Up before dawn Sandra crawls out of bed to admire the view from the hotel in the morning light. It’s sunny but still cold and slightly windy. In the village down below some white specks start moving about in the plantations. From her vantage point Sandra can’t see what they are picking but it must be roses since it is the season and the flowers yield the best fragrance when picked early in the morning, still covered in dew.
Skye and Ryo emerge long after sunrise so Sandra has a bit of time to write. We then enjoy a nice breakfast indoors as it’s still very fresh out, even if the hotel staff has optimistically thrown the doors wide open and is preparing the omelettes and pancakes outside!
We then embark on a little trek through the villages we can see across the gorge from our hotel. It’s a lot of fun wandering the terraces amongst the aflaj (plural of falaj, the irrigation channels) admiring the plantations and smelling the roses. We also see the villagers planting crops, and cleaning dishes in the water of the falaj.
We come across two guys who are doing research on ants of the Jebel Akhdar, and they show Ryo some of their specimens and how they sift leaf litter for new bugs. The entomologist thinks he has just found an undocumented species of ant and Skye congratulates him, saying he can name it after himself. “Oh no,” he replies, pointing to his assistant, “I’ll name it after him!”
In some places we wonder how people could have built the stone walls of the terraces, so steep is the drop down to the valley! Skye is intrigued by some dizzying stone stairs that scale the cliff face, without anything to protect you from the long drop if you miss a step. At one o’clock the boys are starting to get hungry so we stop under a tree and eat the flatbread and hummus we bought the day before in Birkat.
Back at the hotel we are pretty hot so we head for the pool, or rather the Jacuzzi because the pool is very cold. After freshening up, we hop in the car and drive up to 2300m on the plateau to a lookout point, then visit the elegant Alila Resort. It’s beautifully done with stone and wood, and is set in a stunning location overlooking a gorge. Skye, craving a cool beer, is dismayed to learn they don’t serve alcohol between 3pm and 6pm: it’s like inverse happy hour! We resign ourselves to the mocktail menu, which has some nice recipes, for example Sandra’s Jebel Rose is made with pomegranate, strawberry, hazelnut syrup and rosewater.
The sun is setting and it’s becoming colder on the Alila restaurant deck so we head back to our hotel, picking up a local hitchhiker in robes and headscarf just after the amusingly-named village of Shnoot. We arrive back at the hotel just in time for a sunset photo and discover that our new next door neighbors are the two Austrian sisters with whom we shared a Bedouin escort in the Sharquiya sands!