Saturday, 9 June 2012

Visiting Villages

This weekend we took off down to Adam, the village that Sultan (the lovely man who was assigned to us when we first arrived) lives in.  Well, Sultan and his family have apparently lived there for generations and he's been wanting us to go down and visit every since he met us.  This weekend was the first available opportunity and since it looked like I was over the bug from Dubai, we decided to go.  Of course I wasn't over the bug, but the long and short of it is that we had a lovely, if not slightly abbreviated, time.

We took off after our Arabic class on Wednesday night; after a quick dash into Qurm City Centre Mall for some post class food and a map.  After looking at the only available map, the obvious happened and we bought a GPS.  All prepared for our adventure we set off.

I had thought that we would leave Muscat and be in the middle of nowhere straight away - like we were going down to Wadi Shab - but no, there were lights on either side of the highway all the way.  The highway that the map said was a metal topped single lane road with occasional stretches of graded surface, turned out to be dual lane divided highway all the way to Nizwa and most of the way to Adam.  Road building is moving very fast in Oman, but I do wish they'd employ some good map makers.

It was dark all the way, but every now and then the shadow of mountains would loom beside us.  I was probably the worlds worst passenger, but David showed his usual restraint and refrained from hitting me on the head and leaving me in the desert to wander wailing into the distance.

We arrived safely in Adam and a very excited Sultan met us at the Shell service station. We had not known what to expect. All Sultan had told us was that his village was small and quiet.  Was it going to be a weekend with no running water? No electricity??? Sleeping on the ground?  No air-conditioning?????  We presumed no toilet paper, so we had come prepared with four rolls.  But what else??????  We pulled up outside Sultan's three storey, gracious residence...and forgot to take a photo.

The inside was cavernous and quite new.  I completely neglected to ask him how long they'd been living in it.  There were the traditional two entries, one for men and one for women; the men's opened into the men's sitting room (gigantic with a continuous couch all the way round and a large flat screen TV on one wall) and the lady's entrance to the main entry hall.  The lady's sitting room was much smaller, with a carpet and a small stool (for Sultan's mother) and a smaller flat screen TV.  Each has a bathroom attached.  Sultan proudly showed off the house to us and led us up stairs to our room - the purple room - very empty except for the mattresses on the floor.  He had asked if we needed to sleep off the floor but, since David had a sneaking suspicion that he would go out and buy a bed just for us, we said we were happy to sleep Omani style.  He was very pleased when he found out that purple was my favourite colour and left us to make ourselves comfortable. We weren't entirely sure of the comfort of a two inch mattress on a marble floor, but we plugged in the apnoea machines and crashed.

Next thing we knew it was almost eight o'clock and Sultan was going to be knocking on the door any second.  Yes, the mattresses were very comfortable.  But a warning for young players.  It seems that towels are not part of traditional Omani life either.  After a blank stare when we asked Sultan about them, along with a slow "yes I think we have some,"  I decided to go native and shower before bed, wandering around the bedroom for the two minutes it took to dry.  Best way to cool down evva!  David sacrificed a shirt to the cause after his shower.
Breakfast was lovely and eaten in the men's room on the floor, just Sultan and the two of us.  I think that we were very much Sultan's guests. David only laid eyes on Fatimah (Sultan's wife) once as she scurried into the kitchen.  She is a mathematics teacher at the girls school in Adam and is a tiny, and very gentle young lady.  All the ladies of the family cooked food for us and made sure it arrived safely. It seems that, even though they physically live in separate houses, they maintain a very close family structure.  Each cooking for the other and children racing in-between houses. Lunch on Thursday was the only time we ate with any other members of the family and the only time I ate in the ladies sitting room with Sultan's mother (who spoke no English - I think I managed to tell her that I had three sons and their ages - I think), Fatimah and Sultan's son Mutaz.  David ate in the men's lounge with Sultan, a few brothers and Sultan's father.  Mutaz is three and a half years old and the image of his mother.  He is a lively, cheerful, boisterous and loud little boy who is extremely ticklish - extremely.  He of course thought David was wonderful and at dinner on Thursday wanted to eat with us.  He would normally eat with the women.  We interceded on his behalf and he was very pleased and very well behaved.

