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Sunday, December 15, 2019

AL BURAIMI stepping back into my past

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

I took a day trip to the neighbouring Sultanate of Oman in mid-January and was overwhelmed by the reception I received from our Omani neighbours.  I have been meaning to return to Al Buraimi for some time. In my youth, my family owned a cluster of palm huts in the Buraimi Oasis. I often spent my holidays there and have always had fond memories of it.

The area was once part of Al Ain, and until 2006 there was an open border. Today it is located just across the border from the United Arab Emirates. I was accompanied on my latest journey by my brother Sultan, my three sons and one of my grandsons. I wanted them to get a glimpse of my past.

It was a nostalgic journey which reminded me of the relaxing times we would spend in Al Buraimi. I remember one summer we rented a date farm where we gathered dates ourselves and carried home sacks of them. I remember it like it was yesterday. The air was fresh, clean and crisp and the fresh vegetables were delicious. I remember how the springs used to gush and flow like small rivers.

It was remarkable to see that this oasis, which has been continuously inhabited for some 4,000 years, continues to thrive because of an ancient irrigation system called falaj. I was taken to see the latest irrigations systems, which I was pleased to see still bear resemblance to the ones I remember; full of charm and tradition. Modernization has not taken over this beautiful part of the world. The falaj remains the main sources of irrigation water in this area beside wells. The falaj taps into the underground water which is led by a man-made channel to the villages. I was impressed by the workmanship and pleased to see that Oman has retained so much of its authenticity.

The authenticity extended to the traditional Omani hospitality I received on my visit. I was greeted by many including the son of the former wali of Al Buraimi. The gathering at Al Hila Fort, an old Islamic fort which dates back to the 18th Century AD, reminded me of the rich cultural ties we have with our Omani brothers. It has been 30 years since my previous visit to the area, although I did visit the capital Muscat in 2017. I will not leave it so long until my next visit, and I urge others to take the same journey. As I headed back to Dubai, the Hajar Mountains in the distance faded into the background, but they have left an indelible mark on my memory.

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