Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Muharram 7, 1446 H
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Roof Like a Sieve in the 1960s


The following is my English translation of an excerpt from “A Soldier from Oman: Memory’s Nectar” by (ret.) Inspector-General Said bin Rashid al Kalbani

When It Rained in Miskin

It used to rain heavier in the 1960 and 70s than it does today. You wouldn’t be able to stay indoors during the winter, as water leaked from the roof, which would be something of a sieve when there were heavy downpours. Added to that there were no protective covers, which made parts of the house like an open sky whose drops could fall on household belongings. We men would take shelter in caves and mosques, leaving the unaffected parts of the house for our women and children.

Our elderly were well versed in astrology, and my father was surely one of them. They would know the rainfall times. They would specify their share of falaj* water through star constellations and galaxies, and through the sun's movement at midday. They determined the sun's movement through human shadow, as measured by feet.

I learnt some such skills through my father. We would know that the appearance of a certain star would indicate a certain season. People would accordingly prepare themselves for work on their farmland. They would ready themselves for planting wheat (locally known as albur) through a process of al tareeq. Two weeks after the season, it would start to rain. I still remember the then well-known Omani singer Hamdan al Watani hailing the rain throughout the whole night:

“Hark hark

Water’s melody

In the rainy night”.

With Osefar.

We used to buy our food from the centre of Ibri and Al Khabourah. My father had a camel, known as Osefar, which carried our food from the two towns. I would sometimes go with Uncle Saif Al Kalbani, and at other times my father would go alone. I remember dealing with two people, Haider al Lawati and Khamis al Lawati. Nowadays it takes us less than one hour to get to Al Khabourah from our town in a comfortable air-conditioned car. With Osefar in a convoy, the journey would take, up and down, five days, and may as well extend to seven. How striking the comparison is!

We would go to Al Khabourah to sell our products, onion, garlic, dry lemon and honey, especially if the harvest was rich; and would come back carrying what we bought of rice, coffee, dry fish and clothes. The transactions would be carried out either by cash or by exchanging goods. We used to plant what was called alneel and sell it in other governorates.


* The local name for human made water tunnels in Oman. Aflaj have a complex structure of distribution. For details

see John C Wilkinson’s seminal book, Water and Tribal Settlement in South-East Arabia. A Study of the Aflaj of

Oman (Oxford, 1977) (the translator).

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