Exploring Adam

Adam has been in existence for a very, very long time.  It has a good supply of water through a falaq system, which Sultan tells us has been use for 4000 years.  There are three falaq in Adam and many wells so the dates flourish. Our morning travels around Adam included visiting the crossing of two of the falaq which included the remains of a house situated right next to the crossing.
Sultan and David inspecting the crossing of two 4000 year old falaj

David dangling his feet in a 4000 year old falaq
I have no idea how old the house is and neither did Sultan.  It is a mud brick constuction, as were all of the building here before concrete was introduced.  It was quite small, but very sturdily built. Stones, grasses and palm fronds could all be seen in the construction.  Lintels and supporting beam were made of palm wood and woven palm fronds stuff with mud.

A rather old house in the middle of the dates 

Yes we were there together

The treasure of Adam is the original walled village that is under reconstruction in the centre of Adam (at least I think it was the centre-it was slap bang in the centre of the dates anyway.  Speaking about dates, Sultan tells us that summer is described by the colour of the dates at the time.  At the moment the summer is yellow.

Yellow dates
These dates are just beginning to ripen. The ripe ones look like they're rotting, but I have to tell you.  Omani dates are simply divine.  I won't be able to return to eating the horrible dates we get in Australia, they have no resemblance to the Omani date at all.  A traveller in Oman in the 18th century (I read this on the wall  at Nizwa Fort so I can't tell you who) commented that the Omani's produce a huge quantity of dates, but the use of them is so widespread that they only export around 10 percent of the crop.  One date palm will give you around 80kg of dates, a good tree will give you 150kgs!  

Back to the walled village.  This was where the grandfather of Sultan Qaboos' father was born, so it is a very important historical site.  Apparently about 1000 people used to live here in interconnecting houses.  Each time a new house was needed it seemed to have been added to the last.  The houses have multiple stories, ablution rooms, date storage and roof tops for sitting.  It is all made of mud brick and palm products.  There were piles of new mud bricks and palm wood cut into various thicknesses, just inside the gate, waiting to be used in the restoration.  It should be finished in about a year and we will definitely be back to look at the finished product.  It should be amazing!

The sign outside.  Unfortunately the red sign said do not enter.  There were no gates........

Unfortunately about then my lovely gastric virus raised it's ugly head and I tootled back to the house to lie down and recuperate.  Which I did.  This is definitely the way to be a tourist. A couple of hours out and about and then an hour or two of lying down smelling a delicious lunch being prepared.

After lunch and another bit of a lie down, which turned out to be a two and a half hour nap, we set off to visit the largest of Sultan's family farms.  David had been to see the smallest and had been on a Cook's Tour of Adam - which I'm sure will feature in his blog.

David and friend watching camels

The farm is about 10 hectares of gravel desert just out of town.  It has a deep well and the water is pumped into a holding tank and then out through terracotta pipes (mostly covered with earth) to the date palms, the animals and the fodder crops.

One small boy (Mutaz) with a big stick and water

They have chickens, sheep, goats, cattle and bees.  All of which are carefully protected from the sun and looked after by one or two Indian migrant workers.  The male cattle are kept together and the ladies are housed separately, each with her own room.

Da Boyz

Da Goats - the chickens are kept with the bigger animals because it's cooler

A goat and a sheep one each of many on the farm and the only ones not shorn

Small boy with stick poking sheep.  The sheep will remember.....

Walking from the large pens back to the dates
You can see that growth is really only exactly where there is water
I hadn't really appreciated the difference between desert and oasis. 

Animal fodder
Animal fodder is also grown under the date palms.

I gather the bees collect pollen from the date palms.
They collect honey in June and December.
Sultan's honey is light in colour, deep and dark in taste.

Mutaz, Sultan and David in with the dates
It is so much more pleasant in the green under the trees. 

Sunset over the goat sheds
Yes, staring directly into the sun.
Now you know why we couldn't see the transit of Venus.


  1. Hmm, I wonder how those nice dates would go in that date/avocardo/golden syrup/chocolate icing recipie...

  2. Probably very well.
    One of my current treats are dates with a blanched almond in the middle and coated in darftgn (kitten typing) dark chocolate