19 July, 2009

The Castles of Al Khurayba

The best and the finest honey in the world, is said to come from Wadi Do'an. Some of the best dates from Hadhramaut, come from the Valley. And undoubtedly, some of the finest architecture and most wonderful buildings I have ever seen, are in the Wady too. And due to migration from here, some of the wealthiest progeny of Hadhramout and some of the richest Arabs in the world, come from this same Valley.

In these valleys and between these canyons, during summer, like now, it becomes stiflingly hot. And as always - dry. During winter, it can get very cold here, with temperatures at nights, sometimes dropping to below 0 degrees Celsius. What could have made Freya Stark travel through these valleys, some times - completely alone? And that was way back in the 1930s, when few Westerners, let alone a woman, attempted such a feat?

During the rainy seasons, the dry valley above, gets flooded and torrents of water sweep down. The floods, at times, are fatal and destructive. But, many times too, rains are a blessing, bringing much needed water in to the valley. These date palms are mainly irrigated using rain water. There are many wells too, all along the Wady, pumping water for irrigation.

Mud bricked houses, with thick walls, are cool inside, during the hot summers. And warm, during the cold seasons. The white stuccoed roofs, help in keeping the houses cool. And they help too, in keeping rain water from leaking in to the houses.

Cliffs. Canyons. Valleys. Full of rocks. Desolate. Barren. And yet green, lush and full of splendor. And full of surprises. That's Wadi Do'an. After Al Hajerayn, the biggest surprise is in Al Khurayba. The last village, just before either going up on to the highlands towards Al Mukalla, or going deeper in to the valley.

Al Khurayba is spectacular and grand. It has these magnificent castle like, huge buildings. Built, like most houses in Wady Do'an, of mud bricks. Above, is the older 'castle'. Huge. And painted mostly white. At close range, the house is massive. And so is the other 'castle', below.

Above is the most lustrous house in Wady Do'an. Huge too. And it seems, it has all the colors of a rainbow. It's called Bayt Bugshan or Khaylat Bugshan. It's unique and one of a kind. And it does exactly what I believe it was meant to do: it mesmerizes and astonishes.

The Khaylat has a hotel in the lower floors. One can spend time here. It has large rooms. Around it, are other houses, most of which, belong to the same family. Between the houses, are narrow streets. Most of the houses here, compared to other parts of the Wady, are affluent. They are large. With colors, replicating the bigger one.

Al Kurayba is notable too, in that, it is the ancestral home of one of the wealthiest families in Saudi Arabia; who are now the biggest private investors in Hadhramout. The same family, has paid for the building of several schools, clinics and roads. The asphalted road that passes through Wady Do'an is funded by the same family. Photos don't do justice to Al Khurayba or Wady Do'an. One has to visit and see the place to appreciate all the splendor and wonders here.