Al Hajar Mountains
The Al Hajar Mountains (Arabic: جبال الحجر, stone mountains) in northeastern Oman and also the eastern United Arab Emirates are the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian peninsula. They separate the low coastal plain of Oman from the high desert plateau, and lie 50–100 km inland from the Gulf of Oman coast.
In Arabic, "Al" means "the" and "Hajar" means "stone". So "Al Hajar" would be defined as "the stone". Therefore, "Al Hajar Mountains" could mean "the stony mountains".
Geologically, Al Hajar Mountains are the continuation of the Zagros Mountains and were mainly formed in the Miocene and Pliocene as the Arabian Plate collided with and pushed against the Iranian Plate. These mountains are chiefly made of Cretaceous limestones and ophiolites.
Location and description
The mountains begin in the north, forming the Musandam peninsula. From there, the Northern Hajjar (Hajjar al Gharbi) runs southeast, parallel to the coast but moving gradually further away as it goes. The central section of the Hajjar is the Jebel Akhdar (9,834 feet (2,980 m)), the highest and wildest terrain in the country. Jebel Akhdar (and the smaller Jebel Nakhl range) are bounded on the east by the low Samail Valley (which leads northeast to Muscat). East of Samail are the Eastern Hajjar (Hajjar ash Sharqi), which run east (much closer to the coast) to the fishing town of Sur, almost at the eastern point of Oman. The mountains extend for 500 km in total.
The mountains are an important ecoregion, the only habitat in eastern Arabia above 2,000 m elevation. The climate is cool and wet from December to March and warmer but still with occasional rain from April to September.
The mountains are rich in plant life compared to most of Arabia, including a number of endemic species. The vegetation changes with altitude, the mountains are covered with shrubland at lower elevations, growing richer and then becoming woodland, including wild olive and fig trees between 3,630 and 8,250 feet (1,100 to 2,500 m) and then higher still there are junipers. Fruit trees such as pomegranate and apricot are grown in the cooler valleys and in places there are rocky outcrops with little vegetation. The flora shows similarities with mountain areas of nearby Iran, as well as with areas along the Red Sea in the Horn of Africa. For example, the tree Ceratonia oreothauma is found here and also in Somalia.
A number of birds are found in the mountains including Egyptian and lappet-faced vultures (Torgos tracheliotus). Mammals include mountain gazelles (Gazella gazella) and the Arabian tahr (Arabitragus jayakari), which is endemic to the Al Hajar. Other endemic species include a number of geckos and lizards: Asaccus montanus, Asaccus platyrhynchus and a sub-species of Wadi Kharrar rock gecko (Pristurus gasperetti gallagheri) are found only in Oman while Musandam leaf-toed gecko (Asaccus caudivolvulus), Gallagher's leaf-toed gecko (Asaccus gallagheri), Oman rock gecko (Pristurus celirrimus), Jayakar lizard (Lacerta jayakari) and Omman's lizard (Lacerta cyanura) are found only in the Al Hajar mountains. The endangered Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) is still found in the Musandam Peninsula, according to records of the Oman Ministry of Environment.
Threats and preservation
The Al Hajar are extensively grazed by domestic goats, camels and donkeys and the landscape has been cleared in parts for urban areas and for mining, which damage both vegetation and water supplies and uproot traditional rural land management behaviours. Poaching of wildlife is another issue. The Oman government has created the Wadi Sareen Reserve and an area of Jebel Qahwan-Jebal Sebtah in the Eastern Hajar for the protection of Arabian tahr and mountain gazelle. For visitors there is a road into the mountains from the town of Birkat al-Mawz (on the road to Nizwa from Muscat) and a walking route through Wadi al-Muaydin to the Saiq Plateau.
Trekking and Hiking
There are 11 marked trails / routes of varying intensity (between Grade 1 to 3) and duration (between 1.5 hours to 18hours) published by Ministry or Tourism, Oman along the Hajar Mountain range.
- "Trekking". website. Ministry of Tourism,Sultanate of Oman.
- Regions of Oman at statoids.com
- Gardner, 1994. A new species of Asaccus (Gekkonidae) from the mountains of northern Oman. Journal of Herpetology 28 (2): 141-145.
- "Al Hajar montane woodlands". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.