(Written with Titash Chakraborty)
No matter where you direct your eyes, there were only heaps and heaps of ruins. You climb up a stair and it will lead you to an abandoned room. The only few things that remained are scribbles on the walls and few items too insignificant to be carried to more modern and new homes.
The floors, in some parts, wobble. Others totally yielded to time and fell on the ground. What used to be kitchens have still darkened walls, a memory left behind by inhabitants who have spent a great deal of time cooking meals for their big families.
At some point, the Hara located in Birkat al Mawz was once home to 30 or more families. The roads are serpentine but they always led to another door of another home.
Outside, looking into this marvel surrounded by lush dates, the mud houses looked resilient but only in walking deeper into its core will one realise that doors had been stolen or moved, probably even sold, windows are now left open to the torture of the sun, roofs were crumbling and there was no soul in sight.
On top of the roof, it’s easy to understand why it has grown into a big community of connected mud houses. The 360 view is stunning, offering a green environment ideal for raising family, animals and even farm crops.
The falaj that waters the plants that surround the Hara still works. The water is still clear but the algae grew out of proportion. There were a few fishes fighting for dear life.
“I came here about 10 years ago. But the memories are still fresh in my mind,” Abdullah, Oman Daily Observer Chief, gushed.
We were on a quick detour after a conference. He was trying to show me the wonders of an ancient place he’d visited a long time ago and didn’t have a chance to see for quite some time. He gushed how they were very memorable because of how amazing they looked in the past. He said he was fond of this hara because it reminded him of a home he also grew up in.
For every room we checked, I can sense his longing for a different time. There was a pity in his eyes and a sense of disappointment that modernity has crept in at the expense of losing what was authentically Omani.
We would spend almost half an hour checking empty houses. For every new room offers a different view.
We would come to discuss the past, how although families were big, many of the children were lost to diseases and challenges of the environment. We discussed the ingenuity of the falaj, how the old people contoured the land to fit their needs.
It was a child of 10 who took us to the entrance. He was clueless about our interest. He looked at us with suspicion. But he showed us the way. Even he has no clue how long people have moved out.
There were several groups of tourists checking out the place as we made our way into the heart of the hara. They came with guides who tell them of its history. We chatted with one group who shared their enthusiasm for things that were lost. They too wished that things were preserved better.
Standing on top of one of the sturdy rooftops, we can see in the distance the thriving new communities. The houses were made of concrete and painted mostly white, they felt like they don’t belong to the serenity of the place.
We departed the place with sounds of our footwear being echoed on empty chambers. The past gives way to the present but just because things change for the better doesn’t mean the old lost its beauty.
This hara is a thing of beauty and for all its history and other things that you can learn from it, you got to see it for yourself.