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Aqabat Village Trek

A few weeks ago, I tagged along with Jessa and Ram on the Aqabat village trek. Aqabat village is an extremely remote village high in the Hajar mountains of the Musandam peninsula of Oman. Just getting to the trail head requires a 45 minute 4x4 ride through the steep rocky gorge of Wadi Khabb A’ Shamsi to the top of the wadi where the drainage begins. Then trek for an hour and a half through the mountains to reach the village.

I love this trek because of the diverse experiences it offers. Most of the trail is surrounded by breathtaking views of the high mountains. The ecosystem of the high mountains is very different from the lower elevations- there is more vegetation and because of the surrounding wilderness the wildlife is more abundant. My other favorite thing about this trek is the cultural aspect - seeing an old village still inhabited- the combination of the old ways and new technologies used in tandem. Relics of the old ways still sitting as if they were used yesterday.

After reaching the top the trail head winds between old abandoned stone huts and the trail begins to traverse the mountainside. Where mountains intersect we cross small drainages filled with small boulders. In the photo you'll see where the water runs down the mountainside and creates a waterfall when it rains. There is always vegetation clustered around the drainages.

The environment here is more lush than at lower altitudes- it reminded me a little of a cloud forest. There were trees that looked coniferous- like contorted mini-pine trees with long needles. I assume that there is more vegetation here because there is so much more water vapor in the air- the mountaintops are surrounded by clouds during much of the winter. When it rains, the plants up here are the first to get the water and probably get to absorb enough that vegetation below doesn't get as much.
Something resembling a stunted pine tree with long needles.

During one ascent to a ridge line we spotted fossilized shells embedded in the rocks at our feet.

We trekked around several mountainsides before climbing to the ridge line which was surprisingly wide and flat. We followed the ridge line to another peak where we traversed the side of that mountain.

Traverse along a cliff edge

We rounded a corner and could then see our destination- Aquabat village. As soon as we rounded the corner, we were hit by a wall of wind. The high mountains are extremely windy- much cooler than by the beach. I put on my jacket and didn’t take it off for the rest of the trek.

Aqabat village comes into view.

Descending into Aqabat

The first hut in the village appeared to be unoccupied with baby goats protected from predators behind its fences. A curious kid suckled on Jessa’s pinky.

The village is relatively large and has beautiful views of Jebel Qihwi (pronounded kiwi). Aquabat is surrounded by its old farming terraces, out of use for a half century. The village itself has many old buildings, a few newer buildings, has no electricity and still largely functions as it has for hundreds of years. The old oven and cooking areas are still used today. Relics of the past- untouched for decades- sit as if they were used the day before.

An oven used for baking, with views of Jebel Qihwi in the background.

An old grind stone inside a grinding hut

The local Omani land owners have left the village- choosing to live in the cities instead. They have hired a Pakistani man to live in the village and care for their goats.

The Pakistani goat herder rinsing his kettle by the kitchen hut.

On many of our mountain treks we spend some time with the men tending to the goats. They are often excited to have visitors and offer to make us tea. Ram lived here for a little while- leading treks for another company before he worked at Absolute Adventure. He knows this Pakistani guy pretty well and we are invited for tea. Ram was quick to help make tea. We used our own water so we didn’t impact his water supply and Ram built the fire to boil the water. The high winds forced us to use the indoor fireplace to boil water. We lingered in the smoky hut to watch Ram and the goat herder make tea.

Getting the fire going

The kettle on the fire

Once the tea was ready, we headed outside to a terrace where a sitting mat was set out for us. We took off our shoes and sat together to have tea and eat lunch.

When we finished our lunch and the tea, we said our farewells to the goat herder and set off back to the trailhead. The way back was gentler than the way up- we followed gently sloping ridge lines before descending back down to the vehicles. On one pinnacle we found this bizarre mini-wall. Apparently it's a wind break. It's used by locals trekking in the mountains to get some relief from the wind. I took advantage of my opportunity to test it out.

Heading home