Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Felaj

Ancient engineering skills are something that surprises our minds since during that period heavy machinery and other forms of equipment we have today weren’t available. One of such systems that requires mention is the Felaj system of irrigation in Oman. The Felaj system is seen across Oman and some parts of Iran and Iraq and these systems have a history of more than 3000 years. The system known as Felaj (p. Aflaj) was built for extensive irrigation needs of this region since the region is a semi-arid terrain and rainfall is scarce. This system is an engineering marvel of ancient Arabia.

The system is actually a network of channels that pass through an entire village supplying water from a hidden source somewhere at the foot of the mountains.It acts as arteries of water that supplies the entire region. The system has a mother well from which water is channeled into the villages and water can be used from these small networks of the Felaj system. The Felaj are seen all over Oman and have different varieties. In Iran it is called Qanat and is of slightly a different form having a large mother well and a number of vertical shafts. The Omani Felaj system is of ancient origin dating back to as early as 2500 B.C.

This system can provide water across large areas and some of the Felaj extend upto 12 Kms or more. The water supply increases with rain and may be scarce during intense summer but it provides water almost all year round. These Aflaj are found in almost every part of Oman and there are about 3000 of such systems at present.The Aflaj system has been included in the world Heritage sites by UNESCO.

The photos show an old Felaj in the village of Imty which has gone dry. This system consists of a source well hidden from view at the foot of the mountains bordering the village. The water is carried from there through underground channel of the felaj and flows into the village. The felaj consists of small wells in to which the water is fed. These wells are about 10-12 metres in depth and the water flows through it and emerges out from another well from at the other side of the village about 100metres away. The system then runs across other fields and houses in the village. The water flows in the well (gharraq) and reaches another one and flows out through it (fallah). The entire artery is hidden from view and lies beneath the land.

Another interesting fact is the material used in the construction of this sophisticated network of water channels. The felaj is strengthened and cemented with a material known as Surookh, which could be called ancient cement. The material is made from the wood of a tree which is burnt to ashes and used for cementing the Felaj. The material is strong and still remains as it is without much damage.

The engineering and science used in these systems make us think about the expertise that the ancient generations had and this system is a remarkable asset to the Omani History.

sources: My travels to the A'Dakhiliyah region
Photos from the Wilayat of Izki

Friday, 7 June 2013

A city rain...

The monsoon has arrived and the sky is darker above with life sprouting underneath. The wind is heavy and cold but pleasant and it tickles the heart as it passes through you. The city beneath is waiting for a bath. Rain in cities is a mess. The cloudy skies make you happy expecting a downfall that would bring blessings, but the city never likes it. It is clogged, heavy and busy and the trickles and drizzles would bring rainfall that fills it. I can see the dark big clouds blanketing the jungle of cement and bricks. The blue and pink villas are now dark and waiting for the rainfall. The sky looks breath-taking with the blue clouds over the white ones and the string of orange sunshine struggling to pass through it.

 And it rains, it rains heavy. The water swells up on the ground and the narrow gulley is filled with mucky water. People run to the sides of tea stalls and small shops, standing under the sign boards wet but safe from drenching in the rainwater. When you look at the sky an overwhelming feel of happiness with awe strikes you. It is indeed a blessing. The dry atmosphere has been changed within seconds to pleasant one.

But cities get crowded with rainfall. The bustling markets get even thicker with traffic and the atmosphere is filled with loud sounds of autorickshaw horns and vrooming of those light weight motor bikes. It gets even dirtier with puddles of rainwater on the road mixed with the overflow of the drainage system. Whatever messiness it creates one cannot take away happiness from rain. It is happiness and it is pouring down on every particle of the brown soil. Sitting cross-legged on the terrace I sip a hot cup of tea watching the rain, watching blessing in water form….

Thursday, 9 May 2013


The aspect of faith that reveals itself to human is that which brings a stronger affinity towards faith in something that you believe. This aspect is the unexpected events that occur in every human being’s life. We may call it ‘the miracle’. Sceptics may challenge this word as everything has a reason but within the boundaries of human thinking, some miracles haven’t got any reasons. This benefits the believers with the cementing of one’s faith.

Miracles are called so since men cannot comprehend cause of such an event. This exerts the view that Faith is real. While it is real it has many different dimensions as well as forms. These forms are according to the direction to which faith points. Reality is the One and when the path is towards it, faith exists in its realest form. Faith is believing in ‘al ghaib’ and believing in ‘al ghaib’ sweeps away the notion of reason. One wonders then why do we think, why is it a part of the human process and why is it encouraged in the holy book.

The answer lies in what faith is made of. To reach the epitome of faith one has to step on all the blocks of the staircase and reasoning helps in achieving one’s faith. In the case of the real faith which is the faith in the One, the Omnipotent, reason and intellect actually purports the very idea of learning his or her faith. Intellect supports his faith in the One. The Holy Quran encourages thinking and reasoning as it says

And it is He who spread the earth and placed therein firmly set mountains and rivers; and from all of the fruits He made therein two mates; He causes the night to cover the day. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. (Al Quran 13:3)

These signs are a stimulator of thoughts that provide the impetus to think about god and get close to him and ultimately be a devout human being. It strengthens the faith. In this respect intellectual capability and logical reasoning channelled in the desired way will lead to faith in the one and only god. It begins or initiates the belief in god and is the step of the staircase. Miracles are also similar to these signs but they may have no reason that can be understood by men but it surely shoots in a thought of God and this starts the process towards the faith in him. In both ways, faith is instilled in one’s mind. They are a source to belief or faith.

Faith Involves reasoning and logic but depending on it entirely is detrimental for faith itself. Reasoning and logic are modes to reach a conclusion and in the case of faith in God too it is implemented, but man has a limitation; the limitation that was created by God and there are matters above the boundary of man’s thought which may baffle his mind but is an ultimate truth and believing in it confirms his faith. One can say reason and intellect will lead you to faith and the belief in the unseen confirms it.