Shaquel al Balushi finds a hamlet in which unhurried traditions continue in time-honoured fashion, but where the ‘beautiful game’ continues to make its presence felt.
The road to Quriyat is a mine of treasure troves waiting to be traversed yet many remain unexplored. While most of these can be put down to the underlying touristy areas that take the limelight from everything else, it can also be pegged to a general lack of awareness on what exists hidden between the mountains.
We discover a turn-off point on the Al Amerat-Quriyat road – one that leads us towards a remote village: Al Mandhariyya.
No bigger than a hamlet of 20 houses and what seems like home to even fewer families, we stumble upon what we can only describe as one of the quietest villages we’ve ever visited.
A stark contrast to what we normally witness in the capital, Al Mandhariyya showcases life in a city that eschews haste. Here, people move around at their own pace, and it’s an unhurried one at that.
Setting aside the obvious Omani hospitality and take on pace of life, the village seems to radiate a sense of maturity – one that most areas are slowly phasing out due to rapid development.
So, among the sights lie brown and ageing houses, dried up fields left untouched for what seems to have been decades, classic Japanese cars; and my favourite, a rusty goal post for kids to hone their football skills.
Glimpses of the latter evoke a lot of thoughts in me; primarily, of how that very goalpost must have served several generations of youth down the generations. In fact, one resident tells us that the time-worn structure is more than three decades old.
Even as the age of the steel structure predominates, there’s a certain sense of uniqueness to the goalpost: everything around it – the field, the footpath, and even the lines drawn on the sand – seem to encompass it; almost like an afterthought to the structure… the goal.
And to think of how it would have caused hours of fun and frolic, upsets, and even fond memories for one generation after another brings a smile to my face as I walk away armed with photographs of it.
To say that a goalpost takes the cake in a picturesque location with green mountains is unfair, though. And setting my initial excitement aside, I head deeper into the heart of Al Mandhariyya.
A paradise in the Al Hajar mountains; it’s the green mountains that set this locale aside when compared to others from the vicinity. Perhaps it’s the fresh water that flows in from Wadi Siya that keeps the flora brimming – and there’s plenty to keep the average photographer interested. We also hear that it’s also cool enough in the summer for those looking to trek up the mountains – albeit, there are no caves or hides to explore once you’re up there.
And that’s the scope of Al Mandhariyya. Despite the hospitable nature of its residents and mountainous precincts waiting to be explored, there’s very little in line for those looking to spend some time camping with their families or friends.
But boy, what it offers adventurists is simply enchanting. If you go, make sure to head there with the right people and with the mindset to scale the terrain.
Stick to Route 17, which will lead you from Al Amerat to the beautiful city of Quriyat. Keep the Al Massara Hospital in sight and take the exit that leads you back towards Al Amerat. Exactly five kilometres into the journey, take the right that heads away from the highway and look out for the sign that reads ‘Al Mandhariyya’.
Coordinates:: 23°20’39.0”N; 58°33’21.2”E
Dist. from Muscat: 80kms
Stick to Route 17, which will lead you from Al Amerat to the beautiful city of Quriyat. Keep the Al Massara Hospital in sight and take the exit that leads you back towards Al Amerat. Exactly five kilometres into the journey, take the right that heads away from the highway and look out for the sign that reads ‘Al Mandhariyya’
Dist. from Muscat: 80kms