Al Sawjarah in Jabal Akhdar:
If it’s your first time to hear about Al Sawjarah Village in Jabal Akhdar, you are one of the millions who are quite oblivious to its existence. Its location is so remote that even locals who live in the ‘green mountain” usually answer with a shrug when you ask them about this village.
Tariq al Sarmi, a resident of Izki, who shared that he frequents Jabal Akhdar, even though he was being pranked when asked if he has been to the village.
“I’d been to Jabal Akhdar many times and had visited many of its villages but I haven’t heard of Al Sawjarah until now,” he said.
From the popular Anantara Jabal Akhdar, one has to drive several kilometres on a circuitous road that ultimately leads to a rough unpaved road. For convenience, you would need a guide to show you the way and tour guides like Mathia al Jabari are slowly defining the village as an alternative tourist destination for those who are willing to venture further and experience something totally different.
“This village is around 300 or 400 years old. While locals are not aware of the place, we had been bringing tourists and expats here for them to experience authentic Omani mountain lifestyles,” she said.
Reaching the village is quite an ordeal. The houses were carved on the side of the mountain and stairs were created so that the residents of the area can easily go down and up the mountain.
Since there was interest from the tourists, residents of the village had created a wooden bridge to make it easier for them to access the village from the road — even that requires hiking.
What the village offers though are houses on the side of the mountain with a great view of the sunset and away from the noise pollution of the city.
The villagers of Al Sawjarah wanted to develop their area to a full-on tourist area. They are open to the idea of sharing their culture especially to visitors from outside of the Sultanate.
“The village has not been fully transformed and needed a lot of developments. Some of the villagers still live in their homes and while a few of them had moved away for more convenient homes. Those who remained built a public library filled with interesting books that help educate the children of the villagers,” Al Jabari shared.
The village now has a cafe and guest house where guests can stay and relax.
“The guest house was built so those who visit can enjoy the mountain view and take in the beautiful scenery of Jabal Akhdar. The price is way cheaper than hotels also. The rooms were built by an Omani family and have maintained its authenticity of how the houses were built,” she shared.
“When people come here, it is far from the annoying sound of cars. You can only reach the place by hiking and climbing. The guest house features a traditional design of Omani homes and the food served are prepared and cooked by the Omani women of the village — it’s a truly unique and different experience,” she added.
Many of the families are considering upgrading some parts of their homes to accommodate homestays for tourists.
“Since some of the homes are made from mud and while the village is protected by the mountain, they still experience some issues which needed constant fixing,” Al Jabari said.
“It’s quite alarming that foreigners knew about this village long before many of the locals,” commented Zainab al Kiyoumi, also an Omani tourist guide.
“Even I noticed that most of the media coverage come from the foreign channel. The village can definitely help to have some visitors’ traffic if local media also help in making it known to the people,” she shared.
For United Arab Emirates-based Abu Ghazaleh who visited in 2016, he was fascinated by the village history and find the cafe and guest house.
Both Al Jabari and Al Kiyumi hopes that more visitors will come since ultimately it will benefit the residents of the area through tourism.
source: Oman Observer
Credit: Oman Pocket Guide