The last of the original inhabitants moved out early this year making the ancient village of Wajma totally abandoned.
The farms though continue to operate with the owners entrusting their gardens and crops to Bangladeshi and Pakistani hired helps. Elevated at 2,000 metres above sea level, the road to the top is circuitous, unpaved and rocky that a driving mistake can prove to be catastrophic. But it is a scenic drive reminding you a lot of the beautiful rocky roads of Jabal Shams. Some vantage points offer an astounding view of the villages below.
I learned of Wajma from the daily posts of Mazin al Abri (@mazin_al.abri on Instagram) — the last of the inhabitants who moved to the nearby flatland. His daily posts are captivating offering a 10-second snippet of what this gem of Rustaq has to offer.
On some days, he will be out in the wild and eating fruits freshly plucked from the trees. On other days, he is carefully transferring honey to a bottle from homes of wild bees he found in some old trees. But daily, he will showcase the gentle waterfall found at the far corner of the village, the emerald cistern where water is collected from the falaj becoming an inviting pool ideal for cliff diving and swimming. It is a life so different yet so relatable and it is the kind of adventure you will want to do in Oman.
When we visited the place in February this year, it was just as how I envisioned it. It was a charming little village and typical of the many mountain villages in Oman survive in farming. There are date palms all over and the terraced gardens were planted with onions and garlic. It is a hard life without any school or medical facilities. Thankfully though there was water and light.
The houses, surprisingly, are restored. They are not crumbling like other abandoned villages. We will learn later that some of the inhabitants actually visit on weekends, stay there for a day or two before going back to the city. They come for a visit but will not return to live their permanently.
If you are a tourist, there are plenty of things to see in Wajma. These attractions offer clues as to how the residents lived and thrived.
At the far corner of the village, just like in Mazin’s daily posts, beyond the cistern where the water is collected, pots are still hanging by the rocks collecting the trickle of water coming from the mountain wall. It is cold and crystal-clear and whatever overflows go to the falaj which also ends up watering the farms.
There are also different hiking trails offering an even better view of the canyon in this side of the Al Hajjar Mountain range, and yes, the view is just as impressive.
The stone and mud houses are all empty. At its peak, it was home to more than 300 people. Houses were built on cliffs that from below, you wonder how it would have felt living perched in what seemed to be a precarious condition.
Walking through the village and climbing one of the rooftops, you would come to understand why a town flourished here despite its remoteness. The ancient settlement’s location is perfect as the mountains protect the village from strong winds while the other side offers a fantastic view of their farms and the adjacent mountains.
Sunsets and sunrises here are incomparable, and for people who love being with nature, it is a perfect place to find peace and quiet as well as exceptional outdoor adventures.
When I first wrote about Wajma, I compared it to Macchu Picchu. Many points make me think so — the iconic mountain, the ancient settlement, the terraced gardens, it seems like the inhabitants copied from each other’s books.
Our discovery of Wajma has offered an amazing alternative to places to escape to when in Oman. With the proper renovation and further development, perhaps, a coffee shop and a restaurant that offers traditional Omani food even a bed and breakfast with a traditional Omani feel, Wajma will become one of Rustaq’s major attractions.
Friends of Mazin had been encouraging him to do so — build something, create an attraction, let people live the life he led. Right now, he seemed adamant. But in time, he will also realize that his place has so much to offer and once he finally makes the jump and make it a reality and build something up in Wajma, I will be one of the firsts to stay there or eat in his restaurant. And I will definitely come back too.