I thought of taking a drive in this Eid holiday to sample a simple life and my short travel ended in Wadi Bani Ghafir in Rustaq.
I watched a little girl holding the hand of an old woman and walking with her to the edge of the wadi. She placed a mat on the sand and then asked the woman to sit down on it. Then the little girl adjusted the scarf of the old lady around the neck and down her chest. She also smoothed down the top half of her clothing and pulled it down.
Then I noticed she had a little bag with her. She unzipped it, pulled out a couple of bottles and placed them on the mat. She looked up at the old woman and smiled brightly at her. As I was wondering what the content of the bottles were, she quickly satisfied my inquisitiveness when she picked one of them and squeezed what appeared to be lotion on her hand.
She rubbed her hands together and started massaging the feet of the old woman. She did it with such gentleness that the movement of her hands deeply captivated my curiosity. She could not be a day older than eight. The old woman, easily well in her nineties, must have been her great-grand mother. That is the usual age gap between the youngest generation and oldest in the rural Oman. As she kept massaging her feet, she occasionally stole a
look at the older woman’s wrinkly face.
There was a look of delight, deep gratitude and satisfaction having a little girl working on her feet in the solitude of the almost deserted Wadi Bani Ghafir at that time of the day. I looked around me. There were only three of us there. The two, with the spanning generation of about 90 years between them, live there but I felt I was an intruder trying to steal precious moments from their peaceful routine. It was right there and then I made a comparison between the city life and that of a typical village.
Life in the city is just an existence to earn a crust of bread, hectic and almost chaotic as we try to outsmart one another. It is a never-ending battle of egos and superiorities that knows no bounds. They live a life in rural areas the way it should be lived without making any sacrifices with their deep-rooted values. While the clock is always ticking in the city, the villagers make time stand still whenever they want. The way it was standing still when I was watching the two of them sitting on the mat at the edge of the peaceful water.
That little child, had she lived in the city, would have easily locked herself in her room and tinker around with a mobile phone. But in the village, they prefer the openness of the nature and the opportunity to take care of their older relatives. They learn the life basics early and in first-hand experience, unlike their counterparts in Muscat preferring to pick up the virtual reality knowledge from the social media.
How I wished at that moment time would stand still to erase all the disappointments of the city in me. I diverted my attention away from them to the trickling of water rolling down the face of a rock and dropping into the wadi. I watched every drop making a small splash on the clear water. The ripples made circles that spread in different directions. I was there long enough to watch the sun moving half way to the west, stretching the shadows of the trees on the wadi water, longer.
I also hanged around long enough to see the little girl helping her great-grand mother on her feet. With a giggle, she danced around her playfully before leading her towards their house behind a line of mango and lime trees. It was then I made my way back to Muscat to the madness of the chaotic life.
Saleh Al Shaibany