Walking through the alleys behind the Nizwa Fort where blocks of mud have fallen from old buildings whose walls are barely standing, I tried imagining how these buildings looked like before.
Gathering information from different sources, I came to understand Nizwa’s status as an important and extremely strong centre of learning, since it was the capital city of Oman where many leading imams had settled and led their lives.
Digging further into how the city was and the lives of its people, I found that most of the modern-day facilities we see around us today were never available but they managed to fulfil their daily routines and lives very well.
It was a period where electricity was yet to be invented, nor were there any water pumps. They wouldn’t have even dreamt about machines that are so commonplace today. Back then, there were no fancy buildings, however they were functional. These buildings were constructed entirely using locally available materials like stones, mud, sarooj and even palm fronds, since transportation means were quite complicated and would take longer for any importation to be done. These buildings represent the dedication of our forefathers, their knowledge and experience in making the most of their means.
The buildings’ appearances were mostly typical due to material limitations and availability, apart from the basic tools used during the construction process. Even then, they ensured that the main objectives of any functional living space was achieved; such as sleeping and
cooking, without forgetting the technical aspects involved like protection of buildings against erosion during rain using the stone plates. These old buildings do hold distinctive characteristics, which make them extremely mysterious.
Imagine a father mixing mud, making bricks, mounting date palms on a hot, sunny day without any proper tools to simplify the tasks. Such a process going on for several days or months just to make a roof under which his family would lay their heads!
The challenges involved in the process, the emotional attachment of the those involved in the construction and knowledge applied can all be felt through the thick walls of these old buildings whether in Nizwa, Manah or any other part of Oman. Whenever we see such buildings, our imagination runs wild just thinking how they achieved so much with so little, and lived a simple and lovely life.
Aren’t these magnificent structures something we all should be proud of? More importantly, shouldn’t we be proud of our ancestors for how thoughtful, creative and skilled they were? How could we possibly allow such hard work to fade away from the face of the earth?
Waking up one day to find all these beautiful remains gone along with the strong history of our ancestors would be devastating. This would mean there would be no visual material to explain to our children on the development of Omani civilisation while we had the privilege to see and feel them.
The opportunity is there for all citizens to protect and bring back life to these buildings whether it is a government official, an architect, a doctor or even a housewife since these buildings mean a lot to us and our future generations as they will always speak of our origin.
The question is, how do we maintain them and bring life back to this kind of treasure that Oman has?
Fatma Humaid al Mahrooqi, a graduate in Urban Planning and Architectural Design, is currently working in 23 Degrees North, an architectural consultancy in Muscat
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