JABAL al Akhdhars stone houses are a vestige of the primitive
existence of inhabitants of the Green Mountain before
the benefits of the Sultanates modern Renaissance began
reaching these remote and rugged hills.
of these settlements dot the mountainous countryside, the vast
majority abandoned for the comfort and convenience of modern dwellings
that have since sprung up in their shadow.
hamlets are a ubiquitous
in Al Jabal al Akhdhar.
these atmospheric settlements offer a peek into the hardy lifestyles
of the inhabitants of these mountains and their strong kinship
with nature. Apart from the goats that sometimes shelter within
them, these stone hamlets attract tourists and researchers as
well, keen to study the primitive architecture and construction
techniques of past generations.
the most striking of the Green Mountains ancient settlements
is the stone hamlet in Dhan al Bisateen, some 15km from Saih Qatanah,
the administrative centre of Al Jabal al Akhdhar.
The settlement clings to the precipitous edge
of a ravine, offering some protection from the chilly winds that
sweep through these mountains in winter. Temperatures are known
to plunge to 5 degrees Celsius minus in winter.
with the nimbleness of mountain goats descend the mountains
edge to reach the settlement, which consists of a cluster of houses
built with rock and a traditional mud plaster called saruj. Some
of these houses have been set into the recess of caves for added
protection against the elements.
houses provide protection against the severe winter cold
Primitive as they may seem, these homes are in fact built with
walls about one metre thick and plastered well on the outside
to keep the chill out. Trunks of the indigenous juniper tree,
which is a unique feature of the Green Mountains natural
heritage, are used to hold up the ceiling of tree branches and
in todays modern times is a far cry from the hardship of
their mountain existence prior to the Renaissance, says Mohammed
bin Nasser al Owemri, a sprightly 60-year-old who led the Observer
to Dhan al Bisateen. Residents of this settlement have since swapped
their Spartan homes for the comfort of modern houses equipped
with all amenities including heaters.
bitter winter cold keeps most people indoors especially during
the January-February months. We had to keep wood fires burning
to warm ourselves, he said.
houses set in the recess of a cave in Dhan al Bisateen
Clean drinking water was hard to come by in these barren mountains,
Al Owemri noted. Back in those days, we used to get our
drinking water needs from stagnant ponds in wadis or caves.
When these sources ran dry, we had to venture out deeper into
the countryside. But after good rains, most of these sources would
ensure a reasonably good supply.
was the mainstay of the local economy then, and continues to be
the case today. Little else can be undertaken in these rugged
parts, although many residents travel to Saih Qatanah to work
in government offices or are employed in Muscat or Nizwa.
Four-wheel-drive vehicles have supplanted the
hardy donkeys in getting men and material to and from these mountains.
Prior to the 1970s, local villagers sourced their essential needs
from the souk in Nizwa, relying on donkeys to carry produce in
Nizwa, they sold firewood, charcoal, goats and berries in exchange
for foodstuff, textiles and household essentials. Strewn around
these mountains are scores of such hamlets, once inaccessible,
but now served by graded roads.
returning from a visit to their stone
hamlet, now abandoned for modern homes
Keen to ensure that the inhabitants do not give up their traditional
way of life and migrate to the towns and cities, the government
has been improving access routes deep into the mountains.
the remoteness of some of these settlements, the authorities have
been quick to provide essential services. Water drums, placed
at strategic points for the benefit of scattered settlements,
are filled regularly by government tankers.
Adapted from Oman Observer. Nizwa.NET is not responsible for errors.