The ruins of mystical watchtowers and enigmatic forts of a bygone civilisation turn him philosophical. Shaquel al Balushi ushers in the New Year with a drive down to the past and the roots.
There’s no better way to welcome the New Year than to go back to our roots; the core elements that make up Oman. It’s a tradition I partake in every year – and it sets my year in motion.
So, this year, when I was presented with the opportunity of heading out for a Destination trip, I decided to go someplace unheard of – a location that is even unlisted by Google’s search bots (until now).
My point of interest, Harat al Nizar, is a locale that was reportedly inhabited centuries ago by Omani Bedouins. Of course, I’m going by the tattletales that were narrated to us by the elders in our community.
The settlement, located just past Izki, is en route to the spectacular mountain ranges of Nizwa. The drive should take you about two hours, if you’re cautious.
I began my drive in the wee hours of the morning, and proceeded onwards through Route 15. The roads were relatively empty, so I parked on the side of the road just as the rays of the sun began to gleam through the thick clouds that peppered the sky.
It created a bluish-orange hue in the sky; sort of like what an artist would create on his palette. I rolled down my windows and soaked in the winter breeze. I could see the condensation of my breathing as I did that.
I carried on driving and reached the brown signboard that read ‘Harat al Nizar’. From there, it was only a few more minutes of driving.
You cannot miss the area: Large forts and watchtowers galore, there’s quite a lot to see, especially if you’re trekking. So, the best option would be to carefully park your car on the side and explore the rest on foot.
Mind you, the structures are weak, so it would be best if you don’t meddle with any of the walls.
But, the sand-covered wall surfaces make for a camera-friendly location – something I couldn’t quite comprehend initially. Most old buildings convey a sense of abandonment and desertion, which translates to the photograph. This is also why most pictures snapped in such locations end up with an almost melancholic tone – but that’s not the case here.
The watchtowers, especially before sunrise, look mystical. You can also explore them (at your risk). Some of these buildings have labyrinth-style interiors, further adding to the allure of exploring this wonderful location. I continued snapping photos until the memory card was out of space.
Following that, I headed off into one of the old structures for some exploration. I found it quite amazing that I could simply walk into these shelters without anybody’s consent. Think about it: these were once inhabited and off limits to passersby. Who knows, maybe this was also home to a lovely Omani family. I guess, time does correspond to a change in everything.
But this also brought some other questions into my head, primary of which was: ‘How long will this generation last before it is reduced to ruins such as this?’ I know; it’s a terrifying question but it is one that we must ask ourselves.
And as I left the once-inhabited town, not only did I carry memories of a great outing, but also thoughts that I would probably ponder upon for months.
From Muscat, take the Route 15 and follow the road till Izki. From there, you will be able to see the old buildings. Use the coordinates to reach there safely.
GPS location of the turning for Fanja: