Oman is typically associated with the desert settings most imagine to go hand in hand with oil fields, and although the country does indeed boast such areas-such as the famed Empty Quarter, which it shares with its neighbours Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and UAE-there are also quite a number of green locations in Oman where the flora thrive. A perfect example would be the mountains called Jebel Akhdar, sometimes transliterated as Jabal Akhdar, which some also refer to locally as The Camel’s Hideout.
There is actually at least one other mountain of this name and it is situated in Libya. That there is a doubling is due to the meaning of the name itself: Jebel Akhdar is literally “green mountain”, and truly both mountains with the appellation live up to it. The one in Oman, though, tends to fool many first-time visitors. There is a great deal of scepticism-sometimes even disappointment-on the part of those who come to the range expecting to see verdant surroundings immediately, only to see rugged peak after peak of craggy, desert-like land. The green seems to be missing.
It would be unwise to turn back based on the first impression, though. One of the secrets of Jebel Akhdar is that its greenery may only be found once one goes further into the range and up the peaks. There is actually a large plateau near the very peak, asides from hundreds of wide shelves of rock, and on these are distributed developed and paved lookout spots like Wadi Bani Habib (a perfect place from which to snap photos, a kind of high-altitude park) and more than 50 communities’ hamlets and villages. All around these areas are marvellous terraced farms and prime woodland filled with trees like junipers and the many fruit trees for which this area is famous. There are several hundred wadis (oases) as well as springs distributed throughout the range, and the sweet climate-which often stays below 30 degrees Celsius even in summer and frequently sticks to the 5-degree-Celsius mark in winter-is a far cry from that of Oman’s blistering desert plains.
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In one part of the range is The Mountain of the Sun, Jebel Shams, which is the highest point in the country.
Jebel Akhdar is a nature reserve and was given this designation by the sultan in 2011. Nowadays, more and more people are heading to it to see its natural wonders for themselves. The place is not too far away from the capital if you want to head over there to see what all the fuss is about too: it is approximately 150 kilometres from Muscat. If you do decide to visit it, note that there are some excellent perishables being sold by the communities living here, such as pomegranates held to be the best in Oman, rosewater used for making such goodies as halwa, walnuts, and many other fruits that are not easily grown elsewhere in the hot Omani lands and which are later distributed for sale throughout the country.