The 90 or so meticulously crafted stone towers scattered across the Selma Plateau are tombs dating back to the Umm An Nar culture of 2000 to 2700 BC. Standing about 3m tall and conical in shape, they command a dramatic position on the edge of the plateau and provoke plenty of unanswered questions. Local belief has it they were built by the spirit Kebir Keb – as good a way as any of describing the collective consciousness of the ancients.
Jaylah is a rewarding destination as much for the journey as the tombs, striking as they are: the route curves through crumbling cliffs and past remote mountain villages in a region that is still very seldom visited. Myriad car tracks thread from village to village on the top of the plateau, and numerous small communities survive on very little on the more or less barren plain. Until relatively recently the only access to many of these villages was by foot, with an occasional helicopter bringing supplies and/or health officials.
Parts of the same mountain range are home to rare species of goat, including the tahr and the Arabian ibex, and lucky visitors may just spot a gazelle or two grazing the plateau.