Thursday 27 July 2017
uk fr espanol
The Mysterious Caves of the Sultanate of Oman & the Arabian Leopards by Antoine Gigal
gigal research

Very rare and precious wonders are found in one of my favourite place in the Arabian peninsula in the magnificent still preserved Sultanate of Oman: Not only the Egyptian vulture and mountain gazelles but the last Arabian leopards (Panthera pardus nimr) mainly in the Dhofar mountains in the South. Even if much has been done to protect this so elegant and refined species there are only a few adult leopards remaining mostly in the beautiful Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve...

gigal research

And I like to think that: the magnificent arabian leopard, in the past widely distributed in all the Arabian Peninsula including in the egyptian Sinaï, choose the best and wildest spot in Oman not only to survive but to bless for ever its mountains. This kind of leopard is enchanting your eyes and even when you can’t see them their discrete presence somewhere in the wild is a foretaste of the paradise... I know that the national emblem of Oman is a khanjar dagger with spades but for me the secret one is this leopard with green amazing opal eyes…

gigal research
gigal research

As this leopard is blessing this land, it should be not a surprise that Oman contains extraordinary and unexpected mysterious things…For example the second largest underground caves in the world, and not the only one in the Sultanate... The greatest huge natural wonder: "Majlis Al jinns cave" where it is said that "up to 12 Boeing 727 can be contained" inside it !

Wishing to visit Majlis Al Jinns Cave, you will need professional guidance even if you are an expert of cave exploration, not only for the difficult access (needing 200m of specialized rope to descend) but also to know how to respect the special fragile ecosystem of the cave.

gigal research
PAWR report: Jin Majlis cave

This cave is located in the Selma plateau at 1.380 meters above sea level and if you know my work you will understand that this data is the most important for me because it could have been a good shelter in the past. It is still not explained and very mysterious how such a giant cave (and the 11.5 km long caves system nearby) formed in Selma Plateau because it is too small (20 km²) to collect large amount of rainwater... That's why I was so interested to visit for my research. Some experts said that it could have been formed even several million years ago, when local geology was different... Last humid period in Oman peaked some 7,000 years ago and then cave formation processes became much slower.

gigal research

Imagine that the Ceiling is up to 120 m high,like a 35 floors tall building and that the floor area of the chamber is 58,000 m², measuring about 310 metres by225 metres,volume is approximately 4,000,000 cubic metres... Also I am sure that lower chambers exists even if debris are blocking passage...

Some of the other interesting caves in Oman are the Jebel Akhdar massif, Kahf Huti or Hoota (the longest known cave in Oman that stretches upto five kilometers), several caves in Jebel Bani Jabir, Kitam Cave, near Ibri contains rare and very beautiful gypsum flowers and fibrous crystals moving in the air like hair formed by rainwater...

gigal research
Al Hoota cave

Al Hoota Cave contains a rich ecosystem that includes two lakes, one is a small northern lake and the otherone is the central lake. You can see in shades of pink and gold, structures which have evolved over millions of years : stalactites and stalagmites.The underground lake estimates to be holding 30,000 m³of water. The main lake is 800 m long and 10 m wide, with a maximum depth of 15m, where you can find rare blind fish “garra barreimiae”. This cave homes over 100 animal species including bats, endemic beetles and other rare and interesting ones.This cave is estimated to be over 2 million years old and there are many offshoots to the main tunnel and so far only 5km have been charted by experienced cavers! But a part of this one is developed for tourists with remote control lights.

gigal research
Karstic Sinkhole in Oman

There are also a lot of interesting Sinkholes that are natural openings in the surface that lead to caves,and they are often part of a cave whose ceiling has collapsed. Very interesting to map from outside the underground network...

gigal research
Hajjar Mountains

I am happy to make comparisons between some plateaux in the Middle East area with the one of Giza that I know by heart and to find any trace of ancient hydraulic systems and technologies of the past that enabled survival, and any ancient improvement in terms of daily living and energy, all process and technology they used in harmony with nature...

Mazoon, another name used for the region, is derived from the word muzn, which means heavy clouds which carry abundant water: again we are facing an ancient very green area alike Giza...

It is interesting that the Jinn cave was discovered by a scientist in 1973, "accidently" thanks to a drawing of an old manuscript dating from the third century AD found in a library in Los Angeles and that this text describing exciting fairy facts prompted the researcher to mount an expedition... I proceed a little similar except that the texts I consult are much older and in ancient Egyptian and that I'm on the ground in Egypt quite permanently...

gigal research

Also ancient Sumerian tablets more than 4,000 years old refer to a country called Magan or Makan, a name believed to refer to Oman's ancient copper and diorite mines and a text around 1800 B.C. even mentions a 20-ton shipment from "Magan" and describes "Dilmun and Magan" as "countries beyond the lower sea," (Dilmun has been identified as Bahrain by the archaeologist Bibby who has spent 25 years studying the Gulf). For me if we cross the etymology of the name "Makkan"with the ancient egyptian one the result is: "The Place","The socle-receptacle" and may refer more specifically to a plateau and an interesting one for its underground content...

Oman's early settlers were Neolithic pastoralists and seafaring people who worked trade routes from Mesopotamia to the Indus Valley. North of the confluence of a small waterway and Wadi al Hijr, there are stone 'towers', structures that are very representative of the first Bronze Age in the Oman peninsula. One of the towers has been entirely excavated and it has been determined that it was built between 2595 BC and 2465 BC. 21 tombs from the 3rd millennium, aligned on a rocky crest that stands out in the superb mountainous landscape of Jebel Misht to the north, are in a good state of preservation and it forms the most complete collection of settlements and necropolises from the 3rd millennium B.C. in the world and is a protected World Heritage.

gigal research
the world Heritage Site in el Ayn, Oman.

For the archaeology, the geology: I am sure that Oman has exceptional secrets that have not been discovered yet, and probably in the most remote corners of this magnificent Sultanate: only some rare leopards already know what is still hidden to the view...A path emerges for me to stay longer in the future...

Text and Photos ©AntoineGigal2013

Gigal Research 2013 - 2015