Muscat, April 21 – The painted ceilings are a form of decoration in the Arabian Peninsula. It adds an aesthetic value that attracts visitor’s attention. Like in all desert countries, the roofs of old Omani houses and many of mosques and castles around the Sultanate were built from palm logs or of local or imported wood. Teak wood is one of the most widely used timbers because it’s termite-resistance properties. Omanis used to import it from India and East Africa.
Those who have the opportunity to wander through the old lanes, castles and forts in the various governorates of the Sultanate find that most of the logs are painted in dark brown and reddish colours, with drawings in white decorative patterns. The visitor to the castles and old houses notes that these inscriptions are drawings of the types of flowers and animals (eg horses and birds).
These forms often include the name and the signature of the builder or designer of the house/ mosque and the date of its construction or in some places include Arabic texts, poetry or parts of the Holy Quran.
Currently, these can be seen clearly in ‘Harat Al Seebani’, an old village located in the Wilayat of Al Hamra (250 km from Muscat). It said that this village was built of clay bricks and mountain stones since 400 years ago.
“Bait Al Safa Museum” is a good example to touch the essence of Omani traditional lives. It is a living museum of traditional Omani life in the Wilayat of Al Hamra.
The three-storey house is decorated with old furniture. The old decorations, which appear in every corner of the house, show the imagination of Omanis.
However, this village looks in a very bad state. The visitors can observe its cracked walls and its roofs are crumbling. In addition, the majority of its doors and windows are already broken.
Locals indicated that this formidable area was built since around 400 years ago. It was designed to reflect the Arabic and Islamic construction. The site is witnessing a remarkable turnout by tourists and visitors. As most of these houses have already lost their aesthetic values, locals have communicated with several public and private sectors aiming to make an urgent and essential restoration for this unique village. “If we have not gotten prompt replies, this inimitable tourism spot would have collapsed,” an architect warned.
Moreover, Jabreen Castle, which is located in the Wilayat of Bahla, is also another good example for the painted ceiling. The castle was constructed in the late 17th century by Imam Bel’arab bin Sultan al Yarubi. It is completely different from other Omani forts because it was not built in the times of war. The interior design of the castle features decorated windows, wooden balconies, arches with inscribed Arabic calligraphy and breathtaking ceiling artwork.
Many other old villages are seeking for the serious attention from both the owners and the official authorities. “It is the right time to concern this issue as it has become a common in many parts around the Sultanate. Honestly, we feel ashamed and embarrassed when we take tourists to such sites. These places need a very special attention as they are classified as important tourist sites that tell stories of a civilisation spanning hundreds of years,” a tour guide told the Observer.
YAHYA AL SALMANI