Alvin Thomas finds a picturesque village on the cusp of change, but which still retains its charm in an ever-changing world.
“The poetry of earth is never dead.” These are the opening lines from the ever-so-beautiful sonnet On the Grasshopper and Cricket by the English Romantic poet John Keats. There is no denying those words are self-explanatory.
But of late, I have been finding it hard to come to relate to those words, thanks to the many development projects taking over many of the world’s prime locations, and Oman is no exception.
A prime example of that would be my Destination trip to the humble beach of Qantab last week, during which I was shocked to see the state of the once sought-after sands now being restricted to a very small area.
And while new projects are good for our beloved country, I find it hard to digest that we are modernising when we should be preserving the work of Mother Nature.
Of course, that’s just my opinion.
So this week, I decided to escape from the grip of our city and go on a soul-seeking mission to understand the value of human bonding – another long-lost value in today’s fast-paced world.
My target location was the village of Al Khiran, and accompanying me were my brothers Allen and Jijin, both of whom were surprisingly excited despite it being a Friday.
The drive to Al Khiran is quite a long one but still worth it if you have the right company. Jijin took control of the wheel as I got ready to click photos of whatever I saw.
Allen was our designated DJ, and soon, we were having an impromptu karaoke session to our favourite singers in pop (Eminem, TheWeeknd, Drake and many more).
This meant I missed quite a lot of photo opportunities on our way up to the village. However, half-way to our destination, we stopped by the “Bustan viewpoint”, en route to the village of Bustan and atop one of the mountains.
There are no markings that point towards it but people usually flock there to camp or even sit down and chat. Another feature about this spot is that you can walk right up to the tip of the mountain to observe the surroundings.
Of course, this is extremely dangerous, and I wouldn’t urge anybody to go right up to the edge. Since you’re high up in the mountains, the cross winds are also quite strong, and that could lead to you losing your footing and falling. The drop is considerable, at the very least a few hundred metres so it is best to stay within a safe distance.
That aside, the viewpoint is arguably one of the most picturesque locations in the country. From the top you can catch a glimpse of the beautiful Arabian Sea and even the typical Omani-looking Majlis al Shura building.
We spent a few hours clicking photos and screaming at the top of our voices into the horizon to try to create an echo. We may be adults now but we still feel like the same five year olds we once were.
In any case, we proceeded to the village of Al Khiran. Again, it is a straightforward drive and therefore there is no way for you to lose your way.
A few metres down the lane, you will find the large, blue body of water on your left, which signifies that you have reached Al Khiran. It must be noted that if you are up for a spot of diving or speed boating, you can always head away from the road between Qantab and Sifah towards the crystal-clear waters.
But our aim was not to go diving but rather to spend some time near the local villagers and to get to know their opinions on the fast-changing face of their village, and perhaps make a few friends.
Today, the village has become a focal point for visitors heading to the Al Sifah area but not many stop by to interact with the villagers. So, the moment I got out of the car with my camera, I was approached by a couple of young teenagers (Sami and Muhanned) who asked (in Arabic) if I was a photographer.
Despite not knowing the language, I could still figure out (vaguely) what the youngster was trying to say.
Soon, we were joined by their friends. They offered us Omani halwa and Pepsi. It was an odd combination but it still hit the spot. Jijin particularly seemed to take a shine towards it.
They then gave us a tour of their village: it is a fairly small, and comprised only 20-odd houses. A few are made of stone but the rest are comparatively newer.
Amenities are scarce but there’s still a school and a small grocery store nearby.
And that’s when it struck me: these people are adapting to the changes happening around them while still maintaining their lifestyle. Today, the village sees hundreds of cars drive past, with some even littering from their windows as they go by.
But these villagers do everything they can to keep their village as pristine as possible and without causing any disruption for anyone.
I asked Sami, who understood Hindi: “What will you do if some company sets up a hotel here?”
He said: “We will move. Allah has made this world big enough for everyone to survive. We will be happy to accept anything. Our fate lies in his hands, and I know that he gives us only what he believes is right for us.”
I then asked the group of friends to pose for a picture. However, they were too shy, and so, we couldn’t get them to pose. That, coupled with the dying light, meant that we had to wrap our shoot and head for home.
But overall, I have to say that this has been one of my favourite Destinations. It really gave me a taste of what Oman stands for: humble and welcoming people who have nothing but love for one another, and above all, the will to keep going no matter what.
From Hamriyah, take Yiti street and travel southeast for around 17km. Exit right and stay on this road all the way to Al Khiran.