Jebel Shams or the Sun Mountain is the highest mountain in Oman at a height of 3005 meters, at the Summit is a military radar base and observatory, both of which are closed to the public.
From the base of the mountain at An Nackhar to the summit, there is 250,000,000 years of geology.
The story of the Jebel starts with the formation of a sea called Tethys, formed when Oman and Iraq parted. In Oman sediments were deposited in relatively shallow water, which later formed the very hard grey limestone found on the jebel. The sea was warm and rich in life, and many fossils can be found throughout the region.
As Tethys was created, submarine volcanoes were formed; the magma from these has turned some of the limestone to marble. When the Tethys Sea began to close about 90,000,000 years ago, the ocean floor was pushed over the land, forming the mountain.
After the formation of the mountain, water erosion has shaped the “ Grand Canyon”, with a vertical drop of 2,100 meters from the summit to the base, the canyon is a must see for any visitor to Oman.
In some areas softer rocks underlying the hard grey limestone’s have been Karstificated forming amphitheaters, and there is evidence of a large cave on the jebel.
Today the jebel is home to at least a dozen small villages, were the main occupations are animal husbandry, farming, and Rug weaving.
Of the 400 varieties of date palm, only one type grows on the jebel, there is also an abundance of wild olive trees called itm. Another common tree on the mountain is the thorn of Christ tree or sidr, the fruit “nubuq” are eaten by the locals, and taste similar to apples. Be wary of the thorns on this tree, as they are strong enough to penetrate the soles of shoes if stood on.
Jebel Shams also has some of the oldest Juniper trees or al’alaan in the world, some specimens are hundreds of years old and with trunks 2 – 3 meters wide.