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  Omanis await Al Safarjal



Heaps of bright yellow sweet limes sold by the
highway at Samayil.— Picture by Khamis al Moharbi

The bounty of Oman's fruit gardens — from the pomegranates, grapes and apricots of the north to the papayas, bananas and custard apples of the south — are hugely coveted by people across the country. Relished for their taste, flavour and nutritive qualities, demand for these native fruits usually outstrips supply. But, come September, the spotlight will be on the Al Safarjal or sweet lime — an indigenous citrus fruit that grows in abundance in the wilayat of Samayil.

During the September-to-March season, these delicious, bright yellow fruit can be found heaped by the road at Samayil, catching the eye of passing motorists who invariably end up buying bagfuls of sweet limes. The fruit grows in profusion in two wadis in Samayil — Wadi al Seigani and Wadi al Oaq —where entire orchards are dedicated to the production of sweet limes. In fact, so profitable is the crop that the date palm no longer enjoys pride of place in these parts.

The sweet lime comes in two varieties — the Bu Raqab, with a head-like protrusion, and the Al Dairi, which is shaped like an orange. Both trees begin blossoming in February and the fruit is ready to be picked in Septem-ber. The season lasts through March the following year. In fact, the citrus crop is the mainstay of the local economy here. A single citrus tree yields anywhere between 200 and 500 fruit. These are hawked by the road at Samayil, and in souqs in Fanja, Seeb and Muscat.

The Bu Raqab variety sells at the rate of 8-10 pieces per Omani riyal, while the Al Dairi sells 15 to an Omani riyal. Production was down last year on account of a partial blight, with the fruit commanding premium prices. The Bu Raqab variety was quoted at RO1 for three pieces, while the Al Dairi sold seven for RO1.During the September-to-March season, between 15 and 20 hawkers — both men and women — operate at Samayil's roadside market.

They sit in the shade of large trees by the main highway, about 88km from Bid Bid. Because of the popularity of this roadside souq, a makeshift shed had been built for the benefit of the vendors just a few yards down the road. Seasonal earnings, say growers, average about RO4,000 per person, which explains why sweet lime production is pursued with great fervour in Wadi al Seigani and Wadi al Oaq.

These wadis were until recently dismissed as obscure tracts of rugged land in the wilayat of Samayil, but the lucrative sweet lime crop has radically altered this perception. Land prices have sharply appreciated in these parts as farmers bring new areas under citrus cultivation and newcomers follow suit.Samayil's fruit orchards are nourished by five bountiful aflaj that meander through pleasant palm tree swathes in these wadis. These are Falaj al Seigani, Falaj al Huwaykat, Falaj al Wasit, Falaj al Mazera and Falaj al Nah'dh.

Water supplies are augmented by a number of wells dug in the two wadis. Both Wadi al Seigani and Wadi al Oaq, with their scenic orchard stretches, are within driving distance of the roadside souq at Samayil. There are motorable trails through the wadi with lush citrus gardens on either side. You can stroll through these gardens or can camp in the shade of sidr trees that grow in the wadi close to pleasant streams flowing in some parts of the wadi.

En route are villages like Al Huwaykat, Al Wasit, Waqfan al Sayh and Al Seigani. Beyond Wadi al Oaq, the trail leads to the Sharqiya region. Citrus trees grow in a dense spread in villages like Al Rassa and Al Sinsilah in this wadi. Tomatoes and cucumbers are grown alongside sweet limes in some of these villages. Date farming, though pursued with less vigour, also generates modest incomes for farmers here. The Al Naghal variety of dates is quite popular in these parts.

© Adapted from Oman Observer.

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