MUSCAT, JAN 8 – Motifs and patterns from traditional Omani architectural designs are making a strong comeback in cities and towns across the Sultanate as a growing crop of Omani investors look to incorporate elements from their rich past into the design of their commercial establishments and residential homes.
In the upshot, younger Omani entrepreneurs are not only rediscovering their striking architectural heritage, but also enthusiastically embracing it as an a way of bolstering the tourist appeal of their respective neighbourhoods. Examples include several new hotels, restaurants and galleries that have mushroomed in key locations in Muscat, as well as other governorates, over the past couple of years.
A keen advocate of this new wave of vernacular-infused design styles is Zaher al Zakwani, Director of the International Bawariq Nizwa Company for Investment, which owns the delightfully designed Nizwa Heritage Inn.
“There’s a growing preference for traditional Omani architecture and old-style building material in the design and construction of modern buildings for commercial and residence use. This new trend is also being welcomed by tourists and international visitors who see a strong Omani authentic flavour in urban neighbourhoods.”
Speaking to the Observer, Al Zakwani said traditionally-designed buildings make a positive impression on visitors to the Sultanate. “We receive tourists from around the world who relish the opportunity to stay in traditional homes. It provides them with for a unique experience.”
Nizwa Heritage Inn is set in Al Aqar Village, an atmospheric mud-brick neighbourhood set in the heart of Nizwa. Its proximity to modern parts of Nizwa town was key to the company’s decision to locate a motel in the midst of an authentic old-style Omani neighbourhood, he said.
Significantly, Omani heritage buildings promise to add a new segment to the tourism industry’s hospitality offerings, says Zaher. “The potential for the growth of heritage-themed hotels and inns is quite promising. The Ministry of Tourism is yet to classify this category of hospitality properties, but as investments in this segment grow, a suitable classification is anticipated.”
Adding to Nizwa Heritage Inn’s appeal is a gallery featuring photographs depicting interesting aspects of Omani culture. Going forward, the gallery plans
to exhibit the works of Omani photographers for the benefit of tourists and visitors.
Not surprisingly, a growing number of restaurants around the Sultanate have embraced elements of Omani vernacular architecture in the design and layout of their eateries. This ambience, combined with traditional Omani cuisine on the menu, can help lure culture-minded customers, says Raya, an Omani chef who is keen to set up her own heritage-themed outlet with traditional local cuisine.
“Omani cuisine helps enlighten tourists about our eating traditions where meals are shared in communal style with the diners all seated on the ground. People eat with their hands — no spoons are used — in keeping with tradition.”