Al Suwaiqs fine date palm heritage
palm trees in Al Suwaiq, with the fort in the
background. Picture by Khamis al
tour of Al Suwaiq, just a short drive
from the capital area, makes for a fine introduction to the green
landscapes of the Batinah region. This coastal wilayat, with its vast
heritage of date palm groves and fruit orchards, and palm-fringed
beaches dotted with atmospheric fishing villages, promises a memorable
holiday in sylvan surroundings. Al Suwaiq is just 136km from Muscat,
as you drive along the Batinah highway towards Sohar. Turn right at
Al Suwaiq roundabout to reach the centre of the wilayat, just 3km
away. Much of the wilayat's verdancy lies in a wide swathe along its
42km-long coastline. Away from the coast, this lush stretch gives
way to sparse shrub land that sweeps all the way to mountainous countryside
west of the wilayat.
mountains spawn a host of wadis, including Wadi al Haylayn and Wadi
al Hoqain, which meander through the Batinah plain and eventually
meet the Gulf of Oman coast. En route they replenish scores of underground
aquifers whose bounty is siphoned out by numerous wells that nourish
Al Suwaiq's date palm and fruit garden heritage. Run-off into the
Gulf of Oman is minimal as the wadis in this area are very broad,
allowing for much of the water to percolate down to aquifers below.
Water wells are especially copious at Batha Hilal, Batha Dhiyan and
Batha al Ghalil where the wadis meet the Gulf of Oman coast.
multitude of gardens that cover the coastal plains here are watered
by wells alone, the traditional falaj being something of a rarity
in these parts. However, some aflaj can be found in tiny mountain
villages like Al Haylayn, Al Mabrah and Badt located deep in the wilayat's
rugged heart. A tour of the wilayat begins at Al Suwaiq's famous fort,
which overlooks the blue expanse of the Gulf of Oman waters. A grand
maritime pageant, organised as part of the recent Eid-al-Adha celebrations
graced by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, was held in the vicinity of this
striking edifice. It was a spectacular show that sought to highlight
the wilayat's rich seafaring traditions and glorious maritime heritage.
modern ports became a feature of Oman's northern coast, it was routine
for large seagoing ships to anchor off Al Suwaiq, allowing for passengers
to embark or disembark. Small boats ferried passengers to and from
these ships as the villagefolk laid out an elaborate reception or
farewell depending whether they were arriving or leaving. This tradition
is today recounted in Al Suwaiq's fine heritage of folk dances notably
the Al Shobany, Al Medaima and Al Liwa.
fact the wilayat's rich lore includes a total of 22 folk dances such
as the Al Razha, Al Medan, Al Mekwarah, Al Khabar Yozain and Al Ay'yalah.
Bull-fighting, sans the glamour and gore that surrounds the Spanish
version of this sport, is another traditional pursuit in Al Suwaiq.
Prize bulls from around the wilayat and other parts of the Batinah
region are brought here by pickup to take part in weekly fights staged
close to the seafront in places like Al Bawarah, Al Tharmad, Khadra,
Al Ghalil, Dhiyan and Al Hajrah in the wilayat. People gather around
in a ring to watch the snorting contenders lock horns and butt each
are no trophies for the winning bull, but the owner walks away with
his personal prestige considerably enhanced and a higher price tag
on his bull.Much of Al Suwaiq's charm lies in its splendid heritage
of date palm gardens, where the Al Manuma and Al Sellani varieties
of the fruit grow in abundance. Strolling through this lush canopy
can be invigorating, but there are motorable trails as well that lead
to little hamlets nestled amid these rustic surroundings.
this idyllic setting you can see rural life unfolding all around you
of farmers busy in their gardens harvesting dates, of brightly
clad womenfolk tending goats, or of young men rushing to the souq
with baskets of fresh vegetables. Along the seafront are peaceful
fishing villages, with boats lined up in neat rows on the shore. Between
villages you can find sandy stretches that offer solitude and the
opportunity of a refreshing dip in the waters of the Gulf of Oman.
Adapted from Oman Observer.