Thursday, March 28: This afternoon Mario and I venture up to Jebel Akhdar to see the roses for which the Green Mountain is famous.
In late March and April, this rugged landscape breaks out in blooms of bright pink. We love wandering through the rose bushes and breathing in the intoxicating fragrance of the delicate blossoms. Many of the roses are in full bloom, but there are still millions of tiny buds on the bushes, meaning that this is still not the peak of the season.
At dawn each day, these rose gardens are apparently filled with men and women plucking the petals of full-blown roses. The harvest is collected in a sheet of cloth, gathered in a bundle and taken to one many traditional extraction units set up by villagers in these parts. The process is rudimentary: An earthen pot, sealed within a hearth, is stuffed with petals and heated for about two hours. The essence condenses into a metal container placed within the pot. The condensate is cooled and filtered several times, yielding a clear liquid (Nizwa.net: Roses of the Jabal).
The end product, the famous Omani Rose Essence is used in the making of Omani halwa. Omanis also add a dash of the rose-water to a range of hot and cold beverages, and as flavoring in food dishes and sweets.
A cupful of the essence is also believed to be good for heart. When applied to the scalp, it is believed to ease headaches as well. Its potential for use in exotic perfumes and fragrances is yet to be tapped, say local villagers.
Each bush yields about 15-20 kg of petals during the season, while it takes about 2 kg of petals to generate 750 ml of essence valued at 5 Omani rials. With the demand for Omani rose essence as strong as ever, the arithmetic works out in everyone’s favor — grower, extractor, seller and halwa-maker included (Nizwa.net: Roses of the Jabal).
We wander through the farms, taking pictures of the rose-bush terraces interspersed with terraces of green onions. The sweet scent of the roses mingles with the loamy scent of the onions. We also see buds on the pomegranate, apricot and walnut trees. As Mario grew up on a farm in El Salvador, the whole experience takes him back to his childhood, when he believes he was most happy. Although I know Mario very well, and I know he is quite a happy person now.
Along the way, we see some other interesting things: walnut buds, a golden cat, a lizard sunning himself on a rock, some delicate wildflowers, more terraces.
And in the distance, we can see the Sahab Hotel sitting atop the mountain: our ultimate destination.
After spending a couple of hours meandering through the villages and farms, we head to our favorite spot, the Sahab Hotel, where we drink some wine by the pool, watch the sunset, and then move inside for the always delectable buffet. After several glasses of wine, we are both telling each other how much we will miss each other when I leave Oman at the end of June.
While we are enjoying our buffet, an Irish girl comes up to our table and asks if I write a blog. Surprised, I say, yes, I do. She tells me she has been reading my blog and it helped her plan her trip to Oman from Ireland. She introduces herself as Sarah and then introduces us to her husband; I introduce them both to Mario. I say, “You would recognize Mario if you’ve been reading my blog!” When I ask about their travel plans, she says she is planning to stay 3 nights on Jebel Akhdar and 3 nights in Muscat.
When I first see her, I think she has red hair, but it’s not a bright red and in the light I can’t tell for sure. I say, “Is your hair red? It’s hard to tell in this light.” She says, “Yes, it’s more of a ginger really.” I say, “I have a daughter named Sarah and she has red hair too. It’s wavy just like yours.”
This little encounter really makes my day. Mario and I both marvel that someone who traveled all the way from Ireland recognizes me from my blog. Isn’t it a happy coincidence that I happen to be up at the Sahab on this particular night, when she is here? What a treat.
After they finish their dinner, they take off and I wish them a good time in Oman. After they are gone, Mario says, “You know, they had a bottle of wine with them. That shows they really read your blog because otherwise how would they have known they could bring a bottle of wine?” That’s so funny, but so true. Because the Sahab doesn’t serve wine but does allow you to bring your own bottle and I’ve written about this in my blog.
The sad thing is that often I don’t think about certain things until it’s too late. After they’re gone, it dawns on me that I should have taken their picture. And Mario says, “It would have been great if I had taken a picture of you with them.” Sometimes I can’t believe how I don’t think of these things until it’s too late. I’m supposed to be a photographer, after all!!
I hope if Sarah reads this post, she will contact me on my About Me page and send me a picture of their time in Oman, so I can add it to this post!
Saturday, April 6: Today Sarah from Ireland contacted me and sent a few pictures of herself and her husband Andrew on Jebel Akhdar. I was happy to hear she enjoyed her time in Oman. She wrote of her time on Jebel Akhdar: “We really enjoyed our visit to that area, such a fascinating place and spectacular scenery. I think I liked Wadi Bani Habib best as it really gave you an insight into how people lived in the villages.”
Here are two pictures she sent of her and Andrew on the Green Mountain.
Sarah also wrote of our encounter: “I did think we might meet you in Oman, as I knew that you liked to visit Jebel Akhdar so it was serendipitous that we did meet. I hope that you continue to blog about your travels, wherever they take you as it is lovely to read about these places, even if I don’t get to visit them all myself.”
Thank you so much, Sarah. You made my day.