Get set, go! Up the peaks to take a peek at the roses in full bloom. Hasan al Lawati follows the trail of aroma drawing in people from within Oman and abroad to Jabal Akhdar
Rows of pink roses in full bloom is a sight to behold, and Omani photographers visiting the picturesque Jabal Akhdar are now gorging on the veritable feast for the eyes.
Every year from the end of March to the middle of May the landscape of Jabal Akhdar, or the ‘Green Mountain’, is enveloped in multiple shades of pink.
The season of roses on Jabal Akhdar is always a photographer’s delight. This one is no different as the shutterbugs have brought their best equipment to capture the blooming beauties.
Moayad Al Araimi, @Mua4yad a photography student in Muscat, is blown away by the gorgeous landscape.
“What I see is pink merging with green. It gives a fresh, fabulous coat of colour to the otherwise harsh brown rocks. It was a pleasant surprise for me to see the roses in full bloom and the whole area carpeted in pink.
“The place at the moment is a photographer’s dream and provides the perfect opportunity to master the art of photography. There is a fantastic variety of roses and the shades of picks are gorgeous. It is breath-taking to see the rose plants cover the entire mountain slope…it looks like a pink river cascading down the mountain.”
But the spectacular nature was not the only thing that amazed the 22-year-old photographer.
“The villagers’ hospitality in Yamen and Al Ain villages and their eagerness to help photographers was really touching,” he says.
“They were smiling to the camera, striking poses, and even suggesting shooting angles. It is not just the roses but the chatter of the men and women plucking the petals of roses delights you too. The temperature of 25 degrees Celsius on the mountaintop proved to be prefect too.”
Al Araimi’s quest to capture the ‘Rosa Damascena’ flowers in full bloom has proved fruitful and he is going back a happy man.
“Photographers and visitors must take advantage of the season to click magical images. It is a colourful subject which can never disappoint anyone. Take all your lenses and capture the view to your heart’s content.”
Omani photographer Khalid Al Abri @khalidal3bri who is enjoying his first experience documenting the season is a content man too.
“A photographer always aims for excellence and to capture Oman at its best. This season which lasts for a little more than a month needs to be captured by as many photographers as possible to show its exquisite beauty to the world.”
He explains that photographers “race” to document the season and capture the very essence of nature and its enchanting beauty.
“Most of the images pay tribute to the place and photographers’ creative brilliance shines through,” he says.
Let the world get the view
Al Abri thinks the process of collecting the harvest is also a subject by itself.
“The harvest is collected in a sheet of cloth by the villagers who are engrossed in the job…their emotions as they gather the petals in a bundle are not be missed. I feel they are happy and sad. Sad because they are saying goodbye to the flowers.”
The petals are sent to various traditional extraction units around Jabal Akhdar to make the famous Omani rosewater. “As a photographer I found this part very fascinating,” Al Abri says.
He called upon the government to promote the season of roses exclusively as a tourist attraction.
“Maybe like how the Netherlands promotes the tulip season. Oman must encourage tourists to travel to Oman during this period to see the roses in full bloom. Jabal Akhdar is by itself one of the best destinations to visit in Oman but this would be an ideal time to watch the roses in all their glory. There is of course a need to promote the destination without tampering with the privacy of the villagers,” Al Abri says.
Tourists flock around
Oman News Agency has reported that “significantly” more tourists have visited the mountain this season than that of last year.
The occupancy rate in hotels since the beginning of March was between 80 per and 100 per cent. According to the 2017 statistics, 34,559 tourists visited Jabal Akhdar during March, April and May.
With 233,012 visitors by the end of 2017, there was a qualitative leap of 43.4 per cent compared with that of 2016 (162,499).
Hamoud bin Khalid bin Saleh Al Qamshoui, Director of Tourism in the Governorate of A’Dakhliya, says: “Jabal Akhdar is famous for its many tourist attractions, especially because of the exceptional climate. The temperatures are moderate in the summer and fall below zero in some parts of winter.
This weather is suitable to grow multiple agricultural products and it helps increase their yield.”
One of the plants people of Jabal Akhdar are keen on cultivating is the rose. “It grows in abundance on the green mountain. The rose water industry has become a profession for many people of Jabal Akhdar as a major source of income,” he says.
Speaking about the itinerary offered to tourists during the season of roses, Al Qamshoui says: “The tourists are free to take a walk in some of the agricultural areas where some villages are situated. They get the opportunity to watch the local people plucking roses early in the morning. There are also some traditional factories which tourists can visit. Here they can watch the old method of manufacturing rose water.”
Don’t miss this photo exhibition
The farmers of Jabal Akhdar enjoy the attention and affection from people who visit the place during the season.
Recently, four members of the Sawarah Group @sawarah_oman, a team of Omani volunteers, drove up the mountain to help the farmers pick the rose petals.
Established in October 2015, the group works under the umbrella of the Child Care Centre.
Also, they take photographs and hold exhibitions. In a touching gesture, the team gifted a printed image of a farmer at work on Jabal Akhdar that was taken last year.
Ahmed Al Hasani, one of the team members, says the group is planning to hold an exhibition of their photographs in December 2018.
Those who do not make it to Jabal Akhdar during the rose season could still get an idea of the visual feast if they find time to visit the exhibition.
How to get there
From Muscat, take the road leading to Nizwa. Just before the town, turn right when you see the road signs for Jabal Akhdar. There is a police checkpoint before you begin the climb where you need to show your driving licence. A 4×4 is compulsory. On your way to the top of the mountain you will pass through Birkat Al Mawz. Follow the signposts to Saiq.
GPS location of Saiq
N23˚ 04’ 40” E57˚ 40’ 14”