The name Jebel Akhdar means “The Green Mountain”, a somewhat unlikely moniker, given the massif’s largely inhospitable terrain, with vast expanses of bare rock on which only the hardiest shrubs and ground plants are able to survive. The most convincing explanation for the unlikely name is that it refers to the days when the Saiq Plateau and other parts of the surrounding mountains were covered in a dense carpet of agricultural terracing, pieces of which can still be seen today below the villages of Al Ayn and Al Aqr. An alternative if slightly less convincing theory holds that the name derives from the colour of the limestone from which the mountains are formed, and which can take on a decidedly greenish coloration in certain lights – in complete contrast to the reddish ophiolite hills which surround the plateau to the east and south.
Further ambiguity surrounds the present use of the name. On maps, the name Jebel Akhdar is generally used to refer to the entire section of the Hajar mountains running west from the Sumail Gap as far as Jebel Shams. In practice, however, most locals (and local road signs) use the name to describe the area of mountains immediately north of Nizwa, around the Saiq Plateau (which is the sense used in this guide). The area further west, beyond Al Hamra, is usually described as Jebel Shams.