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Oman: Hamra Old Town

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Hamra Old Town | Oman | Asia

[Visited: April 2011]

After an early start from Nizwa, we headed straight to the entrance of the old town of Al Hamra. First driving around and above the old part of the town with a sea of palm trees, we parked at a roundabout where several women were washing clothes in the falaj. A large, square adobe building, with green shutters, partly lying in ruins, was our first encounter with the houses typical of Al Hamra, at the feet of Hajjar Mountains. The house proved partly open, and we could see the old wooden beams of the ceilings, niches in the walls, wooden doors, both in- and outside. We walked the street parallel to the falaj running through the entrances of houses; here, too, we found several women doing laundry in the water in the falaj.

Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): House in the old town of Al Hamra

From this main street, many smaller streets run up the hill, and we picked one of them to walk up the hill. Here, the streets were still spaces with rocks and mud between the adobe houses. We noticed that most houses had two stories, and that the ground floors only had a door and one window, while the upper level often had rows of windows with wooden shutters. In some houses, we discovered live stock: mostly goats, sometimes a donkey. Many of the houses appeared abandoned, but some of them still had inhabitants. Actually, Al Hamra was established in the 17th century during the Ya'arubi dynasty, and in the 1970s, the inhabitants of Al Hamra managed to make Sultan Qaboos build a new part of Al Hamra where most people moved.

Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Street of the old town of Al Hamra

Nowadays, the new part of Al Hamra is pretty extended and spacious, a complete constrast with the old part of the town which is all compactly built. While some of the houses are in ruins, entering them reveals not only the way in which the houses were once decorated and organized, but also how well the adobe structures were able to provide a kind of natural air conditioning. When we reached the upper limits of the old town of Al Hamra, we came across a crumbling watchtower, a square, and some houses that looked newer. In one of them, a lone old man gestured us in and invited us to a cup of coffee. After a short conversation, we started walking down again, were invited in again, but declined, and as the sun was getting higher, realized it was time to leave Al Hamra on our way to Jebel Shams. We drove up to the ridge from where we had a last view over the old town of Al Hamra before continuing to new adventures in the mountains.

Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Decorations on a blue wooden door in the old town of Al Hamra
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Flowers with green wooden door in an adobe house of Hamra
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Row of adobe houses in Al Hamra
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Detail of an adobe house in Hamra: window
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Street running uphill in the old town of Al Hamra
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Omani man with a load on his head walking in the old town of Hamra
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Blue decorated wooden door with spikes in the old town of Hamra
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Omani woman washing clothes in the falaj of the old town of Al Hamra
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Adobe building in Al Hamra
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Adobe houses in one of the streets of the old town of Hamra
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Part of an adobe house in Al Hamra
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Old crumbling building in the old town of Hamra
Picture of Hamra Old Town (Oman): Old crumbling watchtower looking out over the old part of Al Hamra

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