Maslat is a humble village located about an hour outside of Abhaa on the way to Taa-if. Maslat means شجاع – shujaa’a – “brave.” I wonder how this village got its name. I wonder how it came to be. Were they warriors fearlessly defending their territory against other tribes before the advent of Islaam? Courageous huntsmen? Or merely a people with daring personalities? I’m awaiting answers from one of its residents – Suhaa – an intelligent student with good manners and reverent characteristics. Baarakallaah ‘alaihaa. Even before being invited out to Maslat and talking to her one on one, she stood out from most other students at school. There was something about her appearance that caused me to believe that she came from a family that loved both their culture and religion.
We hit the road. The drive was exciting and at times unnerving. We passed by many farms with grazing animals, traditional homes, historical landmarks and fresh fruit stands with gorgeous mountains in the distance. The winding roads, steep hills, cliffs and narrow pathways kept us on our toes. Despite the rough terrain, the driver “put the pedal to the metal.” The ride back home was even more frightening (and yet I’d still go back for another visit). It’s almost impossible to find Maslat unless you are familiar with the roads. One could get lost very easily. Maslat is definitely off the beaten path.
We were extremely excited upon arrival. The village was unpretentious. No glitz. No glamour. All in all, I found it extremely intriguing. The hostess said only six families – all related – live in the village. Many homes in the village were uninhabited. I hope to learn more about what happened to the families that once lived in the abandoned abodes. What caused them to give up the simple life? There once was a well and river flowing in Maslat. Perhaps when it dried up some of the locals decided to relocate.
We were taken aback as we entered the hostess’s home. The decor was far from what you’d usually see in an average Saudi home. It was quite unique. The immediate family sat down and came up with the concept together (pics later). After greeting the hostess’s mother and sister, we were given strawberry smoothies to drink and then ushered upstairs to the dining room for refreshments.
The hostess’s grandfather lived in a house across the way some years ago. The home is 300 or so years old. I guess it’s safe to assume that the great-grands and great great-grands once lived there as well, a family heirloom passed down from one generation to the next, Wallaahu Aa’lam. Its teeny windows allow just enough sunlight in to partially illuminate the rooms and at the same time keep enough of it out to beat the desert heat. Some windows were also barred to keep out wild baboons and such.
The house was also laden with wooden slats and rods that prevented the walls from collapsing during heavy rain fall over the years. Homes in the ‘Aseer Province were generally made of mud/clay and built by hand. Arab women played a major part in maintaining their dwellings and farms. I’ll elaborate on this more another time, In Shaa Allaah.
After prayer and light refreshments we prepared to tour the old house. Since it was after ‘Asr, we had to hurry in order to enjoy ourselves before sunset. It gets pretty dark at night in the village due to a lack of street lights.
After a short drive we arrived at the old home situated on a small hill. Some steps leading to the doorway were missing. Those remaining were “lofty.” After helping each other up, the hostess reminded everyone to say “Bismillaah” before entering. To the right was the main entrance into the home. In the middle there was an entrance to a pen (livestock entered and exited the pen through a gate in the rear). To the left there was a fridge-like room for storing milk and such. A leather skin was still hanging from the ceiling made of sugarcane sticks. There was a fourth room facing east – a masjid, yes a masjid complete with a mihraab and all. There was a basement-like room underneath the house used to store corn flour and other foodstuffs.
We made our way into the house. It’s dark inside – very dark. There were seven of us and two flashlights. Some of us opted to use our cellphones to help light the way. Climbing the stairs was a task. The steps were pretty high and steep. We had to really exert ourselves to make it from one step to another. Generally, when steps are high and steep, its to prevent rain from entering and flooding the place.
There were some interesting remnants in some of the rooms such as an antique sewing machine, pails, flour mills, tools, farm equipment and an old dresser. Rusty chains hung from the ceiling in a slaughter room. Arab-style couches and old bedding in another. Three large metal (maybe) containers used for preserving pershibales sat in the hallway. This five-story house holds a lot of history. I look forward to sharing more with you soon, In Shaa Allaah.