The soft intermittent rains drizzled the plants of Jabal Akhdhar. At night, the temperature still drops to a good 24 degrees Celsius. The inhabitants of Balad Seeq welcome these rains. In two more weeks, they will be busy again. The rains are just an additional gift -- a preparation and conditioning for the harvest of the prized pomegranate trees.
We met Abdullah al Saqry nearly three years ago. Owning nearly 200 trees of pomegranate, he's one of the popular Jabal Akhdhar farmers who has opened his farms to visitors. For an old man in his 80s (he forgot his age and can't recall when he was born), he remains to be one of the most prolific and active farmers who still personally manages his farm.
He has hired help and in preparation for the harvest season in the next two weeks, he has started handing out instructions.
He knows his farm too well. He knows that on average, each of these trees can bear 60 to 100 fruits each. He has about 16 different varieties on his farm and depending on size, quality and sweetness, they can cost differently -- the best ones fetching up to OR 6 a piece.
While the farmers in Jabal Akhdhar are also challenged by Covid19, the work never stops. The trees and the fruits have their own challenges too from pests that can kill the trees to the bats or animals that can eat the fruits. So the farmers always keep an eye to protect the trees during the flowering season all the way to the harvest season.
While visits to the farms have slowed due to earlier Covid19 restrictions, Abdullah is aware that the pomegranate season will bring visitors once more to their doorsteps.
While the number varies depending on who you ask, Oman's Green Mountain is said to be home to around 30,000 pomegranate trees. Farmers like Abdullah know the season well. The trees start to flower as early as March in time for the damask roses harvest season. It would take another five months before the fruits can be ready. Starting from the mid-week of August till October, they will be busy harvesting again.
Auctioning for best price
At the peak of the harvest season, before Covid19 and even last year, an auction usually takes place. Auctioning the pomegranate fruits had been a ritual driving a large number of buyers to the different farms spread over the Green Mountain.
Just like how date fruits are auctioned, the pomegranate auction helps both bidders and sellers to save on time and effort. By buying the fruit of a whole tree or farm, farmers do not have to worry about how they can market their harvest. A lot of these auctions happen around Balad Seeq -- Abdullah's village as it is where a great number of pomegranate trees and farms can be found with good quality.
The auction process can usually take three days. The bidders are given samples of the fruits. They taste it and check its quality and the bidding process begins. Usually, they would set the bidding for the next harvest season. One tree can have a starting bid of OR50 to OR70. This year, despite the Covid19 challenge, the farmers are hoping that they can get bigger bids.
For Abdullah and his family, whatever is unsold during bidding are sold separately by piece. Many farmers also opt for selling the fruits by piece or have it in bulk orders as they can dictate the prices better.
A boost for mountain hotels
Just like the rose harvest season, the pomegranate harvest season is also a highly anticipated event among hotels in Jabal Akhdhar. Anticipating the excitement revolving around the event, tour packages are usually organised to give visitors a better opportunity to experience and impart knowledge about this time-honoured tradition.
Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar is one of the pioneers when it comes to creating a buzz about the season. Guests staying at the highest resort in the Middle East can embrace the beauty of the blooming landscape with nature walks, mountain climbing and an exclusive pomegranate tour guided by the resort’s Mountain Guru, whilst Anantara Spa presents a seasonally inspired spa journey that harnesses the richness of the fruit.
A representative from the resort said that part of their package is a pomegranate tour.
"On the one-hour pomegranate tour, guests traverse the Saiq Plateau to witness the harvesting of the iconic fruit, interacting with local farmers who are happy to explain how they have farmed for generations and select the perfect specimens," Anantara shared.
"Those looking to pamper themselves can indulge in the Royal Pomegranate Escape, the perfect polish for a smooth and radiant body at the resort’s elegant spa. Rich in antioxidants, Al Jabal Al Akhdar pomegranates have long been revered for their ability to regenerate, nourish and protect the skin. The two-hour treatment commences with a full body pomegranate scrub, followed by a relaxing massage and rehydrating facial," they added.
For more information or to make a booking, call +968 2521 8000.