It all started in November 2012 when a group of 4 hikers (including myself) met an old man, with very dark and dry skin wearing an old long jacket, high up in one of Oman’s tallest mountains Jabal Kawr. Jabal Kawr sits at 2,700 m and was the home to this mysterious man.
Although this man lived all alone on Jabal Kawr, he had it all figured out; how to survive in the extreme hot and dry seasons and how to withstand the very cold temperatures and harsh rain during winters.
His setup consisted of 3 areas, just a stone-throw away from one another:
- A rock hut where he used to stash his food and drink reserves, which were supplied by the helicopter.
- A tent built from wooden poles, covered with thick white sheets where he used to keep his utensils, tools and also served as a shelter during the day.
- Very small shelter, made out of stacked rocks against a rock. This shelter was his bedroom, a room that you would think Bilbo the Hobbit will barely fit in.
At first he was not very comfortable with us being around, but that faded away when I offered him one of my energy bars. I tried to talk to him but he spoke no English nor even Arabic. He mumbled a few letters/words in a very heavy thick voice but I failed to understand. I guess he has been up there for years that he had forgotten how to speak.
I left the mountain, very humble by the experience, a selfie with the man and a story to tell.
November 2014, I met some villagers around Kawr during a hike in the area, one topic lead to another, and they passed on the news of the old man’s recent death, whom they called “the crazy man”. When he was found, it appeared he had been dead for weeks, and that he died all by himself on that mighty mountain, in the very same place he took shelter at.
The local villagers shared the story of how he used to live with his sister and that they had fell out with one another. He decided to move to the top of Kawr, whilst his sister chose to live in one of the wadis (valleys) where nature is less harsh.
Not much information was shared, except that the military helicopters used to drop him supplies (food, water and basic building material).
As the new year approached, I decided to end 2014 & start 2015 with a special adventure by crossing Jabal Kawr from Maa’wal side to Nadan side. Although there is no recorded route on any map, villagers used to use it many years ago to traverse the mountain between seasons. My objective of this unique adventure was to pay respect to the mysterious man of Kawr, setup a memorial stone where he lived and map the route.
On the 31st of Dec 2014, revved with energy and excitement, I set out with my 2 friends Nadine and Hassan from the Maa’wal side.
We started our ascent at 8:00 pm, achieving 1,150 m of altitude in 4 hours where we setup our first camping point just in time to celebrate NY’s eve. We camped on a plateau next to an old, well-built wooden hut that villagers used to take shelter in when passing through. Cheers for celebrations!! Hooray for adventures!!!
The morning of the 1st day of the New Year, we took our time getting up, enjoying the beautiful scenery. We got ready and hit the road again, or should I say continued to gain altitude on a steep and unbalanced path for 2 hours. The temperature was lovely, chilly and windy, but we remained warm as long as we kept moving. We conquered one hill after another, staying on the ridges as much as possible so not to lose altitude. We passed a deserted old village, and crossed a massive plain, before we reached the area of which the old man called home.
We fixed a memorial plate by his bedroom’s door. It was touching to walk around and try to make sense of what is now history, trying to figure out how he used.
Humbled from the experience, we paid our respect and hit the road again, continued to the old village of Nadan, on east side of the mountain.
Just before dawn, we stopped at, what I call, the Tip of the Great Wall opposite Sant, Jabel Al Shams, and a beautiful huge canyon that looks like a snake slithering from side to side. This Great Wall offers a magical view from Kawr. We spent some time sitting on the edge, with a of few hundred meters of nothing below us admiring the gorgeous scenery.
We made it to the village just by dusk, set up a tent, started a fire, had dinner and called it a night.
The morning offered magnificent scenery as we hiked between Jabal Al Shams, Sant and its snake shaped Wadi on the one side, and Nadan and its gigantic natural gate from the other side
Couple of hours later, we reached the descent point. The descent is a narrow canyon between two mountain walls that starts at 2,400 m and ends at 900 m in a distance of 1.2 km. It is extremely steep and many sections need to be down climbed. As if that was not hard enough, the path consisted of wobbly and unstable rocks, so we were forced to take extra care.
3 hours later we made it to Nadan where we met an old man guarding his sheep. This kind barefooted soul invited us into his home for dates, oranges, water and coffee. My friends and I were incredibly humbled by the hospitality and generosity we received from the locals. after few more moments of chatting we made our way back to the car.
The hike was filled with adventure, beautiful sceneries and memorable experience shared with 2 great friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start a new year.