Whilst spending some time in the Western Hajar, it would be a shame to miss out what everyone calls the quintessential Omani village known as Misfat al Abriyyin (romanised in a multitude of varying transliterations from the Arabic script). As long as when you say it out loud, it sounds the same, you can bet your bottom dollar that it's the same place. I've found that to be the case with a lot of the road signs around Muscat as well, especially in the area Al Athaiba, spelt in an astonishingly 7 different ways on road signs! And still counting… that's just the nature of the translation I'm afraid.
Misfat is perched on the end of a wadi overlooking a tranquil date palm plantation, which amongst the leaves you will also find bananas and apricots growing. At the start of the W9 walk that takes you through Misfat al Abriyyin, the path lead us down into the date palms and alongside a falaj (sing. falaj; pl. aflaj – I just like the sound of the word!) flowing with water, weaving around the trees. It was a welcome break from the heat to be under the shade of the plantation and quite tempting to splash the water from the falaj over our faces. One rule posted on the tourism boards: don't contaminate the water in the falaj – a life source for the villages. Another thought: we had no idea what was in that water!
The village has an Arabic-Venetian feel to the streets, with tall mud brick houses towering over the many alleyways, which can only snake in a couple of directions before bringing you out either where you started, or into the expanse of the wadi. Mostly untouched by modern buildings, Misfat has kept it's rustic charm with uneven doorways, small windows with water jugs hanging from poles, and alleyways housing grain stores off to either side. We wandered through the alleys, not really knowing if it was the right direction, and being nosey along the way, poking our necks round various doorways and corners to see what was beyond.
Eventually, we emerged on the wadi side, where more irrigation for the date palms had been constructed, and an elderly villager was steadily wading through the falaj. As he moved along with his sandals, stick and cloth rags in hand, he would dam the falaj just beyond the outlet gates to allow the water to build enough to spill over the outlets and on to the villagers patch of land. After a modest amount of water had passed through, the elderly gent would block the outlet again with rocks wrapped in old rags to plug the gaps. And on went the process to evenly distribute the available water.
We moved on and investigated the wadi further up, passing an old watchtower looking out up the valley, as well as down into the plantation grounds. After a short snooze and lunch behind a shaded rock, we headed back and onward to our hotel for the night. About halfway there we passed Wadi Ghul, which at it's mouth lies the old abandoned Ghul village sat slightly raised above where the wadi water flowing from Wadi an Nakhur could reach. The inhabitants long gone, the village now sits atop a plantation on the wadi floor, which is still farmed by the residents who are just across the wadi bed.
I found the atmosphere in the humble village of Misfat very serene and safe, and I wondered if they have the same socioeconomic problems of the rest of the world. Whether the profit from produce sold from around the village goes directly to the families involved, or if outside companies take a cut from their hard work. Discuss.