TEXT BY MICHAEL D’SOUZA
PHOTOS BY MICHAEL D’SOUZA & SHEHAN MCGRATH
We entered the settlement through a huge arch door and were immediately welcomed by a signboard stating the history of the place.
It reads: “Welcome to Harat al Siybani, Birkat Al Mouz’s historical settlement that was last rebuilt in the 17th Century. Comprising 50 abandoned houses, it has narrow passages, staircases and three entrances with the falaj irrigation channel amazingly passing through. People inhabited the Harat until the early years of the 21st Century.”
This notice says nearly all one has to know about this quiet and beautiful place.
There were three of us who decided to explore and capture some memories of this historical settlement.
I along with my wife Betty and my photo-buddy Shehan McGrath, (from Friday-Shootout Muscat) started from Muscat at 5 am (well before sunrise).
Birkat Al Mouz is about 90-minute drive from Muscat. It is a small oasis town in Al Dakhiliyah Governorate, very close to Nizwa city.
The key settlement controlling access to the Jabal Al Akhdhar mountains, anyone going to the Green Mountain must pass through this village.
We must have been to Jabal Al Akhdhar several times in the past but never thought of exploring this beautiful oasis town, which is abundantly blessed with date palm plantations.
The oasis of Birkat Al Mouz has three old settlements, namely Harat al Siybani, Harat al Wadi and Harat al Makasir.
I love visiting historical places, especially old villages and ruins, hence after I saw some pictures of this old settlement on social media, I could not stop myself from visiting Harat al Siybani.
Also as an added attraction to the place, a new cafe, ‘Bait Al Sabah’ adorns the entrance of the old settlement. This cafe is operating from renovated buildings of the old settlement.
Since the ruins of the old village are located on the hillside, one needs to cautiously climb the narrow pathways and steep steps for there are loose rocks and rubble along the way. Also, be careful entering the houses as you might be in for a nasty surprise, where the floor may give way under you.
But once you get past all these obstacles and reach the dilapidated tower at the top of the hill, you will just be in awe of the view that awaits you. After you have had your fill of the views, you could take a break at the restaurant and enjoy breakfast or just a hot brew. Then take a stroll through the winding falaj and date farms, enjoying the greenery and cool and pleasant weather.
Birkat Al Mouz is worth a visit. Don’t just pass this place whilst travelling to Jabal Al Akhdhar, do explore its beauty and history.
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