Quriyat: Ras Al Shajar Sanctuary is one of the unique areas in Oman, known for its rich biodiversity, animals, plants and geological elements.
The sanctuary is located in the eastern villages of the Wilayat of Quriyat in the Governorate of Muscat. It is about 93.7 square kilometres in area. It is also considered unique for its large and dense vegetation cover, especially Acacia Tortilis, thus it is called Ras Al Shajar.
The sanctuary was founded in 1985 under the umbrella of the Office for Conservation of Environment at the Diwan of Royal Court. It contains many mammals, notably the Arabian Gazelle, which lives in the coastal part of the sanctuary, as well as the Arabian Tahar (Arabitragus Jayakari), which lives in the rugged mountainous areas of the sanctuary.
The Red Fox, Arabian Lynx also lives in the sanctuary, which is a safe haven for many migratory and endemic birds, such as Hoopoe, Indian Roller, Pipit, Bee, Egyptian Vulture, Eagle, the See-See Partridge, Owls, and Crowned Sandgrouse, along with Wild Pigeon, Falcon, Curlew, and Seagulls.
The Arabian Gazelle is one of the most prominent animals that abound in the sanctuary, as well as the Arabian Tahar, whose presence in the Arabian Peninsula is limited to this sanctuary.
It spreads along the western and eastern Al Hajar Mountains and Mount Qahwan, which is located between the Wilayat of Sur, Ja’alan Bani Bu Ali and Al Kamil Wa Al Wafi in the Governorate of South A’Sharqiyah.
The sanctuary is characterised by several significant wild plants, which are useful to humans, animals and nature, such as the Acacia Tortilis, Ziziphus Spina-Christi, Moringa Peregrina, Acridocarpus Orientallis, Fagonia Indica, Ficus cordata, Euphorbia Larcia, Dodonaea, Acacia Nilotica, Maerua Crassifolia, Pteropyrum Scoprium, and Caralluma Arabica, used by villagers for medical purposes until today.
The sanctuary has a unique tourist and environmental location that combines the sea and the mountains. There are old houses in the sanctuary, in addition to tourist attractions located around the sanctuary, such as the Majlis Al Jin Cave, the Wadi Shab, Hawyat Najm Park, and several caves, such as the Mahafir Cave.
The local community residing in the sanctuary is an active one. It is conscious of the importance of maintaining the sanctuary; most of them work in grazing, as well as make handicrafts that use raw materials taken from the surrounding environment, such as date palm fronds. Locals also collect leaves of mountain thyme that grows in the mountains of the sanctuary. They dry them and sell them in the local markets. They also produce honey.
Talking about the efforts made by the Office for Conservation of Environment at the Diwan of Royal Court in taking care of the sanctuary, Dr. Sheikh Abdul Majid bin Saleh Al Darmaki, assistant director general of the Office said: “The Ras Al Shajar Sanctuary is one of the natural habitats that is taken care of by the Office for Conservation of Environment for its natural potential.”
He added that the office is keen to conduct many awareness-raising activities in the sanctuary, and engage with the local community in implementing those activities in order to familiarise them with the importance of environmental resources in the sanctuary, and the need to join hands to protect them and keep them safe.
He said to the ONA that 300 seedlings of wild Ghaf trees: Prosopis Cineteria, Acacaia Tortilis and Ziziphus Spina Christi have been planted in a suitable area in the sanctuary. The office also clearly demarcated the boundaries of the sanctuary, resulting in reduced poaching.