Cracked walls, crumbling roofs, peeled-off plaster and broken doors… this is the state of ancient houses in Al Mudhaibi, one of the biggest wilayats in the Sultanate. The formidable towers and houses, built from stone and limestone more than 400 years ago, are giving in to the vagaries of nature. Surrounded by high mountains and farms, the old town, as in other areas of the country, is designed to reflect the Arabic and Islamic construction. Its main entrances, decorated doors and windows reflect the old Omani architecture. These houses are currently in a pathetic condition with roofs having collapsed, and doors and windows broken.
Hundreds of Arabic and Islamic books written hundreds of years ago lie on the floor and covered by a thick layer of dust. Hundreds of letters received by locals from Omanis who moved to nearby countries lie neglected. On the other hand, many old houses are occupied by Asian workers. The place is full of liquid and solid waste. Locals are upset. “It looks more like a dump site and the authorities are not paying any attention,” said a local. “We have been trying to ask the local community to come up with a solution. We are thinking of contacting the authorities and starting a restoration programme. We aim at rebuilding these houses. We have received some positive response,” he said.
While the locals suggest promoting these towns as a tourist attraction, they are also looking at some financial support from the private sector. The town, located in the heart of Al Mudhaibi, is surrounded by several tunnels. These passageways are used by residents to reach the main commercial area. During a visit, items such as books and clothes were found — proof that many houses were abandoned by owners only a few years ago. Fearing a collapse, they left their houses that had developed cracks. On a positive note, the locals are happy that the government is encouraging owners to pay attention to ancient properties and preserving them in order to promote tourism.
Text and Pictures by YAHYA AL SALMANI