WILD KINGDOM The Jebel Akhdar, or Green Mountains, exert a mythical appeal both over locals and tourists. Every Omani will tell you how beautiful the mountains are, though few have actually made the day trip. Locals warn that it's risky to try to get to the fabled mountain villages, where terraced gardens bloom. They mention an unyielding police check-post, treacherous roads and hint at other, mysterious dangers. But my companions and I were not discouraged, not least because Arabs have a charming knack for hyperbole.

The three-hour drive from Muscat to the foothills alone is worth the trip....

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