postcard from leon fulcher
From the Sultanate of Oman
Mar’haba and warm greetings from the northern region of Oman! Recently we were given opportunity to visit historic sites in Oman with members of the Emirates Natural History Group. The Sultanate of Oman is located on the eastern border of the UAE and extends southwards along the eastern border of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia along the Arabian Sea for nearly 1000 km to the border with Yemen. This historic country has extensive links with the spice trade and the trade routes with Africa and Zanzibar. The people are incredibly friendly and the countryside is epic.
Where there are sources of water there is life!
While we visited several historic sites during this weekend trip, I want to tell you about Misfat Al Abryeen, or Misfah as other signs describe it. Imagine driving through a dry mountainous region with high rock cliffs and lowland oases dotted with date palms and market gardens. Then, turning onto a narrow road, one started climbing up a steep, winding road frequently shifting down into first gear to climb through switchback turns. Questioning what might possibly bring us to a place that compared with experiences of Rocky Mountain or New Zealand ski fields during the summer time, we finally came to a semi-flat location with space to park merely a half dozen vehicles. Welcome to Misfah, an ancient village hewn out of a cliff face with curious children rushing to greet us and Omani adults offering welcome.
The Old People Harnessed the Water to Irrigate Terraces
Invited to enter their village, our paths took us down through ancient narrow pathways and stairways that took us down the cliff face past dwellings and an irrigation system the likes of which I have never seen. Water was diverted from high up on the mountain into a network of falaj or irrigation channels that brought life to a system of terraces painstakingly built down the side of the steep cliff face. Into each terrace has been planted a date palm tree that provides shade. Around each date palm the soil has been tilled into a network of market gardens that yield bountiful crops of just about every imaginable fruit and vegetable. We saw banana, papaya and mango trees, lush vegetable patches and grasses used to feed goats, sheep and donkeys. And everywhere there were children, from infants to teenagers. Young children were helping older boys and young men prepare the terraces for planting while elsewhere teenage boys were seen sharing lookout duties for natural predators ever ready to steal lambs and goats. Everyone seemed to have their roles and when the call to mid-day prayers came, each made their way towards the mosque, first stopping to wash and preparing themselves for spiritual renewal and commitment.
May the Peace Be Upon You Too!
I kept thinking about the wisdom of the elders of Misfat Al Abryeen whose dream had helped to create this village. I also kept thinking about the way that all the children and young people were being taught roles that were fundamental to the survival of that community. Survival skills – the knowledge and abilities needed to survive in a challenging environment – were very important to the children of Misfat Al Abryeen. Indeed, such survival skills are important for every young person. Each child requires a core set of survival skills or developmental assets in order to adapt to their own special environments. What a remarkable lesson this was — and Insha’allah, I’ll return!