Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Old (Mud) Houses in Oman

I'm obsessed with the different styles of houses around the world. Humans are pretty intelligent and practical. I've posted before about Omani houses (the current style, especially of upper class / richer Omanis who have benefited immensely from the oil discovery), although now that I think about it, I think that post may be currently under "drafts." Long story as to why I did that, but I'll post it back once I'm back in the U.S. Four more days for that to happen, inshaAllah!

I've also previously blogged about what traditional Pukhtun/Pashtun houses look like. As you probably know by now, unless you're a new reader of mine from my time in Oman, I'm Pukhtun (also known as Pashtun), and I hope that's obvious from this blog, but in case it's not, now you know. Grin.

So basically, the old houses in Oman are comparable to what the Pukhtun houses even today are like. As more (upper-class) Pukhtuns move into more developed areas, like this place called Township in Kanju, Swat, their houses are built more in western style -- i.e., closed instead of open-aired, more modern-style kitchens and bathrooms, and so on. There are, of course, many differences, among them that most Omani families today do NOT live in these old houses. I haven't seen anyone living in a mud house here at all (and, as you can tell from the pictures I've shared from Swat in the Pukhtun houses blog post, most houses there aren't made of mud but of cement. The point is that they're open-aired with a court yard and rooms that are accessible through the courtyard rather than the courtyard being separated from the rooms or larger house). I've been to houses here (images above and below) where, right after the gate/main entrance, there's a house courtyard within which are is housed the majlis (where male guests or men gather), and then there's another gate/entrance with a smaller courtyard where the actual home is located. What happens is that in the evening times, or on special occasions, all the families who live in that space will come out into the courtyard where the kids will play while the women and men sit around and talk. Because sometimes, that one courtyard is large enough to accommodate more than one house so that families live together but not necessarily, though sometimes, in the same house. It's actually a beautiful sight, and while I'm sure there are a lot of family feuds that take place in such closeness, it ultimately works out for the better for the community, families, and especially children.

The pictures below are of houses that are now abandoned. I've to read up on how they ended up being abandoned, since I've heard different things. BUT! Yesterday, I visited someone here whose parents (but not the person themselves, I don't think) live in the older-styled house. It was actually just like a Pukhtun house pictured in the photos linked above. I was quite surprised because I haven't seen that type here at all. I want to say, however--and this may not be an accurate conclusion at all; please correct me so, if you're someone reading this and know enough about Omani history and society to know this is wrong--that people living in these kinds of houses, like the person whose family I visited yesterday, are either lower-class or lower-middle class Omanis, not exactly rich. They didn't have many of the accommodations and luxuries I've been a witness to in many other Omani houses.

Okay, I could (and probably should) go on about this, but here are the old-style houses. The abandoned ones where I didn't see anyone living at all. They're located within a walking distance from the center where I'm studying.

There was light! That means someone's still living there.

A new-style house right in the same neighborhood as the old ones.

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