It’s a collection of five stories written and curated by author Azhaar Ahmed and illustrated by Ibtihaj Al Harthi. The stories were a result of meeting the locals, of knowing inter-generational stories passed by word-of-mouth that remained inaccessible to momentary guests of the ‘green mountain’ and events that shaped and continue to shape Jabal Akhdhar as we know it today.
It begins with the story of The Cavemen — an elaborate detailing of a superstition believed by the locals to this day; followed by “Mohsin’s Stick” — a story of a blind man who is friends to animals and nature but is unable to see the beauty around him. There is also the Third Tale from Al Shreigah Village which explores the rose culture and tradition of the villagers, The Fourth Tale from Al Sograh Village that details how people navigated their way in the challenging mountainside while the Fifth Tale from Alila Hotel explains how being close the sky allows one to imagine the endless possibilities of playing with the stars.
It’s launching held Monday, June 17, was well-attended with the children being the most interested. Man Booker International Prize winner Jokha al Harthi was at the event emphasising that Omani stories can also be relatable to a global audience and therefore need its own space and support.
As Alila Jabal Akhdar’s first children’s book, it was a learning experience that took them one year to complete — from inception to printing. Along the way, they would discover an even deeper reason for not wavering — of committing to the preservation of local communities inhabiting the majestic mountains and their way of life and traditions.
Not an easy feat
“A book wasn’t our first thought, we wanted to find some stories to gift at turndown, that parents could read to their children at bedtime, a pastime that seems to have been lost. Our story research began to grow, eventually accumulating in this book,” shared Julian Ayers, General Manager, Alila Jabal Akhdar in his introduction for the book.
“There was a lot of research involved. Finding the right people to tell their story was a real challenge,” he said in an interview.
Omani Mahmood Al Amri, Head Leisure Concierge, shared that the stories that made it into the books needed to be told as they reflect something important about the way of life of the Omanis in Jabal Akhdar.
“Azhaar Ahmed is someone we knew for another project in the past. She has already done children’s book previously so approaching her for the project was easy. When we sat her down to discuss the book in details, it is when she brought Ibtihaj al Harthi who provided the illustration. The book you see today is a collaboration of around 10 people,” he added.
“We just intended for it to be this little thing — like a card of sort — that we can gift the children when they are visiting. But it became a massive project and the book you see today is a product of everyone’s hard work,” he added.
They also got help from several other people, from the executives of OMRAN, the executive arm of the government for tourism development and with Zina Al Harthi, CEO-Green Room Communications who was instrumental in putting the book together to immortalize ancient and modern stories imparted by senior men, families and children living in local villages.
“The five tales in the publication, unravel the secrets and the treasures of the ‘Green Mountain’ to children while capturing the genuine and authentic aspects of Jabal Akhdar- from the blossoming Damask roses, pomegranate, peach and walnut trees to the gliding starry skies over the rugged peaks of the Al Hajar mountains,” shared Mahmood echoing the communiqué of their PR team.
Julian and his team also added that “the book is an amalgamation of wondrous tales that have been passed on from generation to generation in the villages
of Hail Al Yaman, Al Manakhir and Wadi Bani Habib among others, and it unfurls Oman’s rich past from its pages.”
The book is all set to roll out. It first will be made available to all guests at the hotel, followed by a phase-wise launch at bookstores and libraries, across the Sultanate.