The Jabal Bani Jabir in the southern Hajar mountain range of northern Oman represents one of the driest climates on earth with a potential evapotranspiration of more than 2500 mm and an average annual rainfall of less than 75 mm. The study area is topographically important as the up to 1850 m high Shir plateau divides the coastal zone of the Arabian Sea from the inner-Omani Sharqiya.The extended Shir plateau is also the origin of four major drainage systems, Wadi Tiwi and Wadi Shab to the east, Wadi Bani Khalid to the south, and Wadi Khabbah to the northwest.
Given the lower water availability on the western side of the Jabal Bani Jabir compared to their water rich eastern side terraced land is very scarce in the former area. Besides, perennial cultivation of date palms annual crop production plays a less important role on the eastern side. Similar to the northern Hajar range, the irrigation infrastructure needed for any agricultural production in this area is based on aini-aflaj (sing. falaj) systems, referring to canals that convey water from a spring at the foot of a mountain to agricultural fields. Settlements typically consist of either only semi-nomadic pastoralists or an agro-pastoral community cultivating a number of small and widely scattered terrace systems.
The palmgarden of Wadi Tiwi
The coastral village of Tiwi is located some 120 km southeast of Muscat and 40 km northwest of Sur. About seven kilometers away from Wadi Shab starts Wadi Tiwi which extends 36 km inland and ends at a mountain village known as Mibam. A perennial flow of surface water is the main feature of Wadi Tiwi.
The scattered oasis settlement of Maqta, situated in a rugged desert environment along the ancient trade route which connected the inner-Omani Sharqiya across the southern Hajar mountains with the ocean port of Tiwi. Maqta consists of a central area with 59 buildings and 12 scattered temporary settlements comprising a total of about 200 semi-nomadic inhabitants and next to 900 sheepand goats.Archaeologically important in this region are the so-called ‘tower tombs’ on the top of the Shir plateau
Tower tomb on the Shir plateau.
See maps of Wadi Tiwi and Maqta