A quiet little place that is bypassed by many tourists in favour of the mountain road right next to the village, that leads up to Jebel Akhdar. The village is Birkat al Mauz, and it must next on the list outside Muscat for an intriguing history. The original village of Birkat stood on the side of a hill, overlooking the surrounding valley, topped by a watchtower. Today, the watchtower is in ruins and the houses of the village are deep in mud and the ceilings have long since collapsed. This dates back to the Jebel wars, when the village was bombed and the residents evacuated.
Today, the village stands as a testament to the traditional style of Omani houses; two stories, small alleyways leading to neighbours houses. Stairways, twisting up narrow corridors. Palm leaves tied together and cemented with mud to create the ceilings. The fact that most of the houses still stand, to a certain degree, shows the workmanship in their construction. Many of the houses have the sun shining through their ceilings now, the odd wicker basket remains tucked into a corner of a room. Copies of torn arabic books and scripts play home to spider webs on a forgotten shelf in a house that still has it’s roof.
If there is one town in all of Oman that I have wanted to really get to know the locals and hear their stories, it would be Birkat al Mauz. Thankfully, the old falaj running through the village is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, allowing the village to remain protected.
Hopefully this little village will stand up to the elements and remain here for a long time to come; it’s amazing how well the mud brick houses last – they’re extremely well made!