Monday, June 05, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 15, 1444 H
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Sustainable progress is knocking on Misfat Al Abriyeen


Photos by Yelena Glukhovtseva/University of Liverpool -

Misfat Al Abriyeen is named after the ancestral inhabitants of the Al Abri family, and the perpetual running water from the falaj. What an astounding heritage has been built here in yet another of the many jewels in the crown of Oman. It is a cool, refreshing, green oasis, a hidden valley, to be appreciated.

The township is just a short diversion from the foothills of the mighty mountain of the Sun, Jebel Shams, on a sealed road that winds its way through and around the ever-changing landscape of a valley that is becoming more and more popular as a place to live. The housing construction boom in the area has remained vigorous during the last seven years, and the diversity of architecture from that which pays homage to yesteryear, through to the minimalist architectural lines and influences currently popular throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.

Following the signs, whether Misfat al Abriyeen, Misfah al Abriyeen, Misfat al Abriyyin, Misfat Al Abriyen... all roads lead to the same place, not Rome, but this Omani delight, where you will find frequent laybys that offer magnificent views of the wider Al Hamra region, a panorama of date palms, farms, and startling rock formations. Tourist parking is at a premium as you get to the village itself and is very much reliant upon the goodwill and consideration of the locals. Take my advice and park on the roadside verges near the village and soak up the atmosphere as you walk towards the tourist destinations and farms.

It is something of a ‘free tourism’ experience, where you can wander freely, of course, with consideration for the local inhabitants. Signage clearly indicates private ‘no-go’ zones, and otherwise, you can pretty much follow whichever pathways you feel the most tempting. Of recent years there has been significant government, and private tourism investment in the township, with some impressive results in terms of tourist accommodations and cafeterias, the latter providing great scenic views down the valley.

The village is constructed entirely on the rock base, and the different types of construction all imply strength and stability. The way residents have maintained a symbiotic environment with largely traditional buildings in its center, narrow pathways, streets, and alleyways that have been worn smooth by the elements and centuries of foot traffic, ensures the need for good footwear, and the walks are accompanied by the ever-present sound of the cool mountain water in the falaj system.

Today’s generation of the Al Abri clan includes local Mathematics teacher and entrepreneur Yussuf Al Abri, who can see no better way to perpetuate his family’s heritage than to invest in their unique geographic location, by maximizing its tourist potential with coffee shops in Al Hamra and Misfat Al Abriyeen, where his coffees, cakes, and ice-creams, “make every journey worthwhile.” The Misfah Old House is another family owned business venture and offers an authentic Omani experience in their twelve overnight accommodation rooms, and provide traditional Omani breakfast fare, which, taken on the terrace is an organic experience, and well worth repeating according to Chris and Alex, tourists from the UK.

Another is Ahmed Al Abri and partner’s Rogan Cafe, named after the nearby Rogan Castle, which overlooks the town’s farms. The café is part of the University of Liverpool’s ArCHIAM plan for developing the tourism potential of the town, which has seen three local houses transformed to maximize their tourism potential with retail food and beverage outlets, a civic space ‘Harat ash Shua,’ and an artisanal and training bakery.

Professor Soumyen Bandyopadhyay, Head of the Liverpool School of Architecture, said recently on the university’s website, “The implementation of the Misfat Tourism Development Plan has pioneered a community-led partnership approach to heritage tourism. This project integrates heritage management with development and aims to sustain the livelihood of the local community through key revenue-generating initiatives and has contributed to economic diversification and has increased the tourism potential of the wider region. It is the first reuse proposal for historic settlements in Oman to be realized, integrating both modernizing aspirations and conservation imperatives.”

This impressive development, followed closely by the United Kingdom’s Prince Charles since its inception, has of course hindered by the pandemic to date, but could well provide an important template for the Omani tourism sector, a transfusion of those European, Asian and Mediterranean architectural bloodlines, to reinvigorate the Omani landscape.

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