Travel


Trekking amidst roses in Jabal Akhdar



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Jabal Akhdar, which translates to the "Green Mountain," is one of the most dazzling mountain ranges in Northern Oman. The 40-minute ascent to almost 3,000 metres above sea level is an awe-inspiring experience. We were excited to see the cute little goats and donkeys grazing along the road on our journey upward. We needed a 4WD vehicle to complete the ascent since it was very steep and dangerous.  One must note that checkpoints have been set to ensure everyone follows this rule. Looking to the left and right of the vehicle could make you slightly nervous since there are "danger" and "escape route" signs posted every few kilometres along the trail.

Almost 20 minutes into our journey, we saw the quaint Al Jabal Akhdar Hotel. The area comprises various villages and wadis. Wadi Bani Habib was the best of the wadis. Our adventurous group descended a stairway, past the aflaj, a pool of water from the mountain spring, and an empty well. Next, we climbed up a steep mountain to view an abandoned village, packed with mud houses that were built hundreds of years ago; some of these houses were dangerous to walk through.

As we walked along the rooftop of one house, we noticed a small hole in the roof; another person in our group yelled out to us to "be careful". Moving on, we saw another house with its front door wide open, as if it was inviting us to enter. We did so, carefully of course, and were shocked by how cool it was inside, especially within the small room to the side, which we believed was a prayer room. There were a couple of drawings on the wall in that room — most likely created by a young child. It was nice to take a breather here and feel the crisp winds blowing through the small window. Next, we returned outdoors to the back of the mud house. It was a wonder and shock to find a young child's shoe dangling from a small rod protruding from the bricks — like a message for visitors that others had been there before them.

Further into Jabal Akhdar was a small neighbourhood that was peppered with colourful signposts that led the way to a hiking trail.  After trekking through the area, we happened upon one of three small houses that formed part of a rosewater distillery. An elderly Omani man led us to the first house in the row, where we found clay pots filled with roses.

Rosewater is made by boiling roses and capturing the condensation. It takes three hours to complete this part of the process. The next room held buckets of roses that were being prepared for boiling. Some roses had been laid out and covered with a sheet, and distilled water had been poured over the sheet to soak the roses. The last room was a cooling-off room. After the roses are cooled for several hours, they are filtered several times to clean them. I was excited to learn about the various health benefits of rosewater such as being a great natural toner for the skin and helping to soothe headaches and heart problems. Nonetheless, I was saddened to learn that the rosewater being produced here was not being sold yet and would not be available until July.

However, we were able to eat our sorrows away at the Sahab Hotel restaurant, which was a short trip down the road from the rosewater distillery. The restaurant has a wonderful view of the area since it sits at 2,004 metres above sea level. The restaurant's decor was art deco meets traditional Omani flair. In the lobby, there was a small display of a rosewater distillery. We were seated in the outdoor seating area and treated to spectacular views of the lush green mountain range. For an exciting, yet peaceful, trip to view Oman's natural beauty, I highly recommend taking a trek through the roses of Jabal Akhdar.
(The author is a freelance writer and the views  expressed in the article are her own)

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