Spectacular landscapes reveal clues to Oman’s ancient geological heritage

MUSCAT: Oman’s unique location between the converging African and Asian land masses has resulted in the creation of some of the most stunning geological features to be found anywhere in the world. Its rugged mountains are perfect examples of fold–thrust belts, stratified sedimentary rock and layered basaltic dikes.

Natural wonders like the huge piles of pillow lava in Wadi Al-Jizzi, the artistic natural sandstone and limestone sculptures at Duqm, a mysterious looking 250 million year old limestone rock that has been deformed and folded into a concentric shape resembling an eye and 300 million years old limestone that has been folded into layers due to the intense pressure and heat exerted on them – all reveal intriguing details of the evolutionary history of the Arabian peninsula.

Old glacial rocks tell a story of global glaciations while deep wells in south Oman have been found to contain possibly the oldest volcanic glass in the world. The Sultanate also holds a special significance for geologists because of the presence of the biggest and most intact ophiolite complex on Earth – a true rarity.

 

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These rare rocks comprise bits of the Earth’s mantle that was shoved atop the Arabian Peninsula during a massive mountain-building episode that reshaped the region. Some of the rocks once formed the bed of an ancient ocean called Tethys that completely disappeared in a titanic struggle for space between continental and oceanic plates. Proof of this can be found in the fossilized remains of ancient life forms, such as trilobites, shells and calcified remains of the oldest fish in the world.

There are many other echoes of these momentous geological events that lie strewn across the Sultanate for those who want to explore the regions geological heritage. Given these unique natural treasures, it is not surprising that geotourism has been gaining particular importance in Oman. Initiatives like the development of geoparks and the introduction of apps like the Oman Geoheritage Guide are perfect examples of how the Sultanate is working towards preserving these sites and ensuring sustainable tourism practices.

The Oman Geoheritage guide for example, creates awareness and provides information about the rich geology in Oman. It has several theme routes and more than 100 geological attractions that provides those interested with a unique Geotourism experience.

These theme routes can be experienced on half-day tours or can be combined as day trips. The tours offer opportunities for different kinds of activities, ranging from a comfortable tour in an air conditioned 4W drive, hiking and trekking tours, mountain bike tours, as well as boat trips including swimming and snorkelling activities.

Oman’s geological heritage is one of the richest anywhere on earth and great efforts are now being made to preserve its many unique natural formations and sites that trace the spectacular story of how this region came to be formed. Each of these contribute significantly to our understanding of our planet’s key dynamic processes and they need to be preserved for future generations.