Wakan village is a very popular tourist attraction and this door must have been photographed hundreds of times: so thought I should add my two penneth.
I remember visiting this village long before it came onto the tourist route, probably 1987 if my memory serves me well. It sits about 2,000 meters above sea level in Wadi Mistal, tucked away in the Hajar Mountains. Famous for its apricot flowers which are in full bloom between the middle of May & the end of August. It was and in some respects still is a drive that requires a 4×4 and some experience with off-road driving on tracks that can deter even the most determined tourist. A little like Jebel Shams / Jebel Akhdar; when visitors see the hotels marked on the map, they set off in the newly hired car and find the track is not what they expected. Many times I have seen people either lost, stuck in wadi streams or so frightened because the edge has a drop off on one side of 200 or 300 hundred meters. Resulting in me not being able to pass them when coming from the opposite direction and needing to guided them passed my vehicle. Unfortunately it is the lack of knowledge and information given by the hire companies and hotels.
One example was when camping high in the mountains and late one evening a 4×4 stops and my daughter and I get asked “how far is Muscat?” we both looked a little shocked because it was getting dark and the road that these people were about to travel was very dangerous even in daylight. We suggested that the map they had been given was not very good and Muscat was at least 3 hours away, the road needed great care in daylight and driving at night was not to be recommended. They had some discussions with each other and took our recommendation of turning back rather than going on and missing the edge of the road which would have been either a very long drop or crash into a rock face.
Despite the many tourist intrusions in recent years, the locals remain very welcoming, as happens in a lot of these traditional villages that have been added to the tourist map. Although I did despair sometimes, when I saw a total lack of awareness by some visitors of the cultural sensitivities of the occupants. It probably means that in a few years, the open & hospitable welcome that tradition dictates for visitors will be lost.
Made at an abandoned (?) village on Jebel Harim Musandam: I question the abandoned because the owners would leave their Jebel accommodation and move to the coast for a couple of months each year, for fishing and general trade, so I was never sure.
The people of this area of Oman are very interesting in many ways, according to recent research the ‘Shihuh’ who occupy most of the mountainous area are a mystery.
Paolo Costa, former head of Oman’s Department of Antiquities say “Ethnically, we don’t know who they are, there is speculation that they are the original inhabitants of Arabia, pushed back into the mountains by successive Muslim and Portuguese invasions” . The Shihuh are semi-nomadic – farming their hillside terraces in the winter and living by the coast in summer to fish and harvest dates – their summer homes palm frond huts, their winter ones low stone houses that blend almost invisibly into the mountainsides. Another of the Shihuh’s peculiarities is that the men carry a long-handled axe (called a jerz) rather than the traditional curved Arab dagger, or khanjar. “The remains of some prehistoric weapon?” (From Aramco World. Vol:34)
I have one of these axes from my time in the Musandam.
Other than arriving by sea, getting into the Musandam was very difficult and in some ways dangerous for outsiders; not only because of the lack of access (mountainous with precipitous cliffs) but also because the locals had a fearsome reputation. Whether justified or not, it did dissuade outsiders which achieved the result they wanted.
They speak a dialect of Arabic (A mixture of Arabic, Farsi and Urdu) which has probably evolved through several hundred years of isolation. Another area on the coast called Kumzar has a language very similar; a mix of Farsi, Arabic, Baluchi, Portuguese and English.
Since the mid – 1970’s there has been a development programme that is modernising the Musandam but still maintaining its culture and traditions. It welcomes tourists with modern hotels, 4×4 adventure camping, Dhow cruises and I have enjoyed some of the best diving in the Gulf. (Large Sharks, whale sharks & tropical reef fish)