Old town of Qalhat needs attention

The ancient town of Qalhat is ranked one of the top tourist spots in the Sultanate. Yet, suffers from several problems, including water crisis and those related to preservation of archaeological sites.
During a recent visit, it was learned this small town was suffering from severe water shortage.
While climate is one of the reasons, locals feel the issue can be resolved by devising a plan to maintain the traditional irrigation system.
Beside the old irrigation system, Falaj al Auwaynah’, there are more than eight warm water ‘spas’ surrounded its farms.
Ain al Auwaynah, which feeds Wadi al Auwaynah and Wadi al Ghail, draws many visitors.
In addition, Jab

al Qani, which means Qani Mountain, is a reliable source of fresh honey in the Sultanate.
It also hosts rare species of animals often spotted by locals, farmers and environmentalists. The most common are: Ibex, gazelles and foxes.
Different species of birds, especially Sun Bird, vultures and eagles can also be found.
“This rich biodiversity can be affected because of lack of water and unstable climate condition,” warned an environmentalist.
Their solution: Following the falaj’s route. “There are several cracks in the water source. Parts of it have already collapsed. Therefore, a huge amount of water is going waste as the falaj channel has been leaking for a long time, resulting in r

educed in reduced water levels. That’s the reason our farms are suffering,” said Talal al Hasani and Yahya al Mashari. In  Qalhat, locals depend on farming for their livelihood.
For more than 10 years, Al Hasani and Al Mashari have been working as volunteers, trying to serve the local community.
“We have been trying to preserve our traditional irrigation system. All members of our community are supporting our initiative. We all hold clean-up campaigns. The latest activity we did was in 2016,” they said.
According to them, what they have done reflects their personality, which is influenced by their religion’s values.
“We collected a huge amount of rubbish from the falaj. This has helped improve the performance of the water system. Water level is rising too. However, farmers faced the same issue (water crisis) again,” they said.
The duo said the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, a few years ago, had taken part in the maintenance task for the irrigation source.
While thanking the authorities for contributing to reviving the irrigation system, they are now raising the issue again to get “new support”. Qalhat is surrounded by mountains and farms.
It has formidable towers and old houses built 300 years ago with stone and clay.
Bait al Teen (House of Clay) is one of oldest houses in the town.
Like other old towns around the Sultanate, they reflect the Arabic and Islamic construction.
In addition, there are several cemeteries that resemble circled tombs.
An archaeological site shows one of the historical periods of human settlement in the town.
The fence that is expected to protect these graves is broken. “These can disappear soon if prompt remedial attention is not taken by the authorities,” said the volunteers.
“Unfortunately, many houses are in a pathetic condition with collapsed roofs and broken doors/windows. Houses were abandoned by owners long ago. We have been trying to ask the local community to come up with a solution,” they said.
They plan to organise a special restoration programme to protect the area.
But it needs official permission as well as financial support.
“Locals are enthused as the government has been encouraging owners to pay attention to preserving ancient properties in order to promote tourism,” they added.
Many tourists were found trekking by the ‘falaj’ channel route.
They were relaxing and having short breaks in water pools, while others were roaming around, trying to capture the beauty of landscape, houses and forts.
While locals welcomed tourists and provided them with information about the town, they feel embarrassed as many heritage sites and water resources are in a bad shape. “We request the authorities to give priority to the matter,” they said.

YAHYA AL SALMANI –