Translating to ‘green mountain’ in Arabic, Jabal Akhdar takes its name from the abundance of greenery that grows in these higher altitudes. Part of the Al Hajar range, the route to the top starts around 45 minutes from Nizwa, and it’s here where you’ll also find the tallest peak in the entire country at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level.The vast and utterly spectacular region forms the geographical backbone of Oman, starting around 30 miles inland from the Gulf of Oman and running all the way to the tip of the Musandam Peninsular.
Sultan Qaboos designated Jabal Akhdar a nature reserve in order to conserve its biodiversity. Thanks to the elevated altitude, the region has been extensively farmed for its abundance of vegetables and fruit which wouldn't normally survive in the harsh desert heat down below. The region is known for traditional Damask rosewater extraction, honey bee breeding, and production of pomegranates, walnuts, apricots, black grapes and peaches.
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Some of the most remote settlements in Oman are scattered throughout the Al Hajar mountains. Examples include the 400-year-old ‘Al Hamra’ which has now developed into the size of a small town, as well as the ancient ‘Misfat al Abryeen’, a tiny village that retains an untouched feel with its series of stone huts clinging on to the mountain’s edge.
As you scale the mountain range, you’ll notice that temperatures noticeably drop, particularly in the winter months. Thanks to the more Mediterranean-like temperatures, one of the most popular activities here is trekking and hiking; there are 11 marked routes in total that vary in difficulty and duration, ranging from 90 minutes to a marathon 18-hour trek.
Dubbed as Oman’s very own Grand Canyon, Wadi Nakhr (also sometimes referred to as Wadi Ghul) is one of the most spectacular points in the Al Hajar Mountains, presenting stunning views across the rugged landscape and down into the plummeting valley gorge below. The only way to reach the top is by 4x4, unless you don’t fancy the grueling climb to the top by foot.
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As the sunrise woke me, I got my first glimpse of Oman. The contrasting view of the beach below and the rocky Al Hajar mountains was a fitting introduction to a journey that would take me all over the diverse terrains of this fascinating country.
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