Wednesday, April 13, 2011

THINGS TO SEE & DO on the weekend: Safa House in Al Hamra

The OPNO girls first blogged about Beit Safa (Beit is 'house' in Arabic) in January 2011. But we didn't upload any pics. Safa House, nestled in the traditional quarter of the township of Al Hamra, is a 400 year old house constructed of mud bricks having once belonged to a member of Aulad Umran of the Al Abri tribe. Now it is a museum about traditional Omani life, and is definately on our list of top historical tourist attractions in Oman. Why? Because it is one of Oman's only interactive museums. Omani staff in traditional dress demonstrate daily life and chores as well as handicrafts in this house, so you can get a feel for what life was like here a hundred years ago. Or just back in the 70s :)

Above pictured is the traditional "Majlis" were you will be served dates, tea, and Omani coffee.
Before this you will likely have been given a demonstration of how traditional blankets are woven and traditional cosmetics. If you are brave try the safron yellow facial. But watch out because it takes a good 15 minutes to rub off!:) There is also a room with traditional Omani dress from all over Oman that you can dress up in for photos, along with baby care from the old days in Oman.
In the rooms adjacent the majlis you will see how coffee is prepared, from the crushing of the beans, to lighting the fire, and roasting the beans. Traditional song accompanies the demonstration. You will also get to see how bread is baked, and sample it. If you bring your own cheese, mmmmmmm, the hot bread is just delicious!Downstairs, where you are greeted and start your tour, you get to see how flour is ground (and try your hand it, I was told I was quite good), how oils are collected from nuts, how milk and butter are made, and numerous historical artifacts are maintained. The staff are very knowledgeable and speak enough of many languages to be able to interact with you. They also don't seem to mind their photographs being taken.
A prized pocession, besides the numerous household and village farming artifacts, is a copy of the Prophet Mohamed's letter inviting the Kings of Oman to accept Islam, which they did, to which the Prophet of Allah said the land of Oman would be blessed with fertile soil and game, and that Islam would be strong in the hearts of Omanis.

Al Hamra's historical district has many such traditional houses, and so does Misfah Al Abriyan, just up the road, famous for its ancient falaj (irrigation) system and beautiful farms cut out of the hillside. Bahla and Nizwa can be seen on the same day, as the house seems to be open by 9 0 clock am and stays open until at least 2 o clock pm. I believe the cost is one rial per person.

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