MUSCAT: Jabal Akhdhar is home to 60 different villages with several of them can only be accessed by taking ancient paths and walking for two hours or more.
The village of Al Suwjara, located about 30 minutes away from the famed Alila Jabal Akhdar Hotel used to be one of these remote villages but the government efforts made in the last few years to modernize some of the roads including providing remote villages with access to water and electricity has transformed the village into a modern one and now boast its own concrete mosque as well as well-irrigated gardens.
Al Suwjara village started with one family. The ancestors of the Al Shureiki family carved out homes from the side of the mountains and they made terraces from the lands to create gardens filled with different crops and fruit trees. These gardens are still utilized even to this day.
Today, the village is now divided into the old and the new. The new village is nearly 20 minutes hike away from the old one. Four-wheel cars can drive all the way to the new village but to access the old village, one has to climb down one side of the mountain, cross a wooden bridge, and climb another to reach the old houses.
“Our families lived here for generations. My grandfather is the patriarch and when his children and grandchildren married, the village also grew. Living on the original location of the village was challenging so they have to move. For years, the original houses were abandoned,” shared Mohammed al Shureiki, a young Omani now working in the hospitality sector.
Learning a few things from his job, he talked to his family. Rather than see an ancient settlement get destroyed, he initiated the renovation of the houses transforming the then crumbling houses into an inn.
“We started with one room. Make changes to it. We fitted it with working bathrooms and installed lightings. In the last two to three years, old homes have become attractive for many of the travellers coming to Jabal Akhdhar. We continued doing renovations giving birth to The Cliff Guest House,” he said.
“Today, we have seven rooms with a few others still ongoing renovations. We have different suites. We have double, we have twins, we have special and normal rooms. Several of the rooms have a sweeping view of the new village and the garden,” he said.
Despite the renovations made, the guest house maintains almost all of the elements of a traditional Omani home.
“We have to modernize the beds and the bathrooms because we are also thinking of the comfort of our guests but other than that, the structures — from the doors to the windows, they are typical Omani homes. They allow our guests an opportunity to experience how Omanis live in this part of Jabal Akdhar,” Mohammed said.
“The food served to guests are being cooked by my family. These are traditional Omani food including shuwa in some days. We also offer fruits produced from the garden and if when they are in season. The food has to be transported via the zipline from the new village to the old houses giving the whole experience a very rustic feel,” he said.
On a recent trip made to the village, expat adventurer Rose Ebuen said that she finds the village very peaceful and the whole experience memorable.
“The Cliff allows you to enjoy nature at its most pristine. I like the fact that you get to see the farmers interact with their livestock. If you’re thinking of a meaningful off-the-beaten-path experience, this is the perfect place to be lost in,” she said.
Mohammed said that they also organise guided tours not only of the old village but also of the nearby caves.
“There are two cave systems near to Al Suwjara. One of them used to be the home of another family. This is a great experience for those wanting to know more about the country,” Mohammed said.