The next day we visited mountain villages and got to see another luxurious hotel with fabulous views.

Picture

Narrative

Wadi

In the morning we piled back into our 4WD vehicles for the day's adventures. I did not really expect to see permanent streams in the desert mountains, but we crossed one on our way to our first stop. The tenacity of vegetation in harsh environments always amazes me.

So why can't I grow a %@#* eggplant in Virginia?

Wadi Bani Habib

 Our first stop was an overlook of Wadi Bani Habib. To my frustration we were not allowed the time to walk down into the wadi to explore the abandoned villages directly.

Most of the villages were deserted because of easier jobs and better housing in the cities, but we were told that this one had additionally suffered from British air strikes during the Dhofar Rebellion, which began in the 1960s. The rebellion eventually ended when the current sultan deposed his father and organized both a better military response and a successful "hearts and minds" campaign to unify the country.

The sultan has continued to focus on keeping the peace within the country and was thereby able to avoid the most radical effects of the Arab Spring of 2011.

Modern village

The modern village overlooks the wadi. It appeared that there may have still been some small gardens down close to the stream bed.

Steps

The way down into the wadi may have had some effect on the decision to keep us all from scrambling down. The steep steps had no handrails and were significantly deteriorated. I had to step carefully to go down and get a picture and I was in much better condition than many of our group! Didn't think to bring my hiking poles on this trip!

Al Ayn

Our next stop was Wadi Al Ayn where I was to get my wish for a hike. We started with a walk through one ancient village, past their fields, which were maintained as terraces, and through another village on the other side of the wadi.

The mountain scenery was spectacuar.

Al Ayn

A larger number of buildings were still occupied in Al Ayn than in the portions of Al Hamra that we visited. We were not the only tourists. There was an Indian family also wandering through.

There were signs at the entrance to the village warning tourists to respect the privacy of the residents.

Carved door

There were very many beautifully carved doors throughout our travels. This one was typical.

Alley

A side "alley" in the village.

Mountain view

As we walked out of the village, this was the view down the wadi overlooking another village. There were small villages perched everywhere in the countryside

Onion fields

The planting areas were surround by dikes to facilitate irrigation. The ditches between the enclosed areas were the channels for the water. The rags and stones in the channels are used to divert the water to specific plots. We were told that the water is measured out by time. After an allotted period the blockages will be removed to flood another area.

These are onions. Other food crops that we saw included garlic and maize. There were also pens for small numbers of goats and sheep.

The major cash crop in the area is rose petals! The petals of the fragrant roses are used to distill rose water, which is an essential ingredient in much middle eastern cuisine. There were other nearby fields full of rose bushes.

Wadi

As we left the village we had to scramble up this rocky stream channel. Our tour organizers later said that the local guides hadn't emphasized the difficulty of this portion of the trail. It actually wasn't difficult, but many folks were somewhat intimidated. They all expressed delight, however, that they were able to negotiate the rocks successfully.

Village fields

Looking back over the village fields as we crossed the dry stream.

Next villate

Looking forward to the next village.

The path ran precariously along this steep slope, but there was a sturdy chain link fence that provided some protection from slipping down the precipice.

The terraces continued down the steep slope. There were people cultivating some of the terraces, but others looked abandoned.

The long building along the ridge in the background is the hotel where we will have lunch.

Al Ayn

Looking back later, even more of the terraces are visible from the original village. Many of them looked like they had been abandoned for decades.

Fossils

Along the way we passed an area of rock that had a number of marine fossils from ancient times. As was noted earlier these mountains had originally been part of the ocean floor. Tectonic obduction pushed the sea floor up over the continental landmass.

Fountain

Our lunch location was the Anantara Resort Hotel, a newly built luxury hotel. This elaborate fountain, which celebrates the rose heritage of the region, was in the foyer as we entered the hotel.

Diana's Point

We arrived  a bit early so we had some time to wander around prior to eating. This was the view across the wadi from a location called Diana's Point, named after Diana, Princess of Wales. According to a plaque at the site, Diana and her husband Charles visited the area via helicopter in 1986. At that time it was completely undeveloped.

Infinity pool

The "infinity pools" are a popular feature of these high-end resorts with fabulous views.

Alila

After lunch we returned to the Alila for a free afternoon. Our infinity pool had a somewhat different character. The design of the hotel buildings, which used stone and wood, was very similar to some older stone buildings that we saw during our travels. The landscaping definitely emphasized desert plants. Click to see some of them.

Yoga Platform

At dawn and sunset every day there was a yoga session on a platform overlooking the canyon. It was a very meditative and peaceful location

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