Wednesday, December 26:  Today is Christmas Day!  Well, not the REAL Christmas day.  After all, we had to work the real Christmas Day, December 25, at the university.  But, thankfully, we get off this day after Christmas, meaning we have a three-day weekend.  To take full advantage of the holiday, Mario and I drive to Ibra in Sharqiya region to visit the ruins of Al Munisifeh.

According to the Rough Guide to Oman, Ibra is the principal town of inland Sharqiya.  It grew rich because of its location on the major trade route between Muscat, Sur and Zanzibar.  The ruined village of Al Munisifeh, which lies a few kilometers beyond the Ibra souq, is one of the finest old walled villages I have seen in Oman.

The village, surrounded by the remnants of its original walls, has gateways at either end linked by a central street.  Lining this street are assorted modern houses interspersed with grand old buildings built of mudbrick and stone.  Many of these houses are two stories high, although the floors between the levels caved in long ago.  Their size and decorative details attest to the wealth amassed by the village’s merchants during Ibra’s role as a prime player along the major trade route.

Click on any of the images below to see a full-sized slide show.

I’ve explored a lot of ruins in Oman, but I have to say these are the most amazing I have seen.  Between the size of the houses, the finely carved arches and wall niches, and the decorative carvings on the wooden doors and window frames, they are overwhelmingly impressive.  We can’t stop exclaiming about how marvelous they are.   We take multitudes of pictures.

Every once in a while we are startled by pigeons who now inhabit these homes.  They burst forward from rafters or wall niches, fluttering and gurgling over our heads.

Mario, who has been here before, tells me that his Omani friends told him the first impressive building we come upon is a hospital.  I don’t know if I believe this, as to me it looks like a wealthy man’s home. Hospitals are usually stark and sleek with little decorative detail.  I would love to hear from any Omanis who know the story of this village.

I can’t believe that after 1 1/4 years of traveling from one end of Oman to another, there are gems like this that I haven’t discovered.  Still, there is adventure awaiting me during my last 6 months in Oman… 🙂

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ~ Marcel Proust