YERU EBUEN –
Hidden behind huge stone boulders in one of the farthest corner of Jabal Akhdar is Saloot village. Not to be confused with the ancient, historical site of Salut that is located a few kilometres from Nizwa, this village up in the mountains is perhaps something one can consider as the village at the edge of the world.
Jabal Akhdar, the Green Mountain, means a lot of different things to different people — depending on what gets your attention. To some, it is the mountain of pomegranates. For others it is the home of Damask roses of which the popular rose water come from. Numerous travel websites appreciate it for its terraced gardens but to the locals who live here, it is home — one where the weather is just right in summer but truly cold, even snowing at times , during winter.
“It definitely gets cold here, and it rains often too, even in summer,” commented a local we met as we roamed the area. The temperature was 14 degrees and thick, dark clouds were hovering above us. From time to time, it drizzles.
The clear reference point going to this village is the luxurious Anantara Jabal Akhdar Resort. From the viewing deck of this esteemed hotel, one will have a sweeping view of this picturesque side of Jabal Akhdar, considered to be one of Oman’s tallest peak— perhaps even the whole of Gulf region — standing at 2,000 ft above sea level. From here, one can see the five different villages, Saloot is one of the farthest and the hardest to reach.
From Anantara, the road going to the small village of Saloot is circuitous. Many times, the roads are also steep. They are unpaved, rocky and at some point, slippery when wet. There is a reason why the Royal Oman Police required 4-wheel drives for anyone going to Jabal Akhdar. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Going to Saloot is like taking a roller coaster ride. The roads are narrow that one must learn how to give way to incoming vehicles. The ravine is deep and a simple driving mistake can mean life-threatening injuries. It’s the kind of destination you wouldn’t really go, unless you have too.
But one will pass through gardens teeming with green and a small wadi where water is guaranteed to converge causing small floods if it rains hard enough.
It was a lucky accident that I find myself here — at this town almost 3-hour drive away from Muscat. In Oman, getting lost is a learning experience. And getting lost often opens the door for an even better adventure.
Peace and quite
It’s hard to imagine that in the 50s, Jabal Akhdar was a site for conflict. Here today, people kept to themselves. Most of them are farmers and herders but many of the children have gone to different cities outside of Jabal Akhdar to get their education.
“I think we are lost,” I told a kid in his teens who came out from his house to greet us.
It was apparent in his face that we were a surprise. He didn’t expect an unfamiliar face at that part of the mountain.
“Is there any ruins out here?” I asked, hesitating a bit since I wasn’t sure he’d understand.
‘There’s nothing here,” he answered. He was pleasant. ‘Where you looking for the ruins of Birkat al-Mawz?”
Jabal Akhdar is home to the Bani Riyam tribe and Birkat al-Mawz is one of the popular fortresses that can be found in Jabal Akhdar. These mountains, as most people do know, has been home to some of the oldest tribes in the Sultanate.
“No. We were looking for Salut, the ruins,” I answered.
“We only have Birkat al-Mawz here, but it’s on the other way, not here,” he said.
I didn’t catch the teenager’s name but talking to him, it dawned on me and my companion Rene that just like most of our trips, we’ve gotten lost again.
At the edge of the world
Saloot is surrounded by mountain peaks of different scales. From here, one will have great appreciation for the Al Hajjar Mountains range.
There are but a few houses — estimating them at about 10. There are no stores. Mobile phone signal is also fluctuating. You have to be at a certain area to get a decent signal that would allow you to check social media apps.
But the view from here is stunning. As far as the eyes can see, there are peaks, rocks and stones and crevices of various sizes and depth. It’s one of those places that the more you look, the more you’d see — details of nature that will entertain those who love to be out in the open.
The closest village is a few kilometres away. They have their own gardens, unashamedly green even in the middle of May. It was easy to tell that some of the trees were pomegranates. Some other crops also thrive.
Saloot is a place that won’t be in anyone’s travel list. The fact is, as we traverse the bumpy, steep road going to the village, I was wondering why would anyone even live in this very remote — almost hidden — place.
But spending a few hours in this unpopular village, waiting for the afternoon sun to say goodbye, feeling the light drizzle of rain on your head, and feeling that undoubtedly clean refreshing air, it’s not hard to understand why these people choose to live here.
Saloot is a village at the end of the world. It’s not for everyone because to be here, you must be okay to be alone with nature.