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The Hajjar Mountains (Arabic: جبال الحجر‎) (Arabic for stone mountains) in northeastern Oman and also the eastern United Arab Emirates are the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian peninsula. They separate the low coastal plain of Oman from the high desert plateau, and lie 50–100 km inland from the Gulf of Oman coast.

Contents

Location and description

The Hajjar Mountains rise behind Nakhal Fort.

The mountains begin in the north, forming the Musandam peninsula. From there the Northern Hajjar (Hajjar al Gharbi) runs southeast, parallel to the coast but moving gradually further away as it goes. The central section of the Hajjar is the Jebel Akhdar (9,834 feet (2,980 m)), the highest and wildest terrain in the country. Jebel Akhdar (and the smaller Jebel Nakhl range) are bounded on the east by the low Samail Valley (which leads northeast to Muscat). East of Samail are the Eastern Hajjar (Hajjar ash Sharqi), which run east (much closer to the coast) to the fishing town of Sur, almost at the eastern point of Oman. The mountains extend for 500 km in total.

The low coastal land north and east of the Jebel Hajjar is named Al Batinah Region (the belly), and the land inland of the mountains is Ad Dhahirah (the back).

The mountains are an important ecoregion, the only habitat in eastern Arabia above 2,000m elevation. The climate is cool and wet from December to March and warmer but still with occasional rain from April to September.

Flora

The mountains are rich in plant life compared to most of Arabia, including a number of endemic species. The vegetation changes with altitude, the mountains are covered with shrubland at lower elevations, growing richer and then becoming woodland, including wild olive and fig trees between 3,630 and 8,250 feet (1,100 to 2,500 m) and then higher still there are junipers. Fruit trees such as pomegranate and apricot are grown in the cooler valleys and in places there are rocky outcrops with little vegetation. The flora shows similarities with mountain areas of nearby Iran but also with the continent of Africa, for example the tree Ceratonia oreothauma is found here and also in Somalia.

Fauna

A number of birds are found in the mountains including Egyptian Vulture and Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus). Mammals include Mountain Gazelle (Gazella gazella) and the Arabian tahr (Arabitragus jayakari), which is endemic to the Al Hajar. Other endemic species include a number of geckos and lizards: Asaccus montanus, Asaccus platyrhynchus and a sub-species of Wadi Kharrar Rock Gecko (Pristurus gasperetti gallagheri) are found only in Oman while Musandam leaf-toed gecko (Asaccus caudivolvulus), Gallagher's Leaf-toed Gecko (Asaccus gallagheri), Oman Rock Gecko (Pristurus celirrimus), Jayakar lizard (Lacerta jayakari) and Omman's lizard (Lacerta cyanura) are found only in the Al Hajar mountains. The endangered Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) used to be found in the mountains but was hunted out by the 1970s.

Threats and preservation

The Al Hajar are extensively grazed by domestic goats, camels and donkeys and the landscape has been cleared in parts for urban areas and for mining, which damage both vegetation and water supplies and uproot traditional rural land management behaviours. Poaching of wildlife is another issue. The Oman government has created the Wadi Sareen Reserve and an area of Jebel Qahwan-Jebal Sebtah in the Eastern Hajar for the protection of Arabian tahr and mountain gazelle. For visitors there is a road into the mountains from the town of Birkat al-Mawz (on the road to Nizwa from Muscat) and a walking route through Wadi al-Muaydin to the Saiq Plateau.

References

  • Regions of Oman at statoids.com
  • Gardner, 1994. A new species of Asaccus (Gekkonidae) from the mountains of northern Oman. Journal of Herpetology 28 (2): 141-145.

External links

Coordinates: 23°18′N 57°06′E / 23.3°N 57.1°E / 23.3; 57.1

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