Jebel Akhdar, the Green Mountain, is one of the highest mountains in Oman. Although the road up the mountain is tarmac, only four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed past the police checkpoint.
At the top of the mountain, clinging to sides of vast gorges, are a number of small villages, which attract visitors every year, especially during the months of April and May.
During this short time the famous damask roses are in bloom. Villages harvest the flowers to produce the famous Omani rosewater from the petals. The damask roses on Jebel Akhdar produce an intense aroma and this is preserved in the distilled rosewater, which is quite unique as it is brown in colour and has a distinctive smoky smell and taste
Rosewater distillation is a very old handicraft, which dates back at least 500 years, and it remains one of the primary occupations of the villagers on Jebel Akhdar. The process is a simple but tedious one. Once a sufficient amount of roses have bloomed, usually about 2 kg worth, they are plucked and kept covered under a wet blanket for three to six hours.
The damp roses are then placed in 15-litre pots, and a small copper bowl, known as tasar/salha, is placed on top of them. The opening of the pot is sealed with a wet fabric and a fire is lit below the pot.
Within 30 minutes the vapour starts evaporating off the rose petals. This creates a condensation on the surface of the wet cloth, which in turn drips back down into the copper bowl. It takes nearly three hours for the copper bowl to fill. The liquid is then poured into another vessel, the burnt petals are replaced with fresh ones, and the process begins all over again.
This cycle continues day in and day out for two to three months until the season ends around mid-May.
The land on Jebel Akhdar has been farmed for at least a thousand years because of its mild climate. Many of the fruits that thrive on the terraces could not survive the heat of the lower altitudes in Oman. Whereas the temperatures can reach over 40 degrees in May, it can be a very pleasant 25 degrees on Jebel Akhdar. Apart from roses, peaches, apricots, pears, grapes, apples, figs, and pomegranates grow on the cultivated terraces.
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