Sunday, January 29, 2023 | Rajab 6, 1444 H
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An interactive affair with Al Jabal Al Akhdhar’s olive trees

When the King of Spain visited Oman about a decade ago, he gifted Oman with olives which a local olive guru claims the king believed will be a fitting crop that will thrive in Al Jabal Al Akhdhar.

Fast forward to this year, not only did the Royal Gardens and Farms of Royal Court Affairs win four prizes in an international olive competition, farmers had begun producing more than 60 tonnes of fruits annually.

To build up more interest in this growing industry, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdhar recently launched the first ever Olive Harvest Festival which includes a series of activities that guests of the mountain can take part in including the eye-opening harvest and meet and greet with local farmers and olive guru, a visit to the olive oil factory, a chance to purchase locally produced olive oil and other Al Jabal Al Akhdhar products via a local souq located within the resort property and an interactive food tasting courtesy of specially invited chefs who created culinary magic infused with olives.

Best in Quality

Saleh Awlad Thani, the olive guru who imparts knowledge to guests, said that there are more than 25 varieties of olives grown in Al Jabal Al Akhdhar.

“Al Jabal Al Akhdhar today has over 10,000 olive trees planted across different villages in the mountain. There are currently about 25 types of olives. These originated from many different places like Spain, Greece and Tunisia. All of these started when the King of Spain visited Oman and found that the mountain’s fertile soil would be ideal for planting olive trees,” he said.

“Many farmers in Al Jabal Al Akhdhar already have a good understanding of the trees planted on their farms. They can differentiate each tree and can tell the expected quantity they can get from them. The amount of olive oil produced per tree depends on the quality and variety of the tree,” he added.

“Al Jabal Al Akhdhar is about 2,300 metres above sea level so the olive trees of the mountain have adapted to its temperature. Some specialists from Tunisia actually came to visit and they saw the quality of the olives that Al Jabal Al Akhdhar produces and they compared it with other olives grown in different parts of the world. They said, because of the climate and the place that is convenient for olive to grow, they determined that the ones grown in Al Jabal Al Akhdhar are of high quality,” he explained.

As proof of this, Saleh said that the Royal Court Farm has entered an international competition and the olive oil produced in Al Jabal Al Akhdhar scored high in these competitions. Oman bagged two gold and two silver medals in the prestigious EVO International Olive Oil Contest, held in Italy on May 21, 2022, for its high-quality extra virgin olive oil and compliance with international specifications and standards in the seventh edition of the award.

Saleh explained that the olive produced in Al Jabal Al Akhdhar currently supplies souqs and some local supermarkets.

“As of today, we are not producing a massive quantity of oil so the current harvest and the oil we produce from these are distributed locally within Oman,” he said.

“We are not just focusing on the money we are getting from them, but we are also working towards producing the best quality of olive oil. We are still working towards growing the quantity of oil we also produce year on year,” he added.

“We are fortunate that we currently have the latest technology and big machines to handle the processing of these harvests. As the season progresses, the harvest and the olive oil production will be higher to the point that the factory will be able to produce around three tonnes worth of oil per day,” he shared.

A fun, interactive festival

The harvest festival begins in the morning when guests are handed hand-woven baskets that they can use to store their harvest. With dozens of olive trees spread across the hotel’s property, guests can select the tree they wanted to focus on and harvest the olive fruits of the said tree. These baskets are then weighed in and placed in an area where a small souq is created for the local farmers to display their products. By lunchtime, Chef Gabriele Kurz, a celebrated chef from Bavaria who authored several wellness cookbooks, then takes over and has a demonstration of a three-course meal that is healthy and olive-infused.

By late afternoon, the olive guru, like Saleh, then takes guests on a guided tour to talk about different interesting facts about the olive trees in Al Jabal Al Akhdhar and how these are harvested and later on brought to the factories for olive oil processing.

This is followed by a trip to a nearby olive factory where participants are shown how the harvested dates are made into olive oil.

Evenings are dedicated to feasting, with olive-inspired tasting menus by sister brand NH Hotels’ leading executive chefs, Jesualdo Bermejo and Martin Aristondo. Chef Jesualdo is the Executive Chef at NH Nacional Hotel in Madrid and all the award-winning Tablafina restaurants in Spain, while Chef Martin works as Executive Chef of the NH Collection Aranzazu hotel in San Sebastian. Tablafina is the name of NH’s gastronomic initiative that seeks to connect with the world of traditional bars and local cuisine, something that is quintessentially Spanish.

Maren Kuehl, the general manager of the resort, shared that she was happy with the response to the first olive harvest festival.

She teased that they have more wellness programmes as well as other community-empowering projects coming soon and that they would continue to work to showcase the unique culture of Al Jabal Al Akhdhar to guests from around the world.

The olive harvest festival will run until September 17.

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