As traditional communities in the interior of Oman change their lifestyles, become increasingly urbanised and move to new housing, they are leaving their ancestral homes and allowing them to fall into disuse. Some are remote mountain settlements like Bani Habib on the Sayq Plateau, while others are more readily accessible, like the old merchant quarters of Al Minzfah and Al Qanaatir in old Ibra.
The abandoned village of Birkat Al-Mawz © Rudolf Tepfenhart, Dreamstime
Because a village is composed of many dwellings, with some dwellings having several owners, there will be a wide range of opinions as to what the property or indeed a date garden can be used for. So far these abandoned villages seem destined to become not much more than memories unless a way can be found to enable them to survive in a different guise once again.
These villages, which form an important part of Omani heritage and culture, are currently being surveyed by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. With over 80 to be included with the survey, this will be a longterm task and the wide range of possible outcomes will hopefully include introducing foreign visitors to these often hidden treasures of Oman’s past.