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Damascus, Dimashq, Syria
January 17, 2005
On the main roadside of the track, and very easy to miss, is the cemetery. At first glance, it looks just like the rest of the rock-strewn plain, but a closer look reveals that many of the stones have been placed in an upright position. I still would not have known what I was looking at if I hadn't been with Muslim friends at the time. The upright stones, no more than about 10" high, mark the graves of the dead. Apart from that, there is nothing--no inscriptions, no offerings, nothing. I came away wondering how many of the stones marked the graves of those people unable to read or understand the leaflets the British used to drop to warn of an impending bombing raid.
From journal Oman: Smells Good to Me
Standing in the midday heat in Bahla, it was hard to imagine anyone having the energy for anything, never mind magic. Driving through the narrow back lanes while looking for the potteries, local people waved and smiled from the shade of doorways and date palms. The contents of the pottery workshop were not exactly bewitching, but the building was interesting and the potter and his family were very friendly. The fort, however, was impressive. Built around the 12th century and standing above the town on the side of the Bahlool mountain, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and undergoing extensive renovation. Covered in wooden scaffolding and bits of old corrugated tin, it was also closed to the public. The town walls, very much evident alongside the wadi and leading up into the hills, were once 12km long and had 132 towers and 15 gates. I was later told by an Omani that Bahla was once renowned for types of black and white magic that sounded similar to the ones in the tales of witchcraft from Europe. Magic spells could be bought to bring good or harm to people. Some Omanis believe these commodities are still available in Bahla at a price. Presumably you have to barter!
JABRIN, because of its isolated position on the gravel plain between the jebel and the desert, is probably the most impressive fort in Oman. Down a side road 7 miles west of Bahla on Route 21, it was built in the 17th century by Immam Bil'arab bin Sultan al Ya’rubi as a seat of spiritual learning. Islamic law, medicine, and astrology were studied, the latter reflected in the plaster designs in the Sun and Moon room. It’s not essential to have a guide to wander around the maze of rooms and stairways, but there are few signs, so you could miss the upstairs room built for the Immam's horse! The sympathetic restoration work is best shown in the elegant balconies and plaster latticework around the windows of the inner courtyard. The well and its feed channel in one courtyard are surrounded by a display of household objects. From the rooftop there is a spectacular view of the landscape and an equally vertiginous view down into the courtyard. It is well worth a visit. A short drive across the gravel plain beyond the fort reveals a great view, although not the most comfortable place for a picnic!