Omanis revive memory of village swallowed by desert

Omanis revive memory of village swallowed by desert
1 / 5
This picture taken on December 31, 2020, shows abandoned houses in the Omani village of Wadi al-Murr, about 400 km southwest of the capital Muscat. (AFP / MOHAMMED MAHJOUB)
Omanis revive memory of village swallowed by desert
2 / 5
This picture taken on December 31, 2020, shows abandoned houses in the Omani village of Wadi al-Murr, about 400 km southwest of the capital Muscat. (AFP / MOHAMMED MAHJOUB)
Omanis revive memory of village swallowed by desert
3 / 5
Former inhabitants of Wadi al-Murr walk near abandoned houses in the Omani village, about 400 km (250 miles) southwest of the capital Muscat, on December 31, 2020. (AFP / MOHAMMED MAHJOUB)
Omanis revive memory of village swallowed by desert
4 / 5
Mohammed al-Ghanbousi, a former inhabitant of Wadi al-Murr, stands next to his abandoned house in the Omani village, about 400 km southwest of the capital Muscat, on December 31, 2020. (AFP / MOHAMMED MAHJOUB)
Omanis revive memory of village swallowed by desert
5 / 5
Former inhabitants of Wadi al-Murr, gather near abandoned houses in the Omani village, about 400 km southwest of the capital Muscat, on December 31, 2020. (AFP / MOHAMMED MAHJOUB)
Short Url
Updated 10 January 2021

Omanis revive memory of village swallowed by desert

Omanis revive memory of village swallowed by desert
  • Deserts are expanding all over the world, pushed on by climate change
  • Wadi Al-Murr is cut off from main roads and only reachable via a long, rough track

WADI AL-MURR, Oman: Encroaching sands have left little evidence that the Omani village of Wadi Al-Murr ever existed, but former inhabitants and curious visitors are coming to rediscover the hamlet engulfed by the desert.
Salem Al-Arimi, originally from the area, looked out nostalgically over the expanse.
According to local elders, “all the houses in the village were invaded by the sand that assailed them 30 years ago, forcing the inhabitants to leave their homes,” he said.
Building tops and sections of stone wall emerge here and there, bearing witness to those who once lived here.
Deserts are expanding all over the world, pushed on by climate change, and affected populations have few weapons to fight back.
Wadi Al-Murr’s inhabitants, who mostly relied on pastoral activities, had to give up their village, swelling the ranks of those migrating to towns and cities.
Located at the bottom of a valley nearly 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of the capital Muscat, Wadi Al-Murr is cut off from main roads and only reachable via a long, rough track.
Its isolation, including from the electricity and water grids, contributed to its slide into obscurity.
But that has not prevented erstwhile residents from returning to visit, along with trekking enthusiasts who take desert hikes in the region.
Mohammed Al-Ghanbousi, a former inhabitant, said the moving dunes had re-exposed some dwellings after they were covered by sand.
This phenomenon has prompted “nostalgic people to visit the village, whose structures still stand because they are built from stone,” he said.
“The village has recently been included in trekking tours and also attracts photography enthusiasts,” he added.
A mosque that sits within the village, which in its heyday had about 30 houses and 150 inhabitants, is one building that has resurfaced.
Mohammed Al-Alaoui said that when his mother learnt some homes had reappeared, she asked him to take her back.
“She often wants to go, and she likes to be there while she relates her memories of the old days, and sheds a few tears,” he said.
Rashed Al-Ameri is among the Omani tourists who have come to discover the hamlet swallowed by the desert.
He traveled from Sur, hundreds of kilometers away, with two friends who were also keen to see Wadi Al-Murr.
Oman, which is trying to diversify its oil-reliant economy, is seeking to develop its tourism industry — capitalizing on its rich heritage, scenic coasts and stunning mountain geography.
The sultanate attracted three million foreign tourists in 2019, but like almost everywhere else, the novel coronavirus pandemic reduced visitors to a trickle in 2020.
Ameri is among those who believe Wadi Al-Murr could easily be included on Oman’s tourist trail.
“What amazed me was that the force of nature could erase an entire village,” he said.
“And what’s more amazing is how this place, with its old walls, resists these assaults.”


No-go for Joe Exotic: Donald Trump’s pardon list omits ‘Tiger King’

No-go for Joe Exotic: Donald Trump’s pardon list omits ‘Tiger King’
Updated 20 January 2021

No-go for Joe Exotic: Donald Trump’s pardon list omits ‘Tiger King’

No-go for Joe Exotic: Donald Trump’s pardon list omits ‘Tiger King’
  • Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison
OKLAHOMA CITY: One name missing in President Donald Trump’s flurry of pardons is “Tiger King” Joe Exotic.
His team was so confident in a pardon that they’d readied a celebratory limousine and a hair and wardrobe team to whisk away the zookeeper-turned-reality-TV-star, who is now serving a 22-year federal prison sentence in Texas. But he wasn’t on the list announced Wednesday morning.
Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for his role in a failed murder-for-hire plot targeting his chief rival, Carole Baskin, who runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida. Baskin was not harmed.
Maldonado-Passage, who has maintained his innocence, was also sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records. A jury convicted him in April 2019.
In his pardon application filed in September, Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys argued that he was “railroaded and betrayed” by others. Maldonado-Passage, 57, is scheduled to be released from custody in 2037, but his attorneys said in the application that “he will likely die in prison” because of health concerns.
Maldonado-Passage’s legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday.
The blond mullet-wearing zookeeper, known for his expletive-laden rants on YouTube and a failed 2018 Oklahoma gubernatorial campaign, was prominently featured in the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”