The dhow anchored, and I ferried to the beach on a long, narrow batil, a fast, Kumzar-built boat rowed by half a dozen men. Its long prow and graceful lines re¬minded me of a Venetian gondola.
On shore, village elder Abdullah bin Has¬san welcomed me with coffee and dates, then led me on a brief tour of the tightly packed town. Along lanes barely a yard wide, children still found room to romp. We passed a woman hanging wash to dry, while another hand-cranked a sewing machine. In places, graves that angled toward distant Mecca narrowed passage to less than a foot. Kumzar’s cemeteries overflowed long ago, and many of the dead lie buried under the floor of their homes within a few feet per¬haps of where they were born.childrens_in_class
“Overcrowding is our curse. Every square meter between the cliffs is built up,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
In a small courtyard girls, swaying back and forth over battered, yellowed text¬books, recited Arabic lessons. The teacher wore a long calico gown and, true to Kum¬zari fashion, a stark, masklike veil.Heal-the-world1
“The government plans to build a modern school here,” my host said. “Problem is, where to put it?”
We paused at Kumzar’s only shop, stocked with basics: tea, cloth, motor oil, kettles, milk powder, fishhooks, twine. Over the counter, banter was lively, but I understood barely a word. The Kumzari mix Arabic and Persian with a grammar all their own. I could follow Sheikh Abdullah as he explained in Arabic: “Kumzar is, of course, closer to Iran than it is to Oman proper. Before the troubles in Iran we trad¬ed regularly with Bandar Abbas, on the other side of the strait. Nowadays it is forbidden.”