Oman: Al-Hamra, Misfat – Ancient Country of Desert and Green Oases
Four centuries ago, migrating northern Arab tribes settled in the mountains around Nizwa, a conservative Islamic city on the edge of the desert called Empty Space. This area was said to have been called Mezoun in ancient times - "full of running water". It is a paradise country, where even date palms grow in the mountains, because they have plenty of water and heat. Here, near the highest mountains of Oman, the Al-Abri tribe settled, and under the stone massif of rocks, the village of Al-Hamra al-Abreyeen was born from clay. Unfired clay is an ancient building material that people have used since time immemorial. The 400-year-old houses, whose ceilings are made of palm trunks and leaves, are among the oldest in Oman. But old Al-Hamra is lifeless today and is falling apart. The dry Omani climate testifies to the clay buildings, but without regular repairs, the condition of the houses deteriorates. Thanks to advantageous state programs, the inhabitants have recently built new houses in the valley, and a modern city is expanding next to the dead old town. If you look at Al-Hamra from a vantage point, you are fascinated by the contrast of the mountains, the oasis and the clay city.
Hundreds of meters above, hidden behind the rocks, is another seat of the Al-Abri tribe - Misfat Al-Abreyeen, a mountain oasis full of stone built from stone. Upon arrival, you may notice signs to cover your shoulders and knees, as conservative people still live here. Here we can see the unique Aflaj irrigation system. Aflaj is a system of five ancient irrigation canals called fales, inscribed on the UNESCO list and built since 500 AD. In Oman, there are now 3,000 irrigation canals, which automatically divert water flowing from the underground into agricultural fields and villages. Archaeological finds suggest that this system already existed around 2500 BC. We walk along the canals in the shade of palm trees, there is complete peace here when we hear the call to prayer. It is an extraordinary experience in an oasis like a fairy tale. The green date palms contrast sharply with the surrounding yellow-brown arid rocks, from which springs a huge spring, which is the source of all local life.
I highly recommend combining this trip with a visit to the famous Nizwa and Bahla Castle. The very journey by car is a great adventure. Along the way, you can meet camels roaming the road. And you will not just experience that in Europe.
Text and photos: Veronika Kocmanová
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