Into the Mountains – Part I

In November we took a day trip into the mountains with friends….. I met Alice through the Kuwait Quilters Yahoo Group – and her husband Robert has a passion for the mountains and rocks in general.  He loves the geology of the region and is eager to share it with anyone who will venture out with him.  We took the challenge, and it was an incredible day.

The geology of Oman is diverse and very unique in the world. While in most areas, when the earth’s plates shift and crash into each other, the ocean plate goes underneath and the surface plate raises up to create mountains.  In Oman, more than anywhere else in the world, the ocean plate came on top, giving geologists the best view of what the ocean floor and the Earth’s mantle are made of.  The Hajar Mountains, which parallel the coast near Muscat, are a stunning example of this phenomenon. In Oman, almost every geological age are represented, and fossils as old as 600 million years.The outer shell of the range is a dark coffee brown, and is ophiolite – but as you drive through the mountains to the other side, you pass through rocks from many other periods.

We drove out of Muscat to the west to Barkha, and then headed toward the mountains.  The highways in Oman are second to non… it didn’t feel much like a field trip….. yet.  Our first stop was Nakhl, which is a small town on the edge of the mountain range.  It is an oasis full of palm trees, and not far away in the mountans, there is a hot spring, which we didn’t visit.

Nakhl is dominated by the fort, which is set upon a 200 meter high “mountain” of white crystalline limestone called an Exotic.  This type of rock is thought to have been formed by a submarine volcano, when this part of the world was still on the bottom of the ocean.  Because it is not built on a level surface, the castle seems to be draped over the rock, with multiple levels and innumerable stairs. Sometimes the rock just protrudes into the room or walkway. The fort’s construction dates back to pre Islamic period. Restorations were completed in the 3rd & 10th century. The gate, fence and towers of the fort were built in 1834 A.D.  Restorations were completed in 1990.

One really interesting room was for storing dates.  They are yellow and quite hard when harvested, but as they ripen they get very sugary and juicy.  They were stored in bags on a shelf with ridges so the sugar syrup could flow down into pots to be used to eat, or to boil to pour on the enemies’ heads when they tried to get into the fort.  Hot sugar really burns… I wouldn’t have wanted to be there!

It seemed odd to me that the fort would be down in the midst of the town, with mountains all around, so I asked Robert about it.  He said that there would have been watch towers in the mountains to alert the villagers of enemies on the way.  If they were attacked, the people would have run into the fort, and they would have defended from there.  There were old cannons and replicas inside, as well as pottery and other furnishings t give you an idea of what it would have been like inside.

I’ll go on with the trip another day….. I want you to have just enough photos to entice you to come and visit…..

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