Oman’s aflaj, or falaj system of irrigation, allow charming, rural villages to exist in the otherwise parched and desolate landscapes of the Arabian Peninsula. Misfat Al Abriyeen is a perfect example of what can be achieved with a simple yet effective falaj network.
Misfat Al Abriyeen doesn’t merely exist amidst this arid, treeless landscape; thanks to the falaj system it has transformed the local environment into a fertile oasis.
The falaj system of irrigation
The functioning of the falaj system is simple: water is diverted from a natural spring located high in the mountains, and directed through a series of artificial channels, excavated drains, and even short sections of underground tunnelling, to get it to the areas where it is needed most.
In the case of Misfat Al Abriyeen, the spring water is diverted to the settlement’s agricultural terraces, as well as to the village itself for their drinking, cooking, and bathing needs.
The concept of the falaj, though undoubtedly ingenious, is not unique to Oman. You can find examples of comparable irrigation systems throughout the Middle-east; such as the qanat system in Iran.
Misfat Al Abriyeen
Misfat Al Abriyeen is a traditional Omani village. The original inhabitants of the settlement were the Al Abri tribe (this is where the town gets its name).
The oldest extant buildings in Misfat Al Abriyeen have been standing for approximately 200 years (the origins of the village could stretch back another 100 – 200 years).
Many of the mud-brick buildings are keyed into or built directly on top of the rocky outcrops that dominate the landscape.
Areas of flat ground, or relatively flat ground, have been transformed into agricultural terraces, primarily for the production of date palms, but also to grow bananas, papaya, and pomegranates.
Misfat Al Abriyeen – on the tourist trail
Misfat Al Abriyeen has cemented itself on the standard tourist itinerary of Oman. Tourist numbers in Oman are on the low side though, and if you travelling independently then you’ll almost certainly be exploring the town on your own.
The local authorities are also doing what they can to minimise the negative impacts of tourism. Thus, tourists may walk through town without a guide, but they are asked to stick to the approved ‘tourist route’ (differentiated through the application of highly-visible markers).
Tourists are also asked to wear modest clothing during their visit (that applies to both men and women), and to ask permission before taking photos of the townspeople.
Practical information and how to reach Misfat Al Abriyeen:
Public transport options are extremely limited in Oman. Travellers are best off hiring a car to get around (I say this as someone who would much rather use public transport than drive). More transport info here.