Al Hoqain: a paradise of historical heritage

Wadi Al Hoqain creates gentle cascades as
it courses through the village

Few other places in Oman are endowed with such a bountiful concentration of mineral springs — some gentle, burbling streams, others a gushing torrent. Together with the splendid pools and waterfalls characteristic of this remote settlement, they have made a little oasis paradise of Al Hoqain amid the bleakness of the surrounding hilly countryside.

The larger of the two niyabats of Al Rostaq, the ancient town lies a short distance from Rostaq town. It's a half-hour's drive from Al Woshil, one of four routes leading to Al Hoqain (two other routes originate from Suwaiq, and another from Al Hazm). Twenty kilometres down this graded road, which cuts a swathe through the arid, undulating terrain, Al Hoqain looms into view.

It's a spectacular sight indeed, with the crumbling ruins of Al Hoqain fort dominating a landscape carpeted by sprawling date plantations. One of its central attractions is the perennially flowing Wadi Al Hoqain that courses through the main part of the village.


Cool springs emerge from granite sub-strata and
join forces with the main stream along its course

Sprawling date plantations dominate
the countryside


In many places, the wadi scythes through granite rock and, at one point, cascades down a height of 10 metres to form a natural 'waterfall' and collects in refreshingly cool pools that are a popular attraction with tourists and local townsfolk looking for a splashabout. Scores of cool springs emerge mysteriously from the granite sub-strata and join forces with the main stream along its course.

Along the upper ridges of the wadi flows the ancient Falaj al Siyadhi nourishing date plantations, fodder crops and other vegetation.Leaving the wadi, we venture deeper into the surprisingly verdant countryside where grass grows rich and luxurious. Residents believe that much of Al Hoqain sits on a shallow aquifer or myriad subterranean streams.

Water is so plentiful that the villagers here once used to grow wheat and three types of beans. It is no longer economically feasible to grow these crops, but some villagers still grow sugarcane and henna. There are thick groves of sidr growing here as well.In this verdant growth can be found the famous 'blue' pools of Al Khabah A'zarqa (actually green because of the underwater growth).


A splendid swathe of date palms carpets the landscape at Al Hoqain — Pictures by Abdullah Ibrahim al Shuhi

Little streams of water gather force culminating in a splendid 'waterfall' plunging 10 metres and collects in a large, deep pool beside a giant mango tree. Another stream takes the outflow deeper into the village, nurturing date plantations and other crops.

Another popular tourist location is the Umm Falaj al Bashman wadi where, along its course, are cool, crystal springs burbling out from the ground.

Many of these springs are found in the shade of trees thus making exciting campsites with your own private spring to boot.


Tourists come here in 4-wheel drive vehicles for a spot of adventure driving through the wadi, followed by a campout beside a crystal stream.Al Hoqain's numerous mineral springs and aflaj all add to its rustic appeal.

The niyabat has perhaps the largest number of such independent water sources. Some say that the ancient town may have got its name because of the sheer number of springs emerging from the rocky sub-strata. Even in the peak of summer, some springs still yield refreshingly cool water.

The yield is especially bountiful after showers in the area.On a hillock close to Umm Falaj al Bashman are the remains of an ancient settlement that, according to local legend, was inhabited by a tribe renowned for their strength. One night, the story goes, the menfolk slept on the wadi bed as usual.

Bragging about their legendary strength, they shrugged off warnings that the wadi had flooded upstream. Apparently, they were washed away by the raging waters, leading to the eventual demise of the settlement, it is believed. Throughout Al Hoqain are nuggets of antiquity, the origin of which still baffle historians and archaeologists.

In Wadi al Ma'aidin are examples of rock art featuring horsemen with spears. It is believed that the paintings depict an ancient battle that took place in Al Hoqain. Evidence of a thriving mining industry in antiquity has also been found at A'Sraifina in Al Hoqain. Slag heaps near ancient copper mines point to such activity dating back to the period when the Persians had occupied Oman, it is said.

There are steps descending into these mines, around which are several small caves as well.At Harat al Ail near Tawi al Bedu lies one of the oldest archaeological sites and the most fascinating of Al Hoqain's historical heritage. There are pre-Islamic, oval-shaped grave sites here of uncharacteristic length — 4 metres.

They lie close to a sprawling, ancient cemetery where the headstones are simple pieces of stone neatly laid out in rows. Very little is known about these people who lived here and now remain in eternal repose in the shade of ancient summer trees. Elsewhere in Al Hoqain are equally intriguing conical structures cobbled together with loose stones, dating back to pre-Islamic times.

On the outside, they look like plain piles of rock, but on the inside, they have a beehive-like appearance.Archaeologists surmise the structures are actually cleverly camouflaged observation posts set up for the security of camel caravans that plied these trading routes in antiquity.

© Adapted from Oman Observer. Nizwa.NET is not responsible for contents.