The houses in Wadi bani Habib, built entirely of mud, are completely abandoned today. Nevertheless, the mountain village in Oman's Jebel Akhdar mountain range is a popular tourist destination.
The petite mountain village of Wadi bani Habib is located in the Jebel Akhdar mountain region in northern Oman. It is built entirely of mud and once had about 700 inhabitants. The terrain is too steep for road construction, the way to Birkat al Mawz or Nizwa was managed by donkeys and there was no electricity either.
In the 1980s, its inhabitants decided to leave Wadi bin Habib and settle on the other side of the mountain, where there are better opportunities for infrastructure. Today, the mountain village is no longer inhabited by a soul. The mud huts nestle against the steep flank of the mountain like partly weathered toy houses.
On the way to Wadi bani Habib
The Wadi bani Habib can be reached from the Saiq Plateau after a good one-hour hike. The plateau is one of the most beautiful vantage points in Jebel Akhdar and can be climbed today from Birkat al Mawz via numerous serpentines with a 4×4 off-road vehicle (required at the checkpoint).
From the car park at the Saiq plateau, steep stairs lead to the Wadi bani Habib, although they are already somewhat battered by wind and weather. Caution is advised here! The steps lead to the bottom of the wadi, where it continues southwards.
Among the numerous walnut, peach and pomegranate trees, one feels as if one has discovered a secret garden in the Omani mountain desert. Many of the trees and bushes are almost bent horizontally by the masses of water that rush through the wadi after abundant rainfall.
Master builder's art in the Wadi bani Habib
After the green part of the wadi and a naturally grown tunnel, Wadi bani Habib emerges on the mountain flank. The surrounding wall of the mountain village can be entered through a gate. Behind it, abandoned mud huts in various stages of decay stretch up the mountain. The art of the Omani master builders is still remarkable, for some walls have apparently not yet collapsed in defiance of all the laws of gravity.
However, how long one can continue to wander through the narrow alleys of Wadi bani Habib depends on the rainfall, because rain and humidity are poison for any earthen building. Some of the houses have already collapsed or been washed away, and there is no renovation in sight (yet).