Looking around me at all the new condominium towers here in downtown Toronto the other day got me thinking about the different kinds of structures in which people live that I have seen in my travels. I particularly love some of the most simple dwellings, usually in remote places where there is no such thing as modern life. There remains a harmony between these people and their environment on which they depend entirely for their existence….a harmony that is visually undeniable and one that the modern world has lost.
One of these places, Musandam, is the most northern province of the sultanate of Oman. I couldn’t believe how their homes were virtually invisible and, in my view, more beautiful for that. These mountain people, living in rock dwellings, have their own language which sounds to the untrained ear to be a kind of very loud, high pitch cry. Their nearest neighbour, a few thousand feet higher up or lower down the mountain, had to be able to hear this sound and to understand it no matter the conditions. The terrain is so rugged that the people could not be scrambling up or down the mountain for any little thing so a language soon evolved which is still in use today, echoing up and down the mountainsides.
I love how these dwellings blend into the landscape making them very difficult to see. We had lunch here with Sheema, a goat herder and her son. The view from inside was incredible, overlooking the valley with a direct sight line to anyone approaching. There was no sound and not much light which would have made it somber during the winter months but when we were there, the cool,dark interior was a welcome break from the heat of the day. We had a wonderful lunch…the generosity overwhelming from people who had almost nothing by western standards. They had their herd of goats, a roof over their heads, enough to eat and they seemed comfortable with who they were and their place within their community.
Lunch at Sheema’s, Wahabi Desert, Oman rose quartz, amethyst 24 x30
Sheema’s handicrafts acrylic on paper with silver
The Energy Inside, Musandam, acrylic on paper
There was a wonderful, happy energy inside this dwelling which was a huge surprise to me; from the outside, it didn’t seem possible and yet, we had a very special time there and I left with a few of Sheema’s handicrafts which kept her busy in her quiet times…belts and bracelets woven in colours that blended into her world, whether reflecting the sunsets, the hardy, tiny mountain flowers or the rocks which seemed to drip with all kind of colours due to their high mineral content.
Yet, from a distance, these mountain dwellings and neighbouring animal enclosures were barely visible. They made almost no impact on the natural beauty and flow of the land. Such a different life from our modern one, such different sensibilities… and… such a different impact on the environment than we have on ours.