Lockdown tales: All Alone
For veteran adventurist, Ahmed al Mahrouqi, the current lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic came as a bolt from the blue as he had to overnight stall some ambitious plans for a new epic journey in Oman wherein he hoped to retrace ancient route used by some legendary travellers in the sultanate.
However, to protect himself from coronavirus, Ahmed retreated to a remote place in the interior along with his camels to spend his 'quality time' in solitude.
“The current pandemic has taught me a lot of things, the importance of which most people were unaware of till now, from personal hygiene to quarantine. I think, Omanis, too, need to understand this to keep themselves and their families safe,” says Mahrouqi, adding that he moved to an inhabitated, remote place, around seven kilometres from Adam, where he chose to live far from the town with only his camels fro company.
Mahrouqi set up a camp with a small traditional dwelling that resembles those set up in heritage villages that one sees in the Muscat Festival as well as elsewhere. He has few basic amentites within his compound and arranges for food for himself from whatever is locally available. He has also been growing his own vegetables around his camp, a task which also keeps him busy all day.
“This pandemic has taught us all how to keep oneself occupied with varied activity, how to do many things for oneself without the help of anyone as it is important to avoid contact with strangers to be safe and healthy,” Mahrouqi said, adding that he has not only created his own furniture and accessories needed for comfort within his camp but also painted the dwelling himself.
He has also created a green house in one section to keep his interiors cool and irrigated as well as to grow his own vegetables in a controlled cool environment. He has installed a blower fan, water conduits and other infrastructure needed all by himself and looks on this arrangement as a long-term measure to spend his later years.
Mahrouqi has a simple message for everyone during Ramadan. He says, “this disease has come during Ramadan to give us all a big test. Besides prayer and fasting, we need to keep ourselves busy in order to be free from stress. Men can do all the household maintenance works themselves, besides heping their wives to prepare the meal for iftar, and helping their children in studies. In this way, family bonds will get stronger.”
Being away from town and people doesn't quite make Mahrouqi bored or depressed. In fact, he prefers this life style and has been relishing all his adventures in the desert for several days when he has to meet many challenges and do things all by himself.
“This disease has taught me a lot of things. I have some problems with my legs and my back but still I am on my feet doing things, plumbing, welding, painting, and facing every challenge that comes up. It is the best way to stay fit during this lockdown when you cannot move out of your home.”