Jebel Akhdar and surrounding area
I love mountains. When I am not traveling, I spend my time surrounded by and exploring the Tetons. My first exposure to the Al Hajar mountains blew my mind (Oman | Heading for the Hills part I) but I had no idea what still lay in store.If I have the good fortune to return to Oman, I will head straight to Jebel Akhdar. Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) is the highest peak on the Arabian Peninsula. In August 2011, Sultan Qaboos designated the region around Jebel Akhdar a nature reserve in order to conserve its unique yet fragile biodiversity. The higher altitude of this region means it receives about 12 inches (300mm) of rain per year. This climate provides the perfect conditions cultivating damask roses. If you look closely at the photograph above, you can see endless steep terraces and the dormant bushes. The bushes flower and petals are harvested from around mid-March through May and the hillsides turn pink. The rose water subsequently produced is prized throughout the Middle East and used for medicinal, culinary and celebratory purposes. In the good news, bad news category: we were told there were two things one never sees in Oman: Sultan bin Said al Said and rain. I guess the weather gods didn’t get the message and the heavy rainstorm meant we were unable to hike through the rose terraces and visit the villages. However, we did have a magnificent waterfall later in the day!
Located on the southern rim of Jebel Akhdar, the 17th century village, fort and surrounding oasis of Birkat al-Mauz is a must-see. The name translates to Banana Pool, since that fruit was the original crop. Over time, dates have replaced bananas (which are now cheaper to import). The traditional falaj system of irrigation is in full view and the date plantations are lovely to explore on foot.
We were lucky to see other tourists – beautiful Indian Rollers migrating to warmer climes. Yet another reason to visit this beautiful area.
More to come. Stay tuned.