Misfat al-Abryeen


Misfat al AbryeenWe woke hungry and early – long before dawn. After dressing, we trekked across the plaza in the dark to the administration building and our dining room. We were only the second group there. Our guide, presumably, was still in bed, probably well worn after a day of driving up the wadi and entertaining us with banter and information.

Dawn fell warmly in the jagged peaks and it promised to be a much nicer morning than the evening was before. Our guide eventually knocked on our door and off we drove, down the mountain again to a village near Al Hamra. The ancient village of Misfat al-Abryeen was a collection of old mud-brick houses set on a hillside. Most houses had been left abandoned after the government had build much nicer new homes for the residents across a lush gorge.

We parked along a road at the top of a hill and hiked down through the winding village streets to our destination, a preserved 400-year-old mud-brick house. There an older man and woman demonstrated the old ways of doing things – how to make traditional bread, how to grind flour, make perfume, and how to use incense under the skirt and underarms as deodorizers without catching one’s clothing on fire.

In one room we were able to try on traditional clothes. With assistance, we were transformed into Omanis. Tom looks really good in his wazar and I enjoyed the brief experience in my clothes, but it was really, really hot inside all that fabric. We were photographed by our assistant then joined our guide in a living room where we were served coffee.

Tom Grind Coffee

The man there had actually roasted our coffee first. We sat around the edges of the room and ate dates, talked and enjoyed the strong coffee. On the walls were a few photos of HM Sultan Qaboos and his family, including one of my favorites, which I had seen elsewhere. It is the Sultan with his father, also the Sultan, when he was about three years old.  I like to call this my pictures of His Baby Majesty.

Reluctantly we left. Along the way, on our drive up to the village we had met an italian couple and their son. We ran into them again and they joined us on our hike down through lush vegetation, across a little canyon and up the other side and eventually back to our SUV. Actually, the men continued on to pick up the cars – ladies and son rested and waited after we had climbed out of the canyon. My new knee had done about all it needed to do that day, I felt.

We said goodbye to our new friends – we would be seeing them again here and there, as our paths were scheduled to cross again. The drive back up the mountain to Jabel Shams was uneventful. Since the weather was milder, we again stopped at the edge of the Grand Canyon and took pictures. Directly across from us was a family selling various items they had made. I bought a rug and several items – one from each of four girls. They shyly refused to be photographed, but we got a few pictures of them in the distance when they were leaping in the rocks like young goats.

After dinner we went right to bed. In order to get to Nizwa for the cattle auctions, we would have to eat and leave extra early.



Beginning Again

After a long absence, I want to get back to my story.

A word of explanation first:  Since returning from Oman I have been in school, having started a Master of Arts program in Middle Eastern Studies. So much has changed in the 30 years since I last darkened the doors of a school room.

When I was finishing up my doctorate, I had been the very first person ever in our department to take my comprehensive exams on a computer, and that “personal computer” measured about 40″x40″x40″ – I think it was called a Data I Word Processor. It was about the size of a clothes washer but shorter.  I was so proud then to be at the forefront of technology.

Now absolutely everything is done on the computer – everything darn conceivable thing! Thankfully, on my first day of struggling with technology, I was surrounded by a sea of computer experts who had been whipping computers into submission since they were in diapers – literally. My arabic class sounded benign enough, but on that first day of class we sat at computers and were told to take a moment to sign into D2L. It went down hill from there and would have been a disaster but for the computer wizard sitting next to me that offered guidance at strategic points.

I had started school a couple of days late. This already was stressful; my habit had always been to have read ALL my textbooks before classes had even begun.  I hate being behind.  Two days before, I think, I had left Oman, flown to Tucson where I spent the night in the hotel – it was after midnight and I didn’t want to drive all the way up in the mountains only to return again early the next morning.  When I went to class the next morning, I was weary and thoroughly jet lagged. That was Friday – classes had started on Wednesday.

It was two weeks before I got past the time-zone sluggishness and that weary-to-the-bone, post-vacation exhaustion. Then, it was another two weeks before I felt I had caught up with classes, and only today, a month and a half later, that I felt I could take a little time to again return to the story of our trip to Oman.

Regrettably, with the passage of so much time, I know I will have forgotten much of the detail that made the trip so rich. Using photos, I’ll try to recover as much as possible. I left the story up in the Jebel Shams at a remote mountain camp where we would be spending two nights.

Nakhal FortThat day we had visited Nakhal Fort and I had taken an unplanned plunge in Ain a’Thawwarah hot springs.  We had taken an awesome drive up the Wadi Bani Auf. We had driven past terraced villages, the entrance to Snake Gorge, and through ancient villages, such as Balad Seet. Existence in these mountain villages was made possible only by the little mountain springs in the cliffs above that provided drinking water and enough extra for farm animals and their marvelous date palms.

With the increasingly high winds and dropping temperatures, we were so very happy to StoneCottage.jpghave our solid, stone cabin with a space heater in addition to central heating. Sunset had been glorious, with glowing skies swathing the undulating mountains in warm colors. We had enjoyed dinner with our guide, who had entertained us with amusing stories of his two wives.  I hung out my wet clothes from my plunge in the wadi pool and thankfully covered myself even over the top of my head.

The next morning we were to visit the village of Al Hamra.