Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Own Photos: Bait Al Sarooj in Sumail part I

This will be part I of II on Sumail because unfortunately MOP deleted most of my photographs before I could transfer them to my laptop:(. This post came about because MOP and I were seeking Sumail castle and someone from Sumail thoughtfully offered to guide us there (about a half an hour out of his time) when we asked where it was. This was the second time we were guided, not to Sumail Castle, but to Bait Al Sarooj. We thought, what the heck, the last time we had been through this way and toured Bait Al Sarooj, we had been through sans camera, and we had spied Sumail castle on our journey to Bait Al Sarooj, so we'd hit that up next time and take some pictures of this fortified 16th century Sheikh's home instead for my blog since we were there anyway.

Sumail, just 100 km out of Muscat, is situated over a large area compared to other townships/willayat in Oman, but you can easily find Bait Al Sarooj by seeking it by name or the village of Al Khobar in the foothills of the Al Hajar mountain range. Villagers here are super friendly, and people always offer to guide us straight to Bait Al Sarooj [even if you are asking for Sumail Castle ;p].Built in 1694, Bait Al Sarooj was restored in 1900 by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and renamed after its primary building material: sarooj. It was the personal residence of a Sheikh (I forget his name) and fortified in his lifetime. It is supposed to be open 8 a.m to 4 p.m. 7 days a week exlcuding holidays, but in my personal experience, around 12-1 it occasionally closes for a half an hour or so on occasion, but should this happen to you, you could easily drive back to see Sumail Castle and then come back to Bait Al Sarooj. Despite the operating hours descrepancy, the gate keeper is surprisingly well-informed (in Arabic) about Bait Al Sarooj, unlike many other such tourism gatekeepers I have encountered in my quest to see all Oman has to offer in the way of traditional architecture. The carving on the front door was exceedingly lovely, one of my favourites in Oman so far. It was also a traditional door, without hinges, set into the grooves of the door frame. Exquisite.That is the side of the gate-keeper's white dishdasha poking through the side of the doorway. It was 1 p.m. when we arrived and he was just reopening.The architecture of Bait Al Sarooj differs by way of its layout from many other historical sites in Oman. It is more sporadic and less thought out, none of the stairs being of equal length or height {be careful with that}, 3 different stairways leading from one particular passage. One passage was so narrow I could barely fit with my purse on my shoulder {I am a pretty petite personage} and I almost got stuck. It didn't lead to anywhere impressive but there was a well {again, be careful with young children here} {photo to be added in part II inshallah}.The space pictured above was particularily lovely, as was the stairway to the rooftop {not pictured}. Like many other historical architectural gems in Oman, Bait Al Sarooj has majlis sitting rooms with woven palm and wood beam ceilings, and like all 16th-17th century fortified structures, murder holes for pouring boiled date honey on invaders, and spaces for a storm of arrows to strike at marrauders below attempting to raid the home of _____ Sheikh. But Bait Al Sarooj is unfurnished, and does not have any antique or replica artifacts warming up and depicting what would have been daily life here. Bait Al Sarooj is just the bare sarooj and naked architecture of its time period. This open courtyard acted like an early AC system, funneling cooler air into the fortified manor house. As you can see, it was a particularily lovely day, blue skies with light fluffy clouds, denoting that it was niether too hot nor too cold.

{end part I}


Boxie said...

Bait Al Sarooj has vary nice architecture mashallah.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Boxie: It really does. There is alot to see in Sumail but I haven't had a chance to get out an explore enough. It is always pretty late in the afternoon when we drive through the Sumail gap sooooo....