Distance from Muscat - 200 km (to Al Hamra)
Average drive time - 2.5 hours
How to get there - Saloon cars and 4-wheel drives can be hired from Car rental agencies. Four wheel drives are required for off road into the mountains and wadis.
Beyond Nizwa, the southern flanks of the Western Hajar Mountains can be readily seen rising over 2000 metres above the surrounding countryside. Within these mountains, rugged networks of wadi channels have carved networks of dramatic canyons and caves. The most fertile of these have been cultivated by the hardy shuwawis, mountain people, who have adapted to this harsh lifestyle under the tropic sun. At Wadi Tanuf, the ever-flowing springs are tapped to produce a commercially popular brand of drinking water. In Al Hamra, 400 year-old mud houses are still standing and occupied to this day. Out along the nearby wadi at Hasat bin Sult Rock, ancientpetroglyphs estimated to be over 3000 years old lie in wait.The dark reaches of the Falahi/Hoti cave system await intrepid spelunkers. Hidden neatly in a crevasse on the mountainside lies Misfah al Abreen, a garden paradise of humble farmers and herders.
To the west of Al Hamra is the road to Jebel Shams(mountain of the Sun), the tallest peak in Oman at 3010 metres. Here it is where you can find oone of Oman's greatest natural wonders, the Wadi Nakhr Gorge. Inside the canyon, you can haggle with the local rug weavers, trek to the cliff dwellings along the canyon rim and visit remains of towns once occupied ages ago by Persian settlers. Rock climbers will want to test their mettle on the stony crags of Jebel Misht while antiquarians willl want to visit the mysterious Beehive Tombs of Bat.
In Arabic, "Al" means "the" and "Hajar" means "stone". So "Al Hajar" would be defined as "the stone". Therefore, "Al Hajar Mountains" could mean "the stony mountains".
Geologically, Al Hajar Mountains are the continuation of the Zagros Mountains and were mainly formed in the Miocene and Pliocene as the Arabian Plate collided with and pushed against the Iranian Plate. These mountains are chiefly made of Cretaceous limestones and ophiolites.
The mountains begin in the north, forming the Musandam peninsula. From there, the Northern Hajjar (Hajjar al Gharbi) runs southeast, parallel to the coast but moving gradually further away as it goes. The central section of the Hajjar is the Jebel Akhdar (9,834 feet (2,980 m)), the highest and wildest terrain in the country. Jebel Akhdar (and the smaller Jebel Nakhl range) are bounded on the east by the low Samail Valley (which leads northeast to Muscat). East of Samail are the Eastern Hajjar (Hajjar ash Sharqi), which run east (much closer to the coast) to the fishing town of Sur, almost at the eastern point of Oman. The mountains extend for 500 km in total. The low coastal land north and east of the Jebel Hajjar is named Al Batinah Region (the belly), and the terrain inland of the mountains is Ad Dhahirah (the back). The mountains are an important ecoregion, the only habitat in eastern Arabia above 2,000 m elevation. The climate is cool and wet from December to March and warmer but still with occasional rain from April to September.
The mountains are rich in plant life compared to most of Arabia, including a number of endemic species. The vegetation changes with altitude, the mountains are covered with shrubland at lower elevations, growing richer and then becoming woodland, including wild olive and fig trees between 3,630 and 8,250 feet (1,100 to 2,500 m) and then higher still there are junipers. Fruit trees such as pomegranate and apricot are grown in the cooler valleys and in places there are rocky outcrops with little vegetation. The flora shows similarities with mountain areas of nearby Iran, as well as with areas along the Red Sea in the Horn of Africa. For example, the tree Ceratonia oreothauma is found here and also in Somalia.
A number of birds are found in the mountains including Egyptian and lappet-faced vultures (Torgos tracheliotus). Mammals include mountain gazelles (Gazella gazella) and the Arabian tahr (Arabitragus jayakari), which is endemic to the Al Hajar. Other endemic species include a number of geckos and lizards: Asaccus montanus, Asaccus platyrhynchus and a sub-species of Wadi Kharrar rock gecko (Pristurus gasperetti gallagheri) are found only in Oman while Musandam leaf-toed gecko (Asaccus caudivolvulus), Gallagher's leaf-toed gecko (Asaccus gallagheri), Oman rock gecko (Pristurus celirrimus), Jayakar lizard (Lacerta jayakari) and Omman's lizard (Lacerta cyanura) are found only in the Al Hajar mountains. The endangered Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) is still found in the Musandam Peninsula, according to records of the Oman Ministry of Environment.
The Al Hajar are extensively grazed by domestic goats, camels and donkeys and the landscape has been cleared in parts for urban areas and for mining, which damage both vegetation and water supplies and uproot traditional rural land management behaviours. Poaching of wildlife is another issue. The Oman government has created the Wadi Sareen Reserve and an area of Jebel Qahwan-Jebal Sebtah in the Eastern Hajar for the protection of Arabian tahr and mountain gazelle. For visitors there is a road into the mountains from the town of Birkat al-Mawz (on the road to Nizwa from Muscat) and a walking route through Wadi al-Muaydin to the Saiq Plateau.
There are 11 marked trails / routes of varying intensity (between Grade 1 to 3) and duration (between 1.5 hours to 18hours) published by Ministry or Tourism, Oman along the Hajar Mountain range.
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