The Balcony Walk, Oman – it’s Jebel Shams lite 6

Jebel Shams, at 3,009 metres elevation, is Oman’s tallest mountain. Keen hikers can climb to the summit if they like – or somewhere near the summit; the very top of the mountain is military land and thus off-limits to the public. For everyone else there’s the Balcony Walk.

The Balcony Walk, Oman

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The trailhead for the Balcony Walk is unmarked, but the beginning of the track is easy enough to locate. Simply drive yourself to the town of Khateem – just a scattering of simple adobe huts and goat pens – which you’ll find perched on the lip of an extremely deep canyon (Wadi Nakhr).

Then just walk over the edge.

The Balcony Walk

The Balcony Walk, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White

The canyon wall is not quite a sheer cliff in this location, but just a little way down the slope it does become truly vertical, with a 900-metre fall to the valley floor below.

The trail clings to this not-quite-sheer band of the canyon wall, with sections of vertical cliff above and below, for the length of the Balcony Walk.

The Balcony Walk, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White

The trail is narrow, just wide enough for single file passage. There are many points where the path drops off steeply – most of the Balcony Walk actually – with little in the way of handholds to prevent yourself tumbling over the sheer cliff below should you happen to slip over the edge. If the idea gives you shivers then I wouldn’t recommend attempting this hike.

For everyone else, the path is wide and flat enough that you aren’t likely to be troubled.

The Balcony Walk, Oman

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

As you make your way towards the giant cul-de-sac at the end of the gorge you begin to discern a vast, natural, half-arch in the rock face. And above it: a strange patterning in the cliff that looks a little like agricultural terraces.

Of course the idea is ridiculous.

Who would be so crazy as to build agricultural terraces half way up a kilometre-high cliff?

The Balcony Walk, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White

But then you draw a little closer and you come across the remains of an abandoned village, tucked into the same narrow, non-vertical band in the cliff the Balcony Walk has been taking advantage of.

As Sab, The Balcony Walk, Oman

The abandoned village of As Sab. Photo credit: Benjamin White

At first it is just a goat pen or two, with tiny mortar-less stone huts built alongside. These are just storage sheds surely?

People couldn’t live inside them, could they?

Perhaps a goat-herder might spend a night or two in them from time to time?

As Sab, The Balcony Walk, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Then you reach what is undoubtedly a village. A complex of crudely built stone huts, many built on top of each other. This is the village of As Sab.

Why did they build here?

Was it a particularly hostile time? Were defensive capabilities of paramount importance when they moved here? Were they in exile?

What did they do for water?

The Balcony Walk, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Finally you reach the agricultural terrace, which still supports a few trees; a tiny pool of stagnant water at the back of the terraces proof that there is a water source here at certain times in the year.

What did the villagers do when it was dry though?

The Balcony Walk, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White

The terrace steps down and down and down and down, then goes over the edge.

Tough gig working on that last terrace. You’d get a nice view of the enormous, natural, half-arch though if you made that fatal misstep.

The Balcony Walk ends here. Only it doesn’t really end as you now must about-face and do it all in reverse.

The Balcony Walk, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Practical information and how to reach the Balcony Walk:

Many online sources (and locals) will insist that you need a 4WD to reach the trailhead at Khateem. I can confirm that I drove to Khateem in a small 2WD car without any difficulty. There are sections of the access road that are gravel, which is occasionally steep and bumpy and corrugated and covered in patches of bulldust (superfine dust). But if you’re careful and drive to the conditions you’ll be fine.

The Balcony Walk trailhead is 1.5 to 2 hours drive from Bahla, and 2 to 2.5 hours drive from Nizwa. More transport info here.

A reasonably fit individual should be able to walk from Khateem to the abandoned village of As Sab and back within three hours (not accounting for stopping time).

More on Oman:

Bahla Fort – labyrinthine 13th Century castle, but is it too schmick?

The archaeological sites of al-Khutm, Bat, and al-Ayn

Muscat – beautiful city, but don’t expect locally-grown grapes

Jibreen Castle – boiling date oil + murder holes = unhappy attackers

Misfat Al Abriyeen – mud-brick city, alpine oasis, all thanks to falaj

Yemini-style mudbrick village, Al Hamra

Nizwa – swathed in date groves, capital of Oman proper?

My favourite hikes:

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Morskie Oko, Poland

La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia

Refugio Otto Meiling, Argentina

Gunung Kinabalu, Malaysia

Song Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Mount Villarrica, Chile

Posts on the Middle East:


Chogha Zanbil – the original ziggurat, built by the Elamites

Shushtar – downfall of Valerian, ends in triumph for Roman engineers


Petra – Al Siq: narrow, magical chasm leading to Al Khazneh

Petra – Ad Deir: the monastery?


Doha – Souq Waqif, a spiral minaret, and a masterpiece by I.M. Pei


Pamukkale – Romans bathed in these milky white pools, so why can’t we? 

Fethiye – painterly sunsets, Lycian tombs, and full English breakfasts

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

6 thoughts on “The Balcony Walk, Oman – it’s Jebel Shams lite

    • Benjamin White Post author

      Hi Jessica, sorry I do not have a pin for this.

      I downloaded offline maps, using, and had no difficulty accessing the trail.

      The road you need to be on ends next to a small village at the top of a cliff. There is nowhere else you can go at this point.

    • Benjamin White Post author

      Hi Jessica, sorry I do not have a pin for this either.

      When you reach the end of the road and the small village at the top of the cliff, simply make your way towards the edge of the cliff, and you’ll see the trail.

      Enjoy 🙂

  • Karen White

    What an incredible spot. I can’t imagine myself being able to walk along that narrow path with that enormous drop just inches away. But what an amazing village at the end of the track with the terraced wall. It must of been very tough work. It would be interesting to know who lived there and why they lived in such an isolated and extreme spot