of stalactites and stalagmites, commonly found inside caves.  it is the 48th deepest in the world….. 140 m across in NE – SW direction and 100 m in NW – SE direction. In lower half it narrows down to 60 m across. Depth of sinkhole is 211 m – like 60 floor high building.After a bit of fumbling around – Oman is very good at putting up signs for places, but sometimes one is missed and you have to guess, we found our destination.  There was another vehicle in the parking lot.  An Omani man  named Mohamed came out, and started to lead us down to the viewpoint.  Wow, we thought, it’s great to have a guide here. Not much to see, as the place is overgrown with bushes.  He then led us off into the cliffs, and very carefully guided us down into the sinkhole, stopping to make sure we were ok with the climb, and resting inside the cave (really just an overhand).  We finally made it to a metal structure that had one time been a viewing point.  We were still a long way from the bottom, but from there, one could throw a stone and hear the water splash.   Apparently, there are freshwater fish living here that are found nowhere else in the world….. they have small eyes and very weak eyesight, and are the only freshwater fish for 600 km.Do you see the Nativity Scene in the stalagmites in the wall of the sinkhole here?

The name Tawi Atyr is said to sound like the Arabic for ” well of birds”, and once you are down inside, you can sure understand why.

I was dreading the trip up as we had been clambering around some fairly steep paths on the descent, but except for our poor condition which had us both gasping, the climb wasn’t that difficult.When we reached the parking lot, we discovered that Mohamed and his wife and mother-in-law were just there as tourists themselves, and he had just taken us along on his climb into the hole.  His wife asked if I had a photo of her husband down there – I showed her, and they were all happy.  Oman is full of lovely folks like this – always friendly and wanting t show you the country they are so proud of.

This was just one of the sights we saw that day – stay tuned for more.

Here is a link to a good write-up about the sinkhole.http://www.flickr.com/photos/shanfari/4979518743/

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