Photos by Mohammed Al Mashari
Caving is becoming one of the most popular activities in Oman. Many Omani adventurers, hikers as well as photographers took the mission of discovering the caves in Oman to give us an idea of what can be found inside. Several new caves have been discovered lately each of which is special for its location, geographical nature and view.
Allasif cave has been discovered recently by a group of adventurers interested in exploring the Wilayat of Al Amerat. It is located in an area called Alghbirtain, specifically in Wadi Baam.
According to Mohammed al Mashari, one of the photographers who visited the cave, “The way to the cave is very rocky and the cave is very dark due to the antimony stone that forms in layers inside the cave.”
The cave has three entrances and many stories said that it was a mine where antimony stone was extracted and exported to the wilayats of Nizwa and Bahla.
There are many things to discover about the cave primarily how far it goes and whether it served as a mine. Based on the initial things seen by the cavers, it is likely that antimony stones were mined from the cave and while they have no clue as to its age, it may go a very long way back.
Describing what they saw, the cavers shared that unlike other caves in Oman, this cave is relatively drier and formations of stalagmites and stalactites are not to be seen. Compared to the Al Hoota Cave, it is relatively smaller and there seemed to be no water source.
They also described that while one can enter the cave, as one goes deeper, one eventually has to crawl because of the space leading them to believe that it is very likely that antimony was mined from the cave.
Antimony stone is abundantly found in many Arab countries, such as Morocco, the Levant, Yemen and Oman. It is naturally found in a shiny silver colour, such as the Omani antimony stone, or a reddish-black colour, as is the case in the Shami antimony stone.
The antimony stone is well smashed to be used for different purposes especially making eyeliner. And this dates back to the ancient Pharaohs when eyeliner was a basic women’s makeup.
The eyeliner is made by grinding the antimony stone until it becomes a fine powder, then mixed with olive oil or sesame oil. After that, it is kept in containers designated for it with a very thin and small stick to put the kohl around the eye. Surprisingly, some people mix the smashed antimony stone with musk and apply it to their eyes. As for Omanis, there is a special container for the kohl. It is made of silver and it usually comes cylindrical with a very wonderful inscription around it. It is called Marwad or Makhal.
The antimony kohl has great benefits as it purifies the eyes from dust, and helps treat eye infections and ulcers. It also gives longer and denser eyelashes and strengthens the eye’s nerve. Additionally, scientific studies have proven that antimony stone helps to kill germs and parasites that enter the body. So it is now used in the composition of many medicines and skin ointments that treat skin ulcers and infections, and it is also used to treat some cases of baldness.
Despite the hardships that adventurers face while caving, it is all worth the effort after getting there and being surrounded by the beautiful scenes inside.