Green Mountain Beckons *
For the handful of enterprising
tourists who venture into the rugged precincts of Al Jabal al
Akhdar every weekend, the Green Mountain as it is popularly
dubbed offers discovery, adventure and a fascinating insight
into the life in one of the most inaccessible places in the Sultanate.
All come away with a sense of awe of natures primordial
beauty as seen in the soaring peaks and plunging canyons.
Many of the Green Mountains plant species are coveted
for their medicinal value Pictures
by Abdullah Ibrahim al Shuhi
They delight in the romance of the terraced fruit orchards and
rose gardens abuzz with the giggly banter of mountain belles.
And are stirred by the simplicity and generosity of the mountain
folk who, despite the rigours of daily life in almost hermetic
seclusion, exude good cheer and geniality all around.
This unique destination is within easy access of Muscat. Driving
towards Nizwa, turn right at Birkat al Mauz and proceed along
the graded road signposted Saiq, which is a key town at the summit
of the Green Mountain. Given the nature of the road, interspersed
with steep gradients and sharp U-bends, visitors are well-advised
to use sturdy 4WD vehicles only, with an experienced off-roader
at the wheel.
A road permit from the
Ministry of Defence is necessary before venturing up the mountain.
This can be arranged by the Al Jabal Al Akhdar Hotel, the Green
Mountains newest landmark, which serves as a superb base
for tourists to sample the many natural delights of the jebels.
Al jabal al Akdhars salubrious summertime climate
reaching a maximum of 26 degrees Centigrade while the rest of
northern Oman sizzles stems from the lofty altitude to
which the Green Mountain soars.
The Green Mountain comes abloom with a multitude of roses
Reaching a height of about 10,000 feet, the mountain range is
reputed to be the highest in the entire Arabian-peninsula. In
winter, however, temperatures plunge to 5 degrees minus, sometimes
freezing up natural ponds and attracting seasonal hail.
At these altitudes grow a variety of fruits and nuts such as peaches,
apricots, grapes, apples, pears, plums, almond, walnut, and not
the least of all, pomegranates prized of the Green Mountains
bounty. Coveted for their nutritive and therapeutic value, the
jabals produce commands premium prices often 2-3
times the value of commercially grown fruit.
In fact, April marks the start of the flowering season when each
pomegranate tree breaks into blooms of white or red flowers. Pomegranate
trees are a ubiquitous sight in the jabals remote villages
and towns. They grow along mountainous pathways near villages
or in the backyards of homes and government offices.
Jabal al Akhdars rugged landscapes are ideal
for mountain-climbing buffs
The Green Mountains famed fruit orchards are
typically laid out terrace-style along the slopes of mountains,
which are endowed with natural springs and aflaj. The most
picturesque of these settings are the terraced
Tiny villages at the bottom
of the gorge
of Al Ayn one of some eight pomegranate-growing villages
clinging perilously to the mountainside at Saiq.
Scenic mountaintop hamlet overlooking
Al Jabal al Akhdars main gorge
Terraced gardens enhance the natural beauty
of the Green Mountain.
views from Al Ayn, overlooking a landscape of dramatic peaks,
gorges and wadis, are indeed spectacular. On a clear day,
especially after a spell of showers in the area, one can see
parts of the Nizwa plain in the distance.
Water is key to the Green Mountain bounty of fruits and flowers.
A network of channels fed by cool, crystal springs, nourishes
the fruit orchards. The channels follow a serpentine course
all the way down the mountains slope, leading to the
terraced gardens at various intervals.
Diana Point named after the late Lady Dianas
visit to the Green Mountain offers perhaps the most
panoramic of views of Al Jabal al Akhdars rugged peaks
and precipitous ravines. From this well-known viewing point,
located just 3.3km from the hotel, tourists can behold nature
in all its primitive splendour, as well as scenic mountain
hamlets nestled on the edge of a gorge. Terraced gardens cascade
all the way down to the floor of the gorge.
For the energetic, a walk along the rim of the gorge can be
an exhilarating experience. Nature buffs, particularly those
with a penchant for geology, will find in these parts some
unique geological treasures, many among them still awaiting
Camping sites abound in the mountains offering tranquillity
and seclusion. Significantly, the Al Jabal al Akhdar is home
to the ancient juniper tree now protected by law
in whose shade a picnic can be a delightful experience. Indigenous
olives, myrtle and a variety of medicinal plants and shrubs
are part of this interesting natural heritage.
© Adapted from Oman Observer.