Yemini-style mudbrick village, Al Hamra, Oman 2


Drive across the wild, arid plains of northern Oman and you’ll encounter all kinds of settlements; there are wealthy, gated, immaculately presented mansions sitting by themselves in a sea of sand, there are oasis villages surrounded by green date palms, there are thriving cities like Nizwa, there are quiet, sleepy cities that could pass as ghost towns, and there’s the occasional abandoned mud-brick village, such as the one on the outskirts of Al Hamra.

The abandoned mud-brick village of Al Hamra

Abandoned mud brick village, Al Hamra, Oman

Abandoned mud brick village, Al Hamra, Oman. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The origins of Al Hamra date back some 400 odd years, when the area was settled by the Al Abri tribes (the same Al Abri tribe that settled in nearby Misfat Al Abriyeen).

The mud-brick structures, some of which are up to four storeys in height, are built in what’s known as Yemeni style (i.e. from Yemen).

Abandoned mud brick village, Al Hamra, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White

While walking through town, the engineer in me couldn’t help noticing that one of the main thoroughfares doubles as a stormwater channel (see photo below).

Presumably the channel only flows in the severest of storms, but still, the presence of this flood route is baffling.

 

Abandoned mud brick village, Al Hamra, Oman

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Was this stormwater channel always here? Was the town built around it? Why?

It would be incredibly inconvenient to work around when it rained, and whenever it flowed it would erode the walls and foundations of the structures on either side.

 

Abandoned mud brick village, Al Hamra, Oman

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

It’s even more confusing when you recall how skilled Omanis are at manipulating water flows to their advantage (see the falaj system of irrigation at Misfat Al Abriyeen).

I can’t imagine that diverting these flood waters was beyond their capabilities. Which means the storm water channel flowed through the centre of town because they wanted it to.

 

 

Abandoned mud brick village, Al Hamra, Oman

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The mud-brick village of Al Hamra was in use until relatively recently, as the profusion of overhead electrical cables attest.

Not all of this ancient part of the town was abandoned either; amongst the partially ruined remains are perfectly well maintained houses, still in use.

Abandoned mud brick village, Al Hamra, Oman

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

 

Perhaps the owners of the abandoned mud-brick dwellings will do the same one day?

Perhaps they’ll return to the old town of Al Hamra and reclaim what they left behind. Perhaps these fantastic structures will be restored, and re-inhabited?

Abandoned mud brick village, Al Hamra, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White


Practical information and how to reach Al Hamra:

Al Hamra is 25 km from Bahla Fort, 50 km from Nizwa, and approximately 200 km from the capital Muscat.

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.


More on Oman:

Jibreen Castle – fortified palace of the Yaruba dynasty

The Balcony Walk – it’s Jebel Shams lite

Bahla Fort – labyrinthine 13th Century mud-brick castle

The archaeological sites of al-Khutm, Bat, and al-Ayn

Muscat – beautiful city, but don’t expect locally-grown grapes

Misfat Al Abriyeen – fertile alpine oasis thanks to falaj


Posts on the Middle East:

Iran:

Chogha Zanbil – the original ziggurat

The Historic Hydraulic System of Shushtar

Jordan:

Petra – Al Siq: narrow, magical chasm leading to Al Khazneh

Petra – Ad Deir: the monastery?

Qatar:

Doha – city under construction

Turkey:

Pamukkale – chalk white cliffs, turquoise pools 

Fethiye – pebble beaches and Lycian tombs

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2 thoughts on “Yemini-style mudbrick village, Al Hamra, Oman

  • Karen White

    What a lovely mud-brick town. It must have looked wonderful in it’s heyday and I wonder why they had that storm water channel as well, it would be interesting to know
    Kazzieandkitty