The vanishing beauty spots - Akif Abdulamir - 29 April 2011

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When I was fed up with the noise in Muscat, I decided to spend a few hours somewhere quiet. So I drove north, leaving behind the city, looking for a small town not very far from the capital.

Then I remembered a small hamlet I visited twenty-five years ago when I was a student. Filled with excitements, I stepped on the accelerator and headed to Qarn, southeast of Oman.
It was not easy finding the place because the hands of progress have reached out to change the familiar surrounding. If it was not for the sign board that pointed to the village, I would not have found it. I was both shocked and disappointed when I reached the place. The sleepy little place has lost its magic forever. The small cluster of dwellings and shops has been replaced by modern villas and a sprawling shopping mall. I resented what I saw but many would say progress is inevitable and sleepy little villages cannot stop the razing of a bulldozer.
There was a family I knew there but their little house was replaced by a huge villa. I knew what happened. It is the same story repeating itself. The family was forced to sell their house to a building developer. Two decades ago, nobody was interested with Qarn except for the like of me. However, because the place is just a few hundreds meters from the beach, wealthy businessmen have now moved in to build their holiday homes. It was once a quiet fishing village where most of the locals earned their living from the sea. From where I was standing, I saw a huge board and out of curiosity, I walked towards it. The board summed up the story of Qarn. Someone was building a beach resort to take advantage of the tourist business. They had to raze away at least two hundred houses for the new developments. Where were all the fishermen gone to?  I was told that they retired not so gracefully to the farms on the foot of a mountain five kilometres away. Their children moved out looking for jobs in Muscat. There was nothing left for them there. Qarn is a good example where members of the close-knit families are pushed to separate corners of the country leaving their elderly parents behind.
I walked further down to the old souq but it was not there anymore. Workers were putting the final touch on a shopping mall on the exact spot. There was nothing in Qarn now but noise and pollution from heavy vehicles. What happened to the tranquility that I knew twenty years? It has all disappeared under the banner of progress. I could see old folks walking aimlessly and looked completely lost in their own hometown. They have become the victims of the harsh reality. Strangers have invaded their beautiful hamlet and twisted it to something that they can no longer relate.
I suddenly felt lucky. I was fortunate enough to visit the place before developments changed its geography forever. I would always remember it as it was two decades ago. In my mind, it would be always the peaceful hamlet that developers have now traded for power and glory. The saddest thing is that such places are vanishing very fast. Where would we retreat if the pace of the big cities becomes unbearable? Since there was nothing left for me there, I drove back home knowing that I would never come back. When the familiar tall buildings of Muscat came to sight an hour later, I stopped at a fast food restaurant to have lunch. It was not part of my plans but then having lunch at a serene little spot is now out of question. 
Akif Abdulamir is an Oman-based writer

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