Jebel Akhdar: although not located in the UAE and – in theory – not meant to be on this website, I cannot withstand the urge to highlight our trip to this mountain: memorable in all sorts of ways and not in the least because of the magnificent Juniper trees (locally known as Al`Alan).
The Hajar mountains are rich in plant life compared to most of Arabia. The vegetation changes with altitude, the mountains are covered with shrubland at lower elevations, growing richer and becoming woodland, including wild olive and fig trees between 1,100 to 2,500 m.
And then …. there are the juniper trees: some of them centuries old, weathered and with white, gnarled, dead looking stems. They grow only 5 cm a year.
Above 2000m, the mountain slopes are dotted with them; ancient specimen of the Juniper Excelsa compete with each other for having the most exceptional shape.
The tree leaves are needle shaped and have a wonderful resinous smell.
Unfortunately the Juniper is in decline. In the last ten years, modern road access has led to rapid degradation of the habitat. Mass tourism has had its impact. Campers and construction workers have chopped down centuries old trees for campfires.
We were lucky to find a tree with berries: they were the female “fleshy” purple berries (male cones are brown).
These berries are edible.
The foliage is used as an ingredient in locally produced massage oil.