al-jibaal

The next trip brought us to less urban locations in the al-Hajar mountains in Oman.   We stayed in a hotel in the al-Jabal al-Akhdar nature preserve and also visited Jabal Shams (the highest point in Oman while we there.

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We started our trip up the mountains into the al-Saiq plateau and to the old abandoned village of Bani Habib.  We hiked down to the wadi that housed the old village through an orchard filled with apple, pear, and pomegranate trees. After spending some time exploring the village.  We traveled to another small village where rosewater was produced, and got to see where it was made.  Surprisingly the 1 litre bottles of rosewater that we saw being sold were all produced in a tiny two room building a few men and three kilns.  On the opposite side of the scale, the terraced fields full of Damascus roses were massive and extensive.  A walk along the canals around the village showed some other agriculture was well with fig, mango, and other fruit trees set up along the way.

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Jebel Akhdar (the Green Mountain), and especially the Sayq plateau, are quite green because of the additional rainfall neat the coast and an elevation the keeps the temperature much better for agriculture than the rest of Oman.  As a result, there is a lot of terraced agriculture in the villages scattered around the area.  The extensive falaj canal and cistern networks optimize the additional rainfall for irrigation. The falaj network is even more impressive at Misfat al-Abriyyin where water cascade down through channels in the village and into aflaj that wind around the mountain.  The hike here was beautiful, and its incredibly impressive how intricate and amazing these ancient irrigation systems are.  Its sometimes easy to forget some of the things that people thousands of years again were able to accomplish.

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The hotel was nice, but unimpressive, although we did build a fire around back and sit around on carpets listening to stories and riddles in Arabic. The rest of the mountain range is much drier than al-Jebel al-Akhdar, but has its own stark kind of beauty. The height of Jebel Shams was pretty impressive and I was happy to see a cairn on top of the summit.  Its interesting how Picts in ancient Scotland and Arabs in ancient Oman could have such similar customs separated by such distance. Aside from a brief stop at a Bedouin village most of the rest of the trip was spent driving and hiking in the mountains.

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It was a great excursion, and probably the most lush vegetation that we saw the entire time we were there.

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