Okay. Okay. So there is no “Wicked Witch of Dhofar” exactly but if there were, I think this is what her house would look like: This little yellow house is under some of the creepiest trees and bizarre mountain range formations of Wadi Darbat and a stone’s throw from one of the locations that sees waterfalls during the Monsoon Rains of July and August in the Dhofar province of Oman. It brings back memories of a childhood classic story, Hansel and Gretel. This is the kind of house one could imagine the wicked witch lived in.
“It was now three mornings since they had left their father’s house. They began to walk again, but they always came deeper into the forest, and if help did not come soon, they must die of hunger and weariness. When it was mid-day, they saw a beautiful snow-white bird sitting on a bough, which sang so delightfully that they stood still and listened to it. And when its song was over, it spread its wings and flew away before them, and they followed it until they reached a little house, on the roof of which it alighted. And when they approached the little house they saw that it was built of bread and covered with cakes, but that the windows were of clear sugar. “We will set to work on that,” said Hansel, “and have a good meal. I will eat a bit of the roof, and you Gretel, can eat some of the window, it will taste sweet.” Hansel reached up above, and broke off a little of the roof to try how it tasted, and Gretel leant against the window and nibbled at the panes. Then a soft voice cried from the parlor – “Nibble, nibble, gnaw who is nibbling at my little house?” The children answered – “The wind, the wind, the heaven-born wind,” and went on eating without disturbing themselves. Hansel, who liked the taste of the roof, tore down a great piece of it, and Gretel pushed out the whole of one round window-pane, sat down, and enjoyed herself with it. Suddenly the door opened, and a woman as old as the hills, who supported herself on crutches, came creeping out. Hansel and Gretel were so terribly frightened that they let fall what they had in their hands. The old woman, however, nodded her head, and said, “Oh, you dear children, who has brought you here? Do come in, and stay with me. No harm shall happen to you.” She took them both by the hand, and led them into her little house. Then good food was set before them, milk and pancakes, with sugar, apples, and nuts. Afterwards two pretty little beds were covered with clean white linen, and Hansel and Gretel lay down in them, and thought they were in heaven. The old woman had only pretended to be so kind. She was in reality a wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built the little house of bread in order to entice them there. When a child fell into her power, she killed it, cooked and ate it, and that was a feast day with her. Witches have red eyes, and cannot see far, but they have a keen scent like the beasts, and are aware when human beings draw near. When Hansel and Gretel came into her neighborhood, she laughed with malice, and said mockingly, “I have them, they shall not escape me again.” Early in the morning before the children were awake, she was already up, and when she saw both of them sleeping and looking so pretty, with their plump and rosy cheeks, she muttered to herself, “That will be a dainty mouthful”…” (full story here) A lot of people associate Nizwa with witchcraft, magic and sorcery but Dhofar province and Salalah itself are not without their own legends, myths and dark fables. Here are two that I’ve heard/experienced lately: 1) Khor Rhouri, (between Salalah and Mirbat) an ancient port used for the trade of frankincense and recognized as an ancient UNESCO Heritage site, is believed by locals to be the meeting spot of all the top witches and sorcerrors of the world. They say some of the rocks in the ruins (pictured above) are naturally shaped like a round table with chairs. The interesting part about that rumour is that it is confirmed that there is an ancient temple dedicated to the Sabaean god, Sin (or Syn). Hmm. The weird thing is that I thought I had never been there but when I did a search on google images, I noticed this pic from my last trip there (but I had forgotten the name of the place): So that was a little more than creepy to google the site of some dark, evil place, to forget that I had been there and to see my own bloody hand in the first few images to pop up!
2) Mirbat and Taqa – This is what I read from on on-line book: “Many of the hilltribes are superstitious and witchcraft was once common, especially around the towns of Mirbat and Taqa.” The famous blogger, Dhofari Gucci, wrote about the voodoo/witchcraft of Taqa in this blog post.
Taqa was an especially creepy place for me as I have a vivid memory of something very strange (almost) happen to me there when looking for this: (My pic of Taqa Castle as darkness started to fall) Now the story I’m about to tell you actually happened and it’s a little freaky writing about it now (I had tried to forget this!) well past midnight as the wife and baby sleep in the other room. On my way back to my cheap hotel on my first night in Salalah, I thought I’d try to quickly locate the supposedly “must-see” Taqa Castle even though it was starting to get dark. I drove around Taq, which is not a big city, quite a few times but there were no signs indicating the location of the ancient castle. I stopped to ask a few locals who either didn’t know or whose English was not good enough to communicate with me. While some younger guys were doing their best to help me out (to no avail) as I tried drawing a picture of a fort/castle on a scrap of paper, I noticed an older man in a dirty, worn looking dishdasha taking an interest in our conversation and he slowly approached my car. There was something odd about this man and I felt extremely uncomfortable in my spirit as he approached. My discomfort increased dramatically when he insisted that he knew where the Castle was and kept insisting on letting him get in my car so he could show me even though the Castle was in the opposite direction from which this man had been heading. There was a faint smell of alcohol on his breath, he had a reddish discoloring in his eyes and he seemed overly excited, almost jittery. I felt like God was saying, “Do not allow this man in your car, no matter what he tries to tell you!” I don’t have that many experiences where I’ve felt so strongly that God was warning me in an inner voice but I was more than glad to drive out of Taqah, as silly as that may sound!
Well, this blog post is long enough and it’s getting far too late to be writing about such things. It’s funny how I only wanted to make a point about how that little yellow house looked like something out of a children’s book and just look where that has taken us, dear reader. Funny how a blog post can take on a life of its own! 🙂