Jebal Akhdar (الجبل الأخضر) is a beautiful mountain in the Al Hajar Mountains of Oman, and literally means Green Mountain in English. However, Jebal Akhdar isn’t just a cute name intended to attract visitors (like Hawaiian Gardens, California… don’t visit there). Jebal Akhdar is GREEN, and a surprising oasis in the hot desert.
|Overview: Mountaintop grand views with sleepy hamlets to explore.|
|Time: 1-2 days|
|Length: 37 km|
|Difficulty: Easy, everything is paved apart from the camping location and the hikes.|
|Dist. from Muscat: 135 km|
Situated about 40 minutes from the interior capital of Nizwa, Jebal Akhdar peaks at just shy of 3,000 meters (9,840 feet), depending on who you ask. On the mountain we find a number of tiny hamlets peppered around the mountain, located near water sources which feed afalaj irrigation systems for agriculture. Crops include the famous roses, pears, apples, walnuts, figs, grapes, plums, apricots, saffron, and world renown pomegranates. The Mediterranean climate is so good for agriculture that His Majesty Sultan Qaboos keeps his own private farm on the top of mountain.
The main geographical feature on the mountain is Saiq Plateau where the main town, called Saiq, is located along with a Royal Oman Army base. Saiq is a modern town and is expanding at a rapid rate, like most of Oman. Here you will find a petrol station, basic grocery stores, and a sea of 2-3 story houses. Beyond that there isn’t much to see inside the town, so shift your attention to the epic views nearby.
Just outside Saiq is my favorite lookout on the mountain, just above the hamlet of Al Ayn. From here you can see straight down the jagged wadi, past the green terraced gardens from ancient times, between two massive cliffs, and if the weather is clear, the boiling desert below. In the foreground of all this you have quaint, little Al Ayn; silently nurturing her precious fields.
Al Ayn is like many hamlets on Jebal Akhdar, lost in time. If you remove the ugly power lines, petrol powered 4x4s and smooth pavement; you are instantly transported back in time 1,000 years. Head down the hill to the parking area and take stroll through the hamlet. The locals are friendly, especially when you give the traditional greeting as-salām ‘alaykum (السلام عليكم).
The Jebal Akhdar War
During the 1950’s the locals might not have been so friendly. A war broke out when the sultan’s father, Sultan Said bin Taimur, tried to wrestle power back from the interior government, the Imamate of Oman. Basically the autonomous Imamate of Oman thought The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was breaking the Treaty of Seeb by negotiation oil deals on land that they controlled domestically.
The sultan didn’t think so because these were international affairs with international companies, which were explicitly the right of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman to enter according to the treaty. The fight was on, and eventually entered a period of a long stalemate because the Imamate of Oman’s leaders, backed by Saudi, retreated to the seemingly impenetrable Jebal Akhdar. In 1959 the British, who supported and coordinated with Sultan Said bin Taimur, victoriously dispatched SAS soldiers up the southern face of the jebel to retake the enclave. There was little fighting in the action.
You don’t need SAS stamina and a grueling hike to reach Jebal Akhdar nowadays. A silky smooth tarmac road guides your magic-carpeted-ride straight up in about 30 minutes. The only requirements are a 4×4 for the steep terrain, and your vehicle and personal IDs. All of which may, or may not, be checked at the police checkpoint at the bottom of the mountain.
If you are touring Oman in a sedan and still want to visit Jebal Akhdar, you can hire a 4×4 for the day from a local company (see the map below), or hitchhike! I always pick up a local or two at the bottom of the mountain at the police checkpoint looking for a ride. You can join them too.
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Jebal Akhdar Tips and Things to Consider
- The campsite marked in the GPX file below is pointing to a general area, once you reach this place you are free to drive around and find a spot you like. Driving north will eventually bring you to a cliff with a canyon below.
- A 4×4 is required even though the road is paved. The police might instruct you to engage 4WD, and depending on your vehicle model, driving on tarmac in 4WD could damage your system. Just know what your vehicle recommends. Engaging a low gear and driving slow is far more effective for staying safe then using the 4WD system on tarmac.
- Summer temperatures could reach into the teens at night, and winter temperatures below freezing. Be sure to bring warm enough bedding and a jacket.
- Hiking – the number one activity
- Try out the via ferrata at Alila Jabal Akhdar
- Explore the terraced gardens (see the map below)
- Discover abandoned villages
Where to stay on Jebal Akhdar:
- Camping is my recommended form of overnight stay (see the map below for the site).
- Alila Jabal Akhdar – pricey but maybe the best hotel in all of Oman. I sometimes splurge for a nice lunch overlooking the wadi below.
- Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort – Another posh hotel, not as pricey as Alila.
- Shab Hotel
- Jabal Akhdhar Hotel
Jebal Akhdar Map
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