Muscat: On the first Friday of the Holy Month of Ramadan, when the Times of Oman (TOO) visited Wekan village, located 2,000m above sea level in the Nakhal Wilayat, 72-year-old Saif Abdul Al Riyami was observing his fifth hour of fasting.
Sitting on a cement bench in his backyard, adjacent to the mosque, and enjoying the breeze, Al Riyami just smiled when we said the global media had been reporting about the ‘fastest fast’ village.
Read here: Reports about shortest fasting hours in Oman 'untrue'
“Fasting here is like everywhere. We heard about the news. Other than brushing aside such false reports, what else can be done,” Al Riyami said.
Global media had reported that the residents of Wekan fast only for three hours. The report added that the people of Wekan fast from 11am until 2:30pm.
“From November until February, as the sun falls behind the mountains, we have shade. It does not mean that the sun is not there. Somebody has made an immature observation. Even if the sun is not there, we have to fast,” Al Riyami, who is one of the elders in the village, which has only around 400 residents, added.
Get your essential daily briefing delivered direct to your email inbox with our e-newsletter
According to Al Riyami, his forefathers came to Oman from Yemen through the Jebel Akdhar mountains. “Five generations back, we settled here. We cultivate fruits and vegetables, enjoy the calmness of this mountain, taste fresh natural water and have healthy food plucked from the farms,” Al Riyami said.
According to him, there are only 20 houses in the village and the power supply was started only in 1995.
“The Municipality started to supply water some five years ago. There is a small school down the mountain and those who wish to pursue higher studies go to Muscat. A majority of the houses are built on mud as bringing cement and other materials is too costly and risky. However, everyone here is happy,” Al Riyami said.
His five children are working in the army and different ministries. Yaqoob Al Riyami, a neighbour of Riyami and an official at the Ministry of Health, also brushed aside the ‘fastest fast’ rumours.
“Fasting is not done based on seeing the sun. It is done according to sunrise and sunset. It is weird to hear such kind of rumours,” Yaqoob added.
Grapes, apricots and pomegranates are mainly cultivated in the village on the terraced gardens. A descending Falaj passes from the top of the village towards the agricultural terrace, where natural materials are used to build the trail. “Farm produce is sold in the nearby markets in Nakhal and sometimes in Muscat. We get a decent amount, which is okay for us,” both the Al Riaymis said.
Meanwhile, the news about the alleged ‘fasting fast’ has propelled the tiny village to fame.
“Many tourists are coming to see whether we are fasting only for three hours or not. One way it is good. Now, everyone knows our village,” Al Riyami said.
Jayasankar Krishnamrutham and his friends, who travelled to Wekan, to see for themselves if the rumours are true, said the natural beauty atop the mountain is breathtaking. “The temperature during summer is only 30 degree Celsius. Good people and beautiful place. Love to visit again. I am here in Muscat for many years, but thanks to the wrong news, I was prompted to visit. Will come with family again,” Krishnamrutham said. The village is situated some 150 kilometres from Muscat. The road leading to the village passes through a number of valleys where the villages can only be reached by a four-wheel-drive.
While packing up our camera and saying bye to Wekan village, it was around 12pm.
“Have to pray. Fast continues,” Riyamis said and walked to the mosque..At the village, a trail, with seating areas and a rest shelter overlooking its terraces, has also been built, which stretches for about 1,100 metres, comprises of 700 steps rising to the top of the mountain, surrounded by a protective fence and containing service areas, as well as observation towers that look like castles and umbrellas.