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The first time we visited Bait Al Safah, we already knew its potential as an amazing stopover to learn about Oman's culture and heritage. Back then, Oman has just started to realise that one of its best assets is its people and their unique way of living.
If you're not aware of Bait Al Safah yet, it's one of the first living museums in the country that allows you proper interaction with the locals. It's a sustainably renovated mud house right at the edge of Al Hamra's lush gardens and what is amazing about this attraction is how everything is kept as they were that a visit to its many rooms is like entering a time capsule. It's one of those experiences that you would pay gladly to try because it brings you inside a traditional Omani home where many of its best-kept secrets are unveiled before your very eyes.
We've listed five things we love about the enhanced experiences offered by this remarkable destination.
Everyone who has been in Bait Al Safah knows that the heart of this traditional house is the kitchen. This is one of the most revealing attractions in the house where Omani women demonstrate many of their day-to-day activities. Did you know that coffee is a neighbourhood affair? As per the house curators, the signal is sent through the loud metal grinding as the coffee is broken into powder. Aside from demonstrating how the traditional Omani coffee or kahwa is made, guests are also made to experience and sample the traditional Omani wheat bread. Included in the experience is the demonstration of how the wheat is turned into fine powder. An added bonus is a demonstration of how the moringa oil locally called al shue, used to cure different aches and diseases, is made.
The majlis area is not only where guests are welcomed, it is also a place where important discussions about family and community affairs are discussed. In Bait Al Safah, it is where coffee is served to guests in perhaps, one of the airiest and breeziest parts of the house as there are numerous windows where light and air can come in. Wondering if there had been famous guests who visited the old house? The photos on the walls and the numerous clippings offer an insight not just into the generational changes that swept the area but also about important visits and features that Bait Al Safah had been a part of. Consider this as a living photo album and when you're at this part of the house, make sure to pay attention to details.
The Changing Room
Bait Al Safah has over 10 rooms to explore. Located on the first floor, the changing room is where you would find several different garments for men and women used by the villagers in the olden times. Did you know that traditional dresses for Al Hamra women used to be very bright and colourful and included elaborate embroidery? You can go through nearly a dozen dresses hanging on a makeshift cupboard to better understand how they dress and for which occasion while men's clothing almost has no variation to what is worn today. Other than the changing room, it's also insightful to check on the storage rooms where dates and other crops are stored. Always make sure to look up also as the markings on the ceilings also have their story and significance.
My personal favourite among all the levels in Bait Al Safah is the rooftop. From the top, you will see how the neighbourhood is planned including where the line of traditional homes end and the lush gardens begin. It also offers an amazing 360-degree view of Al Hamra where you will see the peaks of the surrounding mountains. The roof also offers an insight as to how light is brought to the lower levels of the house as well as how channels are made so air can ebb and flow and keep the inside relatively cooler.
While the garden is no longer exclusively part of Bait Al Safah, it has to be included on the list as, without it, the whole scenery would be totally different. The gardens surrounding Bait al Safah now include a lot of different activities from horse-drawn carriages to donkey rides and even scooter exploration of the neighbourhood. Across Bait Al Safah is a currency museum that offers a look at a private collection of one of the villagers who lives in the area. A walk through the garden and into the neighbourhood of crumbling houses will allow one to reimagine the village at its peak when every alley is filled with villagers going through their day-to-day life tending after families and farms.