While Y’s former photographer Jerzy Wierzbicki is no longer with us, we thought this was a great opportunity to revisit some of the first places he ventured to in the Sultanate. This week, we look at the stunning twisted trees of Jebel Akhdar
Over the past five years, Jerzy has clocked up tens of thousands of kilometres in an incredible 250-plus trips, as he explored the Sultanate for his weekly Destination column. From the mountains to the sea, from wadis to the Empty Quarter and everything else in between, there’s not much that he didn’t discover on his travels.
As a newcomer to Oman, Y Managing Editor Felicity Glover thought it would be a great idea to go back in time and revisit some of the best places that Jerzy has been to. Felicity’s thinking behind the idea was that there are many people like herself in Oman who would find a “look back in time” series just as fascinating as she does. Then again, she is sure that many readers who have followed Jerzy’s travels closely over the years will enjoy the opportunity to rediscover them.
In this week’s Destination, we go back to October 2011, when Jerzy and group of friends headed to the top of Jebel Akhdar, which translates as “The Green Mountain” in Arabic. Nothing much has changed on the mountain, although visitors will notice new hotel Alila Jabal Akhdar, which overlooks the beautiful Al Hajar mountain range, has opened since Jerzy’s visit. Here’s his story…
“I was waiting for the first rains for this trip to the mountains as they provide the right weather conditions for taking excellent landscape photography.
“I set off for Jebel Akhdar with a group of friends who wanted to see how I take photographs for Y. We reached the police checkpoint at the foot of the mountain around noon. There is a very steep and winding road to the top of the mountain and only 4×4 cars are allowed to drive up. The last time I visited here, I saw a lot of small trees that had been twisted by the wind and this is why I had come back. Reaching the top, the weather was perfect: sunny, but windy with a few clouds that provided a lot of opportunities for good landscape photography. The temperature was also a lot cooler than in Muscat.
“At the top, we drove in the direction of Shnoot. Just beyond Shnoot, we turned onto a wide gravel track and after a few kilometres, we found the trees we were looking for. They had been twisted by the wind, which caused them to grow in fantastic and strange shapes. I put my camera on a tripod and started capturing the trees on film. After an hour, we continued driving along the gravel track, which ends next to a deep, wide valley.
“Opposite, we saw the small village of Sugra, which looked like one of Ansel Adams’ photographs of a Mexican pueblo. One of my friends attached a super telephoto lens to her camera and she took some nice shots of the stone buildings in the village. As we continued on into the mountains, the late afternoon light had become very soft and warm, so we pulled our 4x4s over and continued taking photographs of the twisted trees.
“Jebel Akhdar is a very well-known place for weekend trips and amateur photographers can find many great places to take photos. The light conditions are very different here compared with Muscat – the air is cleaner and visibility is terrific for panoramic landscape shots. Just don’t forget to bring a tripod!”
From Muscat, take the road to Nizwa, then follow the road signs to Jebel Akhdar. Because of the steep, winding road to the top, only 4×4 cars are allowed to go up – but even experienced drivers should be aware of the weather conditions, which can change suddenly and create dangerous driving conditions.
GPS location of Jebel Akhdar: N22’57” E57’40”