Friday, June 15: After returning from the dhow cruise, we head out for another drive into the mountains toward the highest point in Musandam, Jebel Harim. Basically, we drive back over the same mountain road we drove on last evening, but this time, as we have more time before sunset, we continue further on the road to see the petroglyphs, incredible mountain views, a graveyard, and the border to Dibba.
The highest point of the road is below the summit of Jebel Harim, meaning “Mountain of Women.” This mountain, at 2,087m, is the highest point in Musandam. The mountain is so named because back in the day, when their menfolk were out on long fishing or trading expeditions, the local women retreated into the caves of these mountains to avoid being abducted by pirates or rival tribes.
The actual summit of the mountain is home to a radar station that monitors shipping through the Strait of Hormuz; of course this station is out-of-bounds.
The highest point of the road at around 1,600m runs beside an air-traffic control radar installation, and just below that is an area where there are some petroglyphs carved into boulders strewn around a huge rounded field. From Wikipedia: “Petroglyphs (also called rock engravings) are pictogram and logogram images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, and abrading. Petroglyphs are found world-wide, and are often associated with prehistoric peoples.”
There are no signs to lead us to where these petroglyphs are located, but Tom has been here before and he thinks he remembers where they are. He says they are marked by little piles of stones that people have constructed. We spend quite some time walking around looking for these elusive things, but we’re unable to find them. After a while, I tire of the search because I’m not even sure what I’m looking for. Tom says he didn’t come all the way up here to leave without seeing them, so I go and sit near the car while he wanders around looking for them.
Luckily, as I’m sitting near the car, an Indian guide on a “mountain safari” with two Indian tourists from Dubai drives up. Tom is out of sight by this time. I jump up and ask the guide if I can follow him unobtrusively to where the petroglyphs are. “Don’t worry, I won’t intrude on your tour!” He and his two Indian guests are not at all bothered to have me along as a third wheel…. 🙂
The guide has two bottles of water with him and I follow him just a hop, skip & a jump from the car, where there is a large flat boulder. The guide pours some of the water on the boulder, which shows off the petroglyphs nicely. Ah, so that’s what they look like! I yell to Tom, who is still doggedly looking on the far reaches of the boulder field, and tell him to come see the rudimentary weathered images chipped out of the stone, including matchstick human figures beside animals such as oryx, Arabian leopards and gazelle. There is even what looks to be a man on an elephant, or some unidentified animal. Cool!
Most of these petroglyphs have been carved out of stone using sharp bronze, iron or stone tools and highlighted with a white pigment made from coral. Dating these images is difficult. However, since most of them depict people or animals, it’s guessed that they probably pre-date Islam (which prohibits the making of images of living creatures).
We drive along a ridgetop and then descend into the wide bed of Wadi Rawdah, with limestone cliffs surrounding us.
We come across an interesting cemetery with neat lines of headstones carved out of rough-hewn slabs of stone. Apparently this bowl was used as a tribal battleground, thus accounting for the large numbers of people buried here. This cemetery is quite different from the regular Islamic cemeteries I’ve seen throughout Oman. See the nizwa cemetery.
We drive onward hoping to get to Dibba so we can see the very exclusive resort of Six Senses Zighy Bay. This resort is hidden on the coast, a 23km drive north of Dibba (4WD required). Apparently guests approaching by road have the option of making the last part of the journey by tandem paraglide (!!!). That sounds interesting enough to entice us to explore this place; however, when we get to the Dibba border, we are sternly told we are not allowed to cross because we’re not GCC nationals. So, we turn around and head back the way we came, up to the ridge and back along the road beneath Jebel Harim, all the way back to Khasab. By the time we are halfway back, it is dark outside and just a little perilous driving out of the mountains.
Dinner again at Al Shamaliah and then back to Nizwa tomorrow… 🙂