Aqaba Saqba

July 2008 (English only)

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A lovely area west of Jabal Shams

What do you do on a hot July weekend in Oman? Yes, cool-off, and where better than high-up in the Oman Mountains. Above 2000m altitude temperatures are a pleasant 10 degrees less than down at sea level and at night temperatures drop way below 20 C.

Every time we had been driving up through wadi Ghul in the direction of Jabal Shams there was that junction and further to the west, nicely sheltered in a valley something what looked like a narrow terraced garden and beyond that a gravel road climbing the mountain.

On the map that area appears to be called Ghadir Kital Al Hirad. Ghadir is an area where rain water gathers to form a shallow lake. Kital mean fighting. Hirad seems to be an originally Persian word; a popular boys name meaning 'healty'. Topographically this is a high area near the crestal ridge of the Jabal Al Akhdar range; a natural saddle between the high crest and the southern slope of the range. Indeed an area where rainwater would accumulate. Would there once have been a fight with the Persians? Who knows.

How to get there

See alsoWadi Ghul and Jabal Shams 2006, Ghadir Farras 2009 and Hail al Gawari 2010. Instead of driving up to the the Jabal Shams plateau area, turn left at 516789.1E - 2571262.9 N (WGS84) and follow the graded road (Google earth files with tracks and locations (KMZ files) can be uploaded here). The track is shown in yellow on the map below.

There are three further junctions and if you keep going left you will end up in a sheltered valley which its inhabitant called Aqaba Saqba at the end of the road.

We camped high above that valley in a flat area with age-old juniper grooves. Nice and cool. Because of the heat and the moist below the view was rather hazy, with Jabal Misht just barely visible. On a clear day the views from up there must be great.


Looking into the abyss at the eastern side of the Jabal Al Akhdar range

Jabal Misht barely visible in the haze
We had a very pleasant and quiet night in the cool breeze bristling around the heights. The next morning we continued along the track, following it into a valley deeper down where it ended in the middle of huts and tents of the Saqba family. Not surprisingly they proudly called their valley Aqaba Saqba.

The people living in Aqaba Saqba had just collected dates from Al Hamra and all around the tents the dates were drying in the air

Pointing to oil water containters hanging next to a traditional hut in a tree
This would not be Oman if we were not invited for a sit under the largest tree for coffee and dates honouring the Omani legendary hospitality. Two of the Saqba sons studied in Muscat and with their good English and our poor Arabic we had interesting discussions enjoying their company. The old coffee can, hanging in the tree and a modern one refilling our cups faster than we could cope. After many dates we had to declare defeat and explain to our hosts that we would never be able to digest so much even such nice coffee and dates. Sadly parting company to return on the long way down the mountain back home to hot Muscat.

One more stop to do: the terraced gardens that we had bypassed on the previous day.


The coffee pot from the old days hanging it what looked like a natural storage tree, with lots of stuff up high, out of reach of the many goats.

A marvelous terraced garden system, hidden away in a narrow valley, fed by a central falaj with s spring at the top. We had seen the garden from below on the previous day, but on the way back we suddenly saw it from above in its full glory and decided to explore it a bit more
The spring area clearly visible to the top left of the gardens, a frozen waterfall of lightbrown travertine, deposited by calcareous water dripping down the rock.

The gardens are meticulously fenced to keep the goats out. We noticed how these clever animals quickly recognised real opportunities to slip in when we opened one of the gates and we had to be very careful to keep them out.

The gardens are still well maintained, but nobody is living there anymore. Many ruins at the sides testify that this has been rather different in the past. A small garden of Eden.
The 'other' road proved to be worth the check. Even better: there are still other tracks to check.

With thanks to the nice company and great food of Barry and Heather Trowse.

 

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@ J. Schreurs July 2008