After the goat market we piled back into our motorcade to visit some of the surrounding area before heading up into the mountains toward our hotel for the next two days.




Although the mountains are arid, whenever it does rain the runoff is channeled into deep canyons that lead down to the plain. At the base of every such system is a village that captures the water and uses it for irrigation. We will see some of the ancient irrigation systems that made Oman a relative oasis on the Arabian peninsula.

Al Hambra

Our next stop was this overlook of Al Hamra, the "red city" so called because of the darker buildings on the other side of the date palm plantation. They are many hundreds of years old and we will be visiting a house museum there illustrating traditional practices.

This area is blessed with ample spring water that has, since ancient times, been channeled for irrigation by way of a aflaj system. The system is still in use.


Bait Al Safah 

We visited the Bait Al Safah house museum. The family that owns it no longer lives there, but has preserved much of the traditional building and many of its furnishings.  


This young man of the family showed us around. He didn't speak much English, so there wasn't a lot of explanation. 

Bread making

The kitchen was the most interesting part of the house. This woman was baking some "crepes" over a gas fire. She spread the dough thinly onto a flat griddle and almost immediately pulled it off again. It was very flaky and we all passed around pieces to nibble. 


Another woman was demonstrating the traditional means of extracting essential oils from a date paste. It was pretty tedious. She also had a rotary hand grinder that she used to grind wheat into flour. It looked easy when she did it, but one of our travelers gave it a try and found it pretty difficult.

The upright stick is set into the grinding stone. To make the stone go around you basically have to "stir" the stick. It takes practice.

Serving dates

After wandering around the house we had the opportunity to relax over coffee and dates. The Omani coffee is served in tiny cups and is heavily flavored with cardamom. It isn't sweetened; you're supposed to nibble on a date while drinking to add sweetness.

We were amazed to find out that there are dozens of varieties of dates. We were told that many are only used for animal fodder. There were only about twelve or so varieties that were used in Oman for human consumption and the deliciousness varied across varieties. All parts of the date palm were used. The fronds were used for screens and ceilings. The wood was used for beams.

The ceiling beams in this image were elaborately decorated with red, black & white paint. The designs were quite elaborate.

I have read that Arabian horses in the desert were traditionally fed dates & camel's milk.


A small mosque was located across the street. In addition to the traditional prayer room inside, there was an outdoor area that could be used. I liked this diminutive mihrab.

Irrigation channel

The irrigation channel ran alongside the street and underneath building entrances. The water was free-flowing so it was not at all stagnant. 


This was a very typical window. The buildings were made of mud-brick with a mud & straw adobe stucco. As is the case with most of the traditional villages in Oman, the older houses are being abandoned for new ones with all the creature comforts.

Air conditioning

There were some of the traditional houses still occupied, however. As shown here they had air conditioning and presumably many other amenities.

Irrigation system

After lunch, we visited another aflaj irrigation system: Falaj Al-Khatmeen. The inscription about the UNESCO World Heritage status at the site reads:

The recognition of these traditional water delivery systems, which came into existence as far back as 2000 years ago, as international landmarks highlights the outstanding contribution of Omani engineering ingenuity to irrigation, agricultural development, human settlement and traditional management systems among other civilizations:
Falaj Length: 2450m (~1.5 miles)
Irrigation Area: 723124 m² (~179 acres)
Depth of Mother well: 17.5 m (~57 feet)

Water distribution

One branch of the system takes water to a community washing facility in the building shown here. Most of the water is sent to the fields for irrigation.

Nowadays most of the residential and commercial water is supplied via desalinization facilites.

In the cities we were told that ornamental plantings are irrigated with grey water.

Jebel Akdar

Finally we headed up into the Jebel Akhdar mountains toward our hotel. There is a control point at the base of the road leading toward the highlands. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are mandatory. Although the roads that we traversed were paved two-lane roads, soon to be widened to four-lanes, there was no need that I could see for 4WD even though they were steep in places. I expect that the secondary roads in the region, however, may have been a different story.

The name Jebel Akhdar means "Green Mountain." Compared to some of the lowland areas it is relatively green.


Partway along we passed this small pond. Mikey said that it was a popular holiday camping spot and there were in fact several families enjoying the area. Even though it was warm to hot in the lowlands, the mountains were quite cool even during the day. At night they were downright chilly.

Moms and kids

Not too far from the camping area we passed above we passed this group of moms and children out for a stroll. It was Friday, which is the Muslim equivalent of Sunday, so maybe this was just something they did for fun.

View from Alila patio

After climbing up-up-up we arrived at our hotel: Alila Jabal Akhdar. We were told that the name "Alila" means "surprise." It was aptly named!

The views were stunning. We were reminded of the Grand Canyon. This was taken from the patio in front of the hotel restaurant shortly after we arrived.


This was later in the evening just before sunset. The vanishing edge pool was located right outside the bar. Unfortunately I couldn't eject all the swimmers in order to get a perfect reflection in the water.

We've only stayed in hotels this nice twice before: once in Buenos Aries and once in New Zealand. We don't really expect to stay in one again, but you can always hope....

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