Deep in Oman's countryside are many villages that still retain their traditional charm and sense of rural solitude. Perhaps the most appealing of these is Bilad Sayt, a tranquil mountain hamlet tucked away in the protective embrace of Al Rostaq's rugged hills.Every year scores of local and foreign tourists make the bumpy journey by 4WD and on foot for a glimpse of this remote village and its picturesque settings. They marvel at its unspoilt beauty and traditional character, which is a world away from the bustle and stress that generally characterises life in urban areas.
Bilad Sayt's old-world appeal lies in its cluster of stone-and-mud dwellings laid out like steps along the slope of a rocky hill. It is a typical Omani communal-style settlement, not very different from the old neighbourhoods of Al Hamra, Nizwa and Adam where homes are built in a tight huddle. A labyrinth of narrow pathways connects these atmosphere dwellings, some of which are even two or three storeys high. A formidable square tower, now in poignant ruin, stands on top of the hill overlooking Bilad Sayt.
A verdant swathe of date palms and a patchwork of terraced fields accentuate the scenic beauty of this natural setting. All around are the impressive profiles of mountains that are a part of the Jebal Shams range.From somewhere deep within these mountains emerge crystal streams of water that eventually feed the village's two main aflaj. These nurture the area's lush heritage of date palm gardens and farms below. The overflow ends up in the wadi that skirts Bilad Sayt and meanders on for about 7km, cutting a deep swathe through the surrounding mountains.
Before it joins forces with the spectacular Wadi Bani Auf downstream, this wadi creates dramatic gorges that also invite discovery. Adding to the village's rustic charm is the sight of farmers tending lush fields of alfalfa, and womenfolk returning from the mountain springs with pots of fresh water gingerly balanced on their heads. In summer, men from the village set out early every morning to scour the nearby mountains for the bhoot tree that produces a type of sweet, purple-coloured berry. The tree usually grows along the ridges of high mountains, notably in Jabal Shams and Al Jabal al Akhdar, and its fruit is hugely coveted by Omanis around the Sultanate. Moreover, the bhoot is widely touted for its nutritive and health properties.
While looking for berries in the mountains, the villagers also check out caves and crannies for honey stashed away by wild bees. This pure, natural honey is also in great demand around the Sultanate. Because of its location high in the mountains of the Jebal Shams range, Bilad Sayt enjoys moderate daytime temperatures even in summer while the rest of the interior region sizzles. Winter weather can be especially pleasant. Just three kilometres from Bilad Sayt is another tranquil Omani village located deep in the wedge of mountains.