Step back in time to an atmospheric little town where old mud brick houses evoke days gone by, says Jerzy Wierzbicki
Down little narrow streets, the shells of ruined mud-brick houses were like ghosts from the past. Now mostly empty, the homes would have once been filled with life. Each one is a little piece of history and if those old walls could talk, the tales would provide a fascinating insight into the ways of the Sultanate hundreds of years ago.
This is Al Hamra, a 400-year-old town, with some of the oldest preserved houses in Oman. While many of the mud-brick houses are now crumbling ruins, some are still inhabited, giving this place an even more magical feel.
Ad Dakhiliyah is a region rich in history and gems such as Al Hamra are waiting to be discovered.
Located at the entrance to Jebel Shams Mountain, the highest in Oman, it’s a popular location for tourists and residents.
For heritage lovers, the town built on a tilted rock slab offers a unique experience. I have visited a few times before but never got lucky in terms of taking images, with the time or light not good enough for photography.
Taking photographs is often like that; you have to be patient and wait for your chance.
Mine finally came a few weeks ago. I decided to return to Al Hamra again after reports from some friends that the weather on the mountain was moody and cloudy, perfect conditions for the pictures that I had in mind.
I grabbed just one camera along with a standard lens and headed there on a Friday. My luck was in. The light was perfect. Grey clouds on the sky, lower temperatures and an inconstant sun all helped achieve the effect I was looking for.
Arriving in the early afternoon, I quickly moved into the ruined part of the old town. The atmosphere there is really fantastic, stirring the soul. With its compressed, narrow streets lined with mud-brick homes, it looks similar to many ancient cities in the Middle East.
In fact, it reminded me of my visit to the ruins of Old Babylon, the remains of which are found in present-day Hillah, Iraq, about 85 kilometres south of Baghdad.
Al Hamra is much younger than the oldest cities in Mesopotamia, so the buildings are in better condition.
The character of the town is identical to how it would have been hundreds of years ago.
A small narrow street led me to the highest part of the town. The silence surrounded me, as I walked alone in the slightly eerie, abandoned town. I had only the wind for company – and a small black cat that had been watching me during my walk.
I took several photographs and the lower contrast on that particular day was on my side. I could get details in the shadows with the backdrop of the glowering sky.
On one of the higher streets, I found a small mud-brick tower partly ruined and covered by fresh green foliage. It is one of my favourite shots from Al Hamra.
After an hour’s walk delving into the past, I got back to the car. Dark storm clouds covered the sky and I heard thunder rumbling in the mountains.
I got in and moved to the hilltop just next to Al Hamra, which afforded a great overview over the entire old town. The contrast between warm brown houses and the cool grey sky was very effective. I got my shots and the story as well as another excellent and unforgettable experience in Oman.
HOW TO GET THERE
Go to Nizwa and continue your trip to Al Hamra. Just follow the road signs, as the way is well marked. You don’t need a 4×4 car as long as you are not planning to visit the Al Hajar Mountains range nearby.
GPS Location: 23°07′00″ N 57°17′35″E