Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Traditional Omani/GCC furniture

Photo taken from Shawawi Oman.
Well, first thing you will note about traditional Omani life was, most people didn't sleep on beds. Most people slept on straw mats on the floor, carpets if one was wealthier, and cushions if one was wealthier. My husband remembers from his childhood there wasn't much need of pillows or carpets but in the winter, when it was colder, they did have blankets. Houses back then didn't have air conditioning so there were rooms used in family homes for different seasons. He remembers fondly that when it got unbearably hot the entire family would sleep on the roof of their home, and his mother would tie rocks to the children's feet so they couldn't fall off the roof or move very far. I don't think I'd miss that kind of traditional form of life in Oman too much myself;), at least not the AC situation.
But you will see Omani-style beds in Omani forts and museums like this bed in Bait Zubair museum dressed in Salalah style pictured below:
Photo by Cathy from her blog, a Nomad in Nizwa
Wealthy persons from across the GCC often engaged in the sea-trade or influential members in scoiety would invest in a wooden four-poster bed, either Portuguese in style, or ornately carved strangely only -two-posters from east Africa, namely Zanzibar by way of Oman, or occasionaly Bahrain. Omani examples:
Emirati examples:
And Bahraini examples (also see the ever-so-precious and rare dressing table) [note the characteristic of dark woods high off-the-floor and inlaid with tile]:
One item I'd have at my dressing table if I had one back then in Oman, (silver kohl pot):
 Occasionaly a more humble style bed is apparent:
Photo by Andy from Andy in Oman
In Salalah, in preparation for a marriage these beds were covered in beautifully emroidered and very colourful fabrics:
 In Sharqiyah and places in Al Dhakliyah and Al Batinah similar traditions regarding decorating the bedroom upon the event of a marriage exist:
Of course, a famous piece of Omani furniture (and also a bridal addition) is the mandoos dowry/aher trunk:
Being AC-less women often carried palm-frond hand fans to cool themselves with. My sister-in-law actually made these ones pictured below mashaAllah (richer women would have them made to match their dresses):
And no one would be without a bukhoor (incense) burner:
Most Omani houses didn't have a set area reserved for cooking and most of the major forts in Oman remaind similar in this. Of course when it comes to household items all Omani homes had cooking pots, and pans, and dishes and also straw mats for service:
This contraption pictured below was an appliance for making butter and laban;):
Richer households also had fine ceramics imported from as far away as Holland and China:
 Of course, though, the most important room in any Omani's house is their sabla (also known as the majlis) which is where guests are formally recieved. Omani examples of majlis from all over the country:
Examples from UAE of majlis:
Bahraini example of majlis [note that in Bahraini and Emirati versions of Majlis they have a little brazier with coals in the center of the room to keep the coffee warm;)]:
Example of Kuwaiti majlis:
Examples of Saudi majlis:
The majority of older Omani homes were made of wood beams and woven palm frond ceilings. These were almost always decorated somehow (richer homes of course had elaboraste painted timber roofs like at Jabrin Castle):
Whereas in UAE, they are more often then not left plain in restorations (happens with recreations here in Oman too) which may or may not be historically correct:
 And last but not least, simpler homes were often painted in beautiful bright colours inside:
If I can think of anything else I will add it later;)


Arezu In Wonderland said...

Gorgeous pictures.

XO Arezu

Anonymous said...

with all this pretty furniture I wonder, What in the world went wrong with the GCC for them to start using that super tacky golden detailed heavy furniture? why is that seen as better over this lovely pieces?

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Arezu: thank you. As I am trying to specialize in regional interior design I've ammassed quite a few pictures of some rarer Omani examples alhamdulilah but the people who owned them asked I not post the pictures on the blog sadly soooo alas. Bait zubair museum has one such collection of Muscat period furniture.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anonymous: I believe it had to do with the fact that the sea-trade and Bahrain and Oman's control over the ocean were entirely diminished. The links to the african coast where these gorgeous woods were sourced were cut and that's probably why we saw the end of such beautiful furniture. It could always be renewed though;). I prefer Zanzibari craftsmanship over Indian and Pakistani styles:) though rosewood is beautiful too.

Boxie said...

The old rooms made of plaster look so nice to sit in in the summer.

Omanly said...

taking these wonderful traditional motives and placing them in a more contemporary functional context would result in great interiors. would love to see something like that live..

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Omanly: Me too! There aren't many businesses here that conceptualized this concept. The Chedi is the only one I can think of that tried to do something Oman-inspired (with a little Asia thrown in). I would love to see more. Your hotel design post about trends is spot on. Travellers want to see the place they are visiting, not a copy of where they are from.

When I got to Ireland I don't want to stay at a place done up liek it is Morocco---I want a great old Irish country house.

In Oman, I want something a bit brighter than traditional designs---but I want to feel the Eastern-ness of Oman. And that little touch of Africa that is unique to Oman in the GCC.

But of course, expats, and locals, have to be balanced with that.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Boxie: Yes! I wish the government would allow some of the traditional odl building methods but nooooooooooooooooo:( everything needs iron and cement even though it isn't eco-concoius at all the way the old plaster hay/mud bricks are.

Patty Lunz said...

I really like it. I agree with the comments which say that they'd paint the top - I think I would too. Xx

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Patty: What comments about painting the top?

hospitality furniture said...

It's really impressive post...keep it up, these info helping me a lot..!!!!

Muhammad Amjad said...

The first thing you need to do is thoroughly clean your furniture. hotel furniture

Sunita Chaudhari said...

Great !!! Fabulous! i think this is incredible! Traditional Furniture is gorgeous and the makeover is totally amazing. I love it. You really did a super job with the Traditional Furniture! I use to do buy online Traditional Furniture as its time saving.

Fi-l bayt blog said...

Salam arleyki
It's beautiful mach a Allah
I love
Salam from france

kirti said...


Impressive pictures for "Traditional Omani/GCC furniture". I want to stunning traditional ideas for decoration on event of marriage.