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Shaquel al Balushi finds an area of astounding beauty that has recovered well from cyclone Gonu.
Life is full of surprises, and during my experiences travelling in and around the country, I have learned that some of the biggest (and best) surprises I have encountered have come from Mother Nature herself. Thanks to that, I have always believed that every journey is different, and every turn taken will be consequential in one’s life. And my recent trip to Hail Al Ghaf was a perfect testament to that.
It all started when my buddy Imran suggested that we head to the village of Hail Al Ghaf – an area that is quite popular with tourists.
Because of its popularity (and because I have visited Hail Al Ghaf numerous times), I have always refused to visit the location for my Destination feature. But when Imran told me that the area, which was damaged during Cyclone Gonu in 2007, had been reconstructed, I thought that it would only be fair if I headed there again and saw how the place was shaping up.
Driving to Hail Al Ghaf is incredibly simple: you take the exit towards Quriyat from Wadi Al Kabir, and then proceed towards Wadi Dayqah. En route, you will find a sign board that points towards the village. It’s only an hour’s drive if you are coming from Muscat, and you should soon come within sight of a public school.
We reached the location before the crack of dawn, and to our surprise, we saw a side of Hail Al Ghaf we had never seen before. There was verdant green grass and lush mango trees surrounding the area. It was all very captivating, and I quickly found myself capturing images of the surroundings.
The locals have also turned some of these grasslands into football pitches.
As we headed farther into the village, we started to see numerous houses, both traditional and modern. But as we headed deeper into the heart of the village, we found that the colour of the setting was changing from green to yellow.
And all of a sudden, there weren’t any trees. All we could see were hills and rocks.
By now, we had already spent three hours exploring the area, and I wanted to retreat before we got stuck in my Jeep. But Imran, being who he is, persuaded me to keep pushing forward.
And his decision to carry on paid off when we came face to face with the wall of a dam. We quickly parked the Jeep and climbed on top of the structure. What we saw from the top is truly beyond words: mesmerising would be the right term, but it is far from describing the setting.
We could see the entire landscape – the greenery, the rocks and the wadi – from the top. And the early morning sun meant that there was a subtle golden hue over all the surfaces.
The effect of Cyclone Gonu (and other cyclones that followed) doesn’t seem to have left much of a mark on the face of this secluded village. Granted, it may have been 10 years since it hit but I didn’t expect recovery to eliminate even the slightest trace that the area had been struck by a natural disaster.
After coming back down to the land, I noticed that even the aflaj that had been destroyed had been completely re-built and were flowing steadily. These are the aflaj that run long distances to serve various villages with a steady water supply. At one of the aflaj, however, I saw that a separate structure had been constructed to channel water underneath the surface. All you could hear was the sound of water splashing on the surface of the large boulder-like structure.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed that it had a small leak, which caused a small fountain of water to leak towards the outside. But, the water, which collected into a small puddle and then flowed right back into the underground falaj, seemed like it had been designed to do that.
This puddle is also a feeding ground for birds. I was able to spot some eagles and falcons there.
By the time I was done taking photographs, it was already late in the afternoon. So we retreated into our Jeep and drove back to the city, taking back only positive memories from an area that once took a beating by Mother Nature.
I went there in search of a story, and I came back with the story that tells of the resilience of the community that resides in Hail Al Ghaf.
To reach Hail Al Ghaf, you have to to take the exit towards Quriyat from Wadi Al Kabir. Proceed towards Wadi Dayqah, and en route, you will find a sign board that points towards the village.