A lost boy in the garden of Job

By Yeru Ebuen — The heat was piercing through the barely tinted car windows. I can feel the sun burning my already brown skin. We were told that the best time to visit Nabi Ayoub — Job’s tomb — was during Khareef but already there for a different purpose, my two companions thought it would be a waste not to visit it when we already have the time. We drove for around 30 minutes to get to the site.  From our hotel, the drive felt like we were going up. My readings of various travel sites said that the tomb was located in Jabal Al Qar, there were some others saying different things and for all the confusing information, I was thankful that the offline GPS we were using was useful enough to help us locate the site without a problem.
The drive wasn’t difficult. And it wasn’t as touristy as we hope it will be in April. The grasses were more dead than the alive. The heat the culprit for their near demise. There were a few people of different nationalities when we got there and just as a bunch of Pakistanis were leaving, a family of European were also on their way.
“The view out here during Khareef is to die for,” I would later overhear from a group of Caucasians who were on their way back to their car.
At the entrance, a couple of guys were selling guavas — the sweet smell of their product a welcome interruption to the otherwise sweaty smell of summer. From afar, it was easy to spot the two structures inside the site. One is a flat-roofed mosque with single minaret and the other, the tomb, was a small structure with a dome right at the center.
Just like the crinkly grasses along the way, the garden surrounding the mosque and the tomb were hanging for dear life. Except for the red bougainvillea’s that are flourishing under the summer heat and few trees including some lemons, the rest were a monotonous brown.
Before I even got to Oman, Job’s tomb has been the top attraction I’d like to visit. Popular travel website, Lonely Planet, got it right when it said, “In religious terms, this tomb is probably the most important site in Dhofar.”
A concrete room stands at one side of the building that houses the tomb. It is laden with carpets and the caretaker explained that it was used for prayer.
At the entrance’s wall, written in bold was the reminder that footwear is not allowed inside.
There was also a well-like structure on the entrance. Peering through it, one will find a footprint believed to be that of Job himself. The well is dry but local stories said that water use to run from it and through God’s grace, He allowed that the water run from the bottom of the mountain going right up to well were Job pressed his feet.
The structure that houses the tomb is about 4 metres long and 2 metres wide. On the walls hanging were some frames written in Arabic. There was also a poster showing the genealogy of Job. A golden chandelier hangs on top of the tomb and the tomb itself was covered with a green satin sheet.
If you’re one of them who reads Trip Advisor, you would have seen some reviews that call the site underwhelming and perhaps, a comment saying they expected more. I think few of these reviewers forget some key facts — Job existed a really long time ago where grand structures weren’t a thing yet and second, that not all historically important sites should be judged according to their enormity.
Sitting at the far corner of the building, people flowed like water. Although there were a limited number of them, they just kept on coming. It was also easy to spot the tourists from the believers and pilgrims.
Those who admire Job, who sees him as a prophet or as a good Christian example, bow down their head and take moments of silence. Several of them spend several minutes sitting on the floor. Some settled with just touching the tomb itself. The regular tourists just come, take a few photos and nonchalantly leave. There was nothing special about the place for them. It is them who I suspected would come out empty after visiting the site.
I didn’t come as a pilgrim during my visit nor did I intend for the visit to be religious in nature. But I grew up with Job’s story. Although there are a few differences as to how Christians and Muslims view Job, the common denominator is that Job is a man of God, he went through a difficult ordeal — a really mind-numbing trial — and came out triumphant.
The version of Job’s story that was most popular to me is that after he passed his test, he flourished. His health and his wealth were restored — made even better.
But I come to learn the other version that is closer to the hearts of the locals. On this story, Job travelled far right into the open arms of Salalah. Here, he settled and it was here where he died buried on the grounds of what would eventually become Nabi Ayoub.
Ayoub’s tomb isn’t grand. It isn’t the pyramid and it isn’t the Taj Majal. In our little village, Job is an inspiration and it is for story like his that we struggle every day to lead a good life. His life has relevance to us more than the Taj Mahal does.
Outside of Job’s tomb is the garden overlooking the picturesque landscape of Salalah. In that garden, I was a lost boy checking out if there was anything exciting about Job’s garden.
There’s not much there except a couple of trees and the brown, dead grasses. But in a hot afternoon, the smell of guava still pervading the air, the sound of a soft breeze whispering in my ear, it was a treasurable moment, one my childhood friends — those I grew up with listening to the story of one ‘Job’ will be excited to hear about.