Al Hajar Mountains
|Oman Mountains |
|Peak||Jebel Shams (Oman)|
|Elevation||3,009 m (9,872 ft)|
|Native name||جِبَال ٱلْحَجَر (in Arabic)|
|Countries||Oman and United Arab Emirates|
Al-Hajar Mountains (Arabic: جِبَال ٱلْحَجَر, romanized: Jibāl al-Ḥajar, The Rocky Mountains or The Stone Mountains) in northeastern Oman and also the eastern United Arab Emirates are the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian peninsula. Also known as "Oman Mountains", they separate the low coastal plain of Oman from the high desert plateau, and lie 50–100 km (31–62 mi) inland from the Gulf of Oman.
Geology, geography and climate
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. The mountains begin in the Musandam Peninsula in the north, and extend about 440 km (270 mi) to Ras Al-Hadd in the east, measuring up to 50 km (31 mi) wide. This range is one of the few places on Earth where less dense oceanic crust is located below more dense oceanic crust and upper parts of the Earth's mantle, and thus has ophiolite exposed, like the Andes, Himalayas, Swiss Alps and other ranges.
The low coastal land north and east of the Jebel Hajar is called "Al Batinah Region." The climate is cool and wet from December to March, and warmer but occasionally rainy from April to September.
The central section of the Hajar is the highest and wildest terrain in the country. Jabal Shams is the highest of the range, followed by Jebel Akhdar. The latter and the smaller Jebel Nakhl range are bounded on the east by the low Sama'il Valley (which leads northeast to Muscat).
Near Izki in Ad-Dakhiliyyah
East of Samail are the Eastern Hajar (Arabic: ٱلْحَجَر ٱلشَّرْقِي, romanized: Al-Ḥajar Ash-Sharqī), which run east (much closer to the coast) to the fishing town of Sur, almost at the easternmost point of Oman.
Eastern Hajar overlooking Wadi Bani Khalid
View from Sur on the east coast of Oman, next to the Arabian Sea
The Wahiba Sands with the Eastern Hajar in the background
The mountains to the west of Sama'il Valley, particularly those in Musandam Peninsula and the UAE, are known as the Western Hajar (Arabic: ٱلْحَجَر ٱلْغَرْبِي, romanized: Al-Ḥajar Al-Gharbī), also known as the "Oman proper". Since Jabal Akhdar and mountains in its vicinity are west of the valley, they may be regarded as Western Hajar.
In the region of Tawam, which includes the adjacent settlements of Al-Buraimi and Al Ain on the border of Oman and the UAE Emirate of Abu Dhabi, lies Jebel Hafeet (1,100–1,400 m (3,600–4,600 ft)), which can be considered an outlier of the Hajar. Due to its proximity to the main Hajar range, it may be treated as being part of the range, sensu lato. This mountain has ridges which stretch northwards to the city of Al Ain.
The northernmost mountains of the Hajar range are found on the Musandam Peninsula. For this reason, the phrase Ru'us al-Jibal ("Heads of the Mountains") is applied to them, or the peninsula itself. Despite being physically part of the western Hajar, they differ in geology and hydrology to the rest of the range. The highest point in the UAE is located at Jebel Jais near Ras Al Khaimah, which measures 1,934 m (6,345 ft) from sea level, but since the summit is on the Omani side, Jabal Yibir, measuring over 1,500 m (0.93 mi), has the highest peak in the UAE.
As seen from Dhayah Fort in Ras Al-Khaimah
The mountains bordering the Shamailiyyah (Arabic: شَمَيْلِيَّة) coast on the Gulf of Oman, forming parts of the northern UAE Emirates of Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah and Fujairah, may also be called the Shumayliyyah (Arabic: شُمَيْلِيَّة). In this region is Jebel Al-Ḥeben (Arabic: جَبَل ٱلْحبن; ).
Al Rafisah Dam between Sharjah and Khor Fakkan
Flora and fauna
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 ft (1,110 and 2,510 metres), 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). Other endemic species include a number of geckos and lizards: Asaccus montanus, Asaccus platyrhynchus and a subspecies 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 Oman's lizard (Lacerta cyanura) are found only in the Hajar mountains. The endangered Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) had been recorded here, particularly in the area of Khasab in northern part of the Musandam.
Like the Ru'us al-Jibal, the area of Jebel Hafeet is noted for hosting rare flora and fauna. For example, in February 2019, an Arabian caracal was sighted here, and in March, a Blanford's fox, which has also been reported in the mountains of Ras Al-Khaimah.
Threats and preservation
The 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 has damaged both vegetation and water supplies and uprooted 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 18 hours) published by Ministry of Tourism, Oman along the Hajar Mountain range.
- Gabal Hagar El Zarqa
- Hafit period
- Hatta Heritage Village
- List of tourist attractions in the United Arab Emirates
- Hills of Masirah Island
- Rocky Mountains
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