Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Jaredite Direction of Travel – Part VI – The Animals Left Behind

Khor Rori lies against the coast of Southern Arabian Peninsula along the Sea of Arabia. It is a sweetwater khor inlet (creek). It has several unique properties that make it the perfect match for where the Jaredites arrived at the Great Sea as well as later being Lehi’s Bountiful along the Irreantum Sea.
While the rest of Oman and southern Saudi Arabia melt in the weltering summer heat, the Salalah Gerbeeb, a small area of Dhofar, experiences a unique drizzling mist, gushing springs and emerald green mountains
    Having arrived at this spot, no doubt exhausted and weary of wilderness travel, the Jaredites settled down and spent four years. This shore area, called the Garbeeb (a flat plain) is isolated from the desert, over which they traveled, by the Qara Mountains, and when the monsoon (mawsim) winds and rains move in off the coast, it bathes this plain with moisture that creates a veritable paradisiacal flatland that would easily have beckoned to the Jaredites after their lengthy fatiguing travel.
    This seasonally reversing southeastern wind, called the monsoon, is referred to as the khareef, an Arabic word meaning “autumn,” but a term meaning much more when used in southern Oman for the monsoon, between May and September, with its residue lasting into November. Geologists link this condition to the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau after the collision of the Indian Sub-continent—during Peleg’s time when the earth was divided, thus having existed since before the Jaredite era. This is borne out by long-duration sediment records and marine plankton studies from the South China Sea.
    During this atmospheric circulation and precipitation of the seasonally-changing pattern coming off the Sea of Arabia, the brown landscape of Salalah and its surroundings is completely transformed into a beautiful lush green, today prompting locals and tourists alike to flock to the area during these months.
    Also today, the towns there, like Salalah and al Balid, depend on this annual Khareef to supply rain that turns everything green, rain that sprouts grass everywhere and ripens the fruits, such as coconuts, bananas, papayas, etc., and not only brings cool temperatures, but lends beauty to the area, and brings life itself. The Gerbeeb becomes covered with lush green vegetation during Khareef and lakes form along with occasional waterfalls and mountains sometimes obscured with fog.
Flocks, herds or trains of Feral (wild) camels roam throughout the Garbeeb, from along the highways to high in the hills
    When the Jaredites arrived, they came by camel, crossing about 2000 miles of desert, and when they left in their barges, it is likely that some of their camels were left behind after four years of multiplying. Over the millennia since, these feral camels have multiplied to such an extent that they roam wild throughout the Garbeeb and in the foothills, especially where the wadis run and particularly along the streets, creating a growing problem for the government. They graze along the roads and highways and move right out into the middle of the road without hesitation, causing severe traffic problems and dangerous driving situations.
Yellow Arrow: Where the Jaredites likely settled, back from the shore where the Valley Dirbat flowed with lakes and rivers and where trees abounded, with easy access down the Wadi Dirbat to Khor Rori below the foothills. Note the circled area of Tawi Atayr to the east of Dirbat
    Another interesting residue of the Jaredites are the birds in the area. When the Lord had the Jaredites travel northward into the Valley of Nimrod, “they did also lay snares and catch fowls of the air” (Ether 2:2). Obviously, like all living things, during the four years at the seashore, these birds would have multiplied to such a degree there would have been many left behind out of necessity when the Jaredites boarded their barges to cross the Great Deep.
    Today, many of the descendants of these birds fill the land. In the Tawi Atayr (Attair) Sinkhole, sitting 680-feet above sea level, one of the largest known sinkholes in the world, 492 feet across and 692 feet deep, it is the home to literally thousands upon thousands of birds nesting in the crevices, cracks, holes and ledges along its sheer vertical walls. In fact, it is known locally as the “Well of the Birds,” because of the numbers and their happy-sounding birdsong that constantly emanates from its depths, and has since ancient times.
In addition, the Yemen serin bird (left), found specifically in the Tawi Atayr, is a species of finch in the Fringillidae family, that has a restricted range of southern Oman, western Yemen, and southwest Arabia. These seed-eating Fringillidae finch songbirds are also found in Mesopotamia.
    This karst sinkhole is the result of irregular limestone along barren, rocky ground that has eroded, producing fissures, subterranean streams, caves and caverns in an underground drainage system that creates aquifers—a perfect result of the dissolution of soluble rocks resulting from the Great Flood when the roof collapsed under the weight of the water and formed the hole.
The Taw Atayr Sinkhole, filled with birds and in its great depth, a water table filled with unique fish not found elsewhere. Top: The sheer sides of the sinkhole; Bottom: The Upper Ledge
    At the bottom of the sinkhole, nearly 700 feet below the surface, in the water table are found fish named Garra Dunsirei, a species of ray-finned fish in the Cyprinidae family found only in this sinkhole. The fish has small eyes and seems to have weak vision,and in the total darkness of the sinkhole, the fish uses its tentacles for sensing. It is pale yellow in color and measures three to six centimeters long. The existence of this fish is relict from the times when climate in the area was different and permanent streams and lakes existed. One might wonder where that unique species of fish, found nowhere else in the modern world, originated.
Top Left: Sinkhole more than two football fields across at the top; Top Right: The sheer sides of the sinkhole. Note the vegetation is dry and brown—the photos were taken during the dry season, not during khareef as those above; Bottom: the Garra Dunsirei, new species of fish
    This area not long after the Jaredites left became known for its Frankincense trade, spawning several ancient settlements called Al Balid, Sumhuram, Shisr, and Dawkah, and has since been named “Land of Frankincense.” Today, it is still well known for the quality and quantity of frankincense it produces. From the north, along the route the Jaredites would have traveled to reach Salalah, was the Oasis of Shisr (Shasar, originally Wubar), 111-miles north of the sea, and then Thumrait, 90 miles from the sea, both situated in the desert where Frankincense was transported north by camel train from the Garbeeb. The Wadi Dawkah (Dawqa—Frankincense Park) lies along the trail from Thumrait, about 12 miles north of the sea, and is the last desert oasis traveling south before reaching the Dhofar mountains, and Salalah.
    It is interesting that the animals the Jaredites left behind are evident in the hills and along the Plain they called Moriancumer where they stayed, since when the Jaredites reached this area, there would have been no one there, and too soon after the Flood for such animals to have reached the area on their own.
(See the next post, “Jaredite Direction of Travel – Part VII – The Wadi Dirbat and the Baobab Forest, to see where the Jaredites found the wood for their barges and how the vessels were made)

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