Wadi Subaitnah



Wadi Subaitnah

Wadi Subaitnah is a small, horseshoe shaped oasis located at the head of Wadi Jizzi, not far from A'Dahir. One of the highlights of the oasis is the wide, deep gorge that winds through the conglomerate. At the entrance to the cultivated area, a thick, wide bridge has been constructed; there is evidence that residents once used a steel rope and pulley system to move supplies from one side of the gorge to another.

On most of our trips to Subaitnah, we observe the falaj system which is constructed on the southern side of the gorge and leads to a deep pool where the weir has been constructed. In 2004, however, we first investigated the constructions on the opposite side of the gorge and, in 2005, first noticed the presence of aloe vera plants on and near Islamic graves.

The photos in this collection follow the route up the wadi from the bridge and onto the gravel plain where the constructions and graves are located.

On many of the graves at Subaitnah, the aloe vera plants appear to be growing in a ring. One hypothesis is that a single plant was planted on the grave and, over time, the plant has multiplied and expanded outward from the original plant. Given the climate and soil conditions, one could speculate that it would take hundreds of years for a single plant to expand to a circle of plants with a diameter of a meter or more.

We have now begun to look for aloe vera growing on or near graves. To date, we have not found the plant growing in the wild alone; it is always growing at grave sites. Aloe vera, because of its medicinal qualities, is often a cultivated plant in an oasis, as we see at Khudrah, for example.

The presence of aloe vera on graves was noted by Marjcke Jongbloed in her book Wildflowers of the United Arab Emirates.

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Our visit after a rainfall meant there were fresh tracks in the clay
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This mud accumulated at the bridge
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The tracks observed appeared to be those of a domestic cat
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The water trapped behind the bridge drained slowly 
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Water would have been well over two meters deep at one time
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The "rings" provide an indication how quickly the water drained
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The wadi bed consists large of exposed "bedrock"
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Small pools cut into the "bedrock" were still full
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Water was still draining through the conglomerate during our visit
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Subaitnah gorge features a narrow channel
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The terraces and village viewed from the gravel plain 
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The photo shows the progression of terraces downward (left to right) to accommodate water flow 
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The gorge at Subaitnah is one of the deepest in the area
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Both slopes of the gorge are very steep at Subaitnah
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There is no apparent path down to the wadi bed from the village
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Walls of these structures are relatively thick
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Exceptionally large stones were used in the wall construction
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The purpose and extent of this structure are unknown
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Only a few buildings remain on top of the gravel plain
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A circular construction that may be the grave of an infant
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Conventional Islamic graves were evident 
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Stones piled on a tomb? This would be an exception
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The dimensions suggest burial but the construction is unrecognized
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Many of these were a strange combination of tomb and grave
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One of the Subaitnah graves with aloe vera plants
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More than a dozen graves, most with aloe vera
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The orientation and construction suggest these are ancient Islamic graves
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A footpath appears to exist among the graves
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Graves with aloe vera present
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Two aloe vera plants on a single grave
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A ring of aloe vera
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A single aloe vera plant on this grave
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Aloe vera plants appear to have been placed at either end of this grave
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Are these plants the remains of a ring?
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Two aloe vera rings on this grave; the result of two original plants?
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The GPS device confirms the orientation is correct for an Islamic grave
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The meter stick indicating the diameter of this ring
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Most of the rings were 80 cm or more in diameter
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Some of the graves were unusually long
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Classic mountain grave construction for this area
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The GPS device demonstrating the grave is only a few degrees off true north
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Aloe vera growing just beyond the head and foot stones of this grave
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Again the deflection almost identical to the other graves
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GPS readings for location, elevation and temperature
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No other constructions were evident in nearby wadi tributaries
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Water ponding evident of recent rain
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An earlier grave perhaps, judging by the ring of stones
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GPS data on the grave with the ring of stone
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Smaller plants enjoyed the soil inside the aloe vera ring
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One of the largest aloe vera rings at Subaitnah
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We have found similar correlation of graves and aloe vera at several locations now
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GPS data on this grave site
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Despite the location on an exposed gravel plain, the aloe vera is doing very well




 


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