Learning from the pomegranate guru of Jabal Akhdhar

Of the about 60000 pomegranate trees growing in Jabal Akhdhar, he owns more than a hundred of them. Together with the gardens that grow other crops like damask roses, the property in which the trees and other plants grow was passed down to him by his father.

“I live in Balad Seeq in Jabal Akhdhar. Since I was a child, these trees and this farm has belonged to my family, and even to this day, I had been working on it,” shared Abdullah Saif al Saqry. He is known amongst tourists as the guru for pomegranate farming and rose water making thanks to the help of hotels like Anantara Jabal Akhdhar who made locals like him the point person for experiential tourism in the mountains.
Abdullah has been tilling the farm since he was six years old. While he was young then, he was already helping in his little ways. Now that he is sixty-five, he is proud that he has managed to make the land productive and the pomegranates, a profitable venture.
“Pomegranates mostly grow in Jabal Akhdhar. The fruits that come from here are of great value and are expensive. For example, the big ones with smooth skin and no imperfections can be sold around OR1.5. The smaller ones are sold at around 600 baiza,” Abdullah said.
“This farm was handed to me by my father. I own more than a hundred trees, and each tree bears fruit from 60 to 100. To this day, I still oversee the hired help and teach them how to manage the farm,” he said.

Getting the support of the community
The pomegranate harvest season is one of the top attractions in Jabal Akhdhar. Usually happening between September and October, what many don’t realise is that farming the fruits come with their unique challenges.
“The harvest season came late this year. It usually happens in September. But if you would notice, the fruits had just ripened in the first two weeks of October,” shared Sulaiman Azzan al Zakwani, a staff from Anantara Jabal Akhdhar who  usually interacts with the farmers to understand what it is they do and translate the information to visitors who come to Jabal Akhdhar for a unique experience like pomegranate harvesting.
“Growing pomegranates need knowledge and experience. The trees have to be watered the right way. Put too little, and they won’t bear fruits properly, put too much, and they will result in the fruits cracking or ripening early,” he shared.
“Farmers have also reported having issues with pests and other fruit diseases. This late in the season, butterflies are starting to lay their eggs in the fruit, and it usually results in the fruits rotting fast,” Sulaiman added.
“Farmers like Abdullah who interacts with visitors allow for a better understanding of what they do. They also help drive more tourists to come for these unique experiences,” he added.
It’s a good year for farmers when the trees bear more than a hundred fruits. The fruits are also usually sold per trees through auction and as of September 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries announced that the highest price per tree reached OR10.6.
The farmers earn extra income for tourist visits when it’s tied in with organised tours.
“When visitors come here, I give them a sample of the fruit. I want them to try and enjoy what a good pomegranate tastes like. Most of the pomegranates from my garden are good and sweet,” Abdullah shared.

Attracting tourists
Pomegranate season has now become one of the major tourists draws in Jabal Akhdhar. As of October, nearly 90,000 visitors, both local and foreign travellers had visited Jabal Akhdhar to experience what the mountain has to offer.
“Many of the visitors wanted to experience activities like pomegranate harvest. We provide guests with an opportunity to interact with local farmers and learn from them the first hand of how, not only to pick the fruits, but the process of farming,” Mirella Sidro, marketing and communications manager of Anantara shared.
“It’s not just the pomegranates. The Green Mountain grows roses, figs, almonds, olives and many others. To make these activities accessible to guests make Jabal Akhdhar an exciting place to visit,” she added.
For farmers like Abdullah, they are proud to interact with visitors who usually compliment the beauty of their farms. At 65 years old, he is also not showing any signs of slowing down and still has the vigour and energy not only to pick the fruits himself but also to demonstrate to onlookers how easy it is to crack and eat Oman’s pomegranates.
“There are three varieties of pomegranates in Jabal Akhdhar. The Oman pomegranates remain to be the best. They are very sweet and delicious, and even the skin of the fruit is useful, from making tea to using them for dying clothes,” he said.
Abdullah is hopeful that more people will have an experiential visit for them to appreciate not only nature but the best Jabal Akhdhar has to offer.