Y’s Intern Fatin al Zadjali joins Photographer Shaquel al Balushi for her first trip to the mountains of Jebel Akhdar.
I’m disappointed that I haven’t explored my own country as often as I would have liked, particularly as there are so many hidden scenic treasures in Oman.
So therefore, it was with some relief and excitement that I embarked on my first trip to Jebel Akhdar, with Y photographer, Shaquel Al Balushi.
We set off from Muscat at 9am, and not being a morning person, I had to kickstart my brain with some lethal music.
Our first, crucial stop was to a corner shop to fill our cooler with ice, fruit juices, water and snacks.
The ride to Jebel Akhdar is a two-and-half-hour road trip, but do remember not to miss the scenery on the way.
You will find men herding sheep, women holding water pots, goats on mountain cliffs, and children on small bikes. It’s a completely different feeling from the urban sprawl of Muscat; the road to Nizwa made me appreciate our ancestors and how their descendants continue to follow a completely different (and satisfying) life away from the city.
After a few kilometres, we approached the checkpoint that monitors car registrations and licences. This point is a border before the incline to the mountain.
Also, the officers check that your vehicle is a four-wheel drive and capable of tackling the gradient of the mountain. The incline is extremely taxing; you must make sure that you have a skilled off-road driver who understands the pathways. Over the years, the roads have been improved and every few kilometres there are mountain speed breaks used for emergencies if the driver loses control.
By the time we reached our destination we weren’t disappointed. Jebel Akhdar is a jaw-dropping spectacle of scenic wonder, with its long and undulating pathways, hidden forts and a falaj that brings up cooling water from the stream.
What amazed me was the hike. Firstly, if you are a fitness guru this place has your name on it. There are approximately 500 steps within a rocky terrain and it is quite a test of endurance. Despite this, you will find venerable old men attacking the mountains with great relish and redoubtable stamina.
If you veer towards anything verdant, and Mother Nature fascinates you, Jebel Akhdar, the Green Mountain, is the place to be. Trickling streams drizzle the mountains and all the trees are scented, from which you can pick mangoes.
Also, do bear in mind that this location can be extremely cold during winter, with temperatures dropping below 0.
At the bottom of the mountain, there are men selling refreshments and ghi (freshly made butter that is used to create tasty bread and dishes).
Secondly, Jebel Akhdar makes you appreciate all that is both enchanting and enduring from a historical point of view. The forts, huts, and caves that nestle between the mountains were once lived in. One can only applaud the denizens of these dwellings for the rigorous yet refreshing lifestyle they led.
Finally, our hike back up the mountain was as demanding as a dawn session at a sports boot camp. The incline is extremely high, the heat can be oppressive, and maintaining one’s hydration levels is a must.
On the way back to Muscat, a cloud-spattered sky and the cool breeze put me in a most relaxed frame of mind after the arduous climb. However, the setting’s serenity and the sense of achievement from the day’s efforts was pretty satisfying. The most rewarding aspect was the feeling of having encountered one of the most monumental spectacles of my own, beautiful country.
– Keep hydrated and do not forget to take a mixture of healthy snacks
– Wear sturdy shoes with solid ankle support, and light clothing
– Have a camera in hand; it has a greater capacity for capturing images than those of smartphones.
– 4WD vehicle; the officers will stop you if you’re driving a saloon
– Be in good company; it’s always better to go with friends especially, if (let’s hope not) you twist an ankle
From Muscat take the road to Nizwa on the fast, modern Highway 15. Go past Izki and take the exit to Izki and follow the road. There are signs to Jebel Akhdar. When you reach the police security check, you will need to stop. You will not be allowed up the mountain if you are not driving a 4×4. It is compulsory.
GPS location to foot of mountain: