In a novel effort to spread awareness of proper health procedures in the community in these times of the COVID- 19 pandemic, photographer Ahmed al Toqi has show- cased structures built in the olden days for quarantine purposes. These dilapidated structures are still seen in Ibra, North Sharqiyah.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, Toqi said, “Omanis have had places of quarantine for decades. I took pictures of such a site probably a century old located in the Al Safah area of Ibra. It’s called Sablat al Majddar, which translates to ‘place of smallpox’.”
According to Toqi’s research, smallpox and cholera patients were quarantined here until they recovered, during which period they were served food in dishes marked for them.
The quarantine quarters were built as per the health norms of the day in a place far from the houses of other people. The structure had three rooms, each with a separate door from the outside, and a roof built of stones and plaster. inside the quarters, there was dedicated storage for food and medicines.
A celebrated photographer, Toqi has won several national and international awards, including the National Geographic Photo Contest in 2015 and the Al Zubair Photography Competition Prize in 2019.
Toqi used his trusted Sony A7 R iii camera with a 12- 24mm lens to photograph the quarantine quarters.
“It’s interesting to note that Omanis had places dedicated for isolation for patients with tuberculosis, smallpox and cholera for many years. We knew the seriousness of these diseases and dealt with them in the correct way even a century ago,” Toqi said.
Toqi uploaded the photographs on his Twitter account which got the attention of the ministry of Heritage and Culture. With an eye to granting heritage status to these sites, it has sought more information on similar structures in the country.
“I love taking pictures of everything – nature, people’s lives, heritage sites… But a photographer must have a goal, his work must benefit people,” Toqi said of his objective of reminding people of the significance of proper health procedures which were followed even a century ago in Omani society.