Wednesday, March 29, 2023 | Ramadan 6, 1444 H
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House of history

A quiet village amidst greenery stands witness to a glorious past. Al Minzfa village in Ibra has a little known heritage museum called Bait Al Darwaza which is frequented by tourists from all over the world for its unique artefacts

@lijucherianoman -

Al Minzfa village, which lies 180 km away from Muscat, is home to Bait Al Darwaza, a heritage museum, which tourists will not miss.

Located in Sifalat Ibra about 50 km from the main Express Highway towards Wilayat of Sur, Bait Al Darwaza stands as a valuable heritage landmark in Ibra, North Al Sharqiyah Governorate.

It is estimated the village was built in 1708 AD (1120 Hijri) and the buildings are distinguished from its architectural beauty. Historical data further throws light on the unique buildings as they are enriched with architectural art, dating back to Mesopotamian civilisation of 3rd century AD.

“Guns, swords, ancient coins, silver and gold adorned by Omani women, horse saddles, pottery, wickerwork, mattresses, palm fronds, agricultural and plowing tools, old utensils used for cooking and making Omani sweets, form part of the items on display at the museum.

Abdullah bin Hamad al Harthy, a resident of Ibra, is the supervisor at the Darwaza House. He says the present owners inherited it from their ancestors and were responsible for turning it into a beautiful heritage museum.

Abdullah says the idea of establishing the museum came up as the Wilayat of Ibra with its long history did not have an archaeological landmark to showcase the history of the place.

Restoration work worth a whopping RO 80,000 was carried out for the museum back in 2010. A leading company, which had previously restored castles and forts in Oman, completed the work in stages. The restoration was done right up to the smallest details without affecting any change to its form and content.

As ancient traditions would have it, most of the houses in Al Minzfa village consist of two floors, while some of them even have three floors.

Salim bin Mubarak al Harthy, museum tour guide, explains that for the first time the natural light is used indirectly during the day. He says this is done through the opening, which faces the movement of sun which falls on the rooms. “Here, some of the elements of the Mesopotamian art were used on some of its facilities,” he says.

Salim also mentions that Al Minzfa was thus named because the city had wells (‘Yanzif’ in Arabic means bleed) from the upper floors of its huge buildings. The house was given the name of Bait Al Minzfa as it is attached to the upper porch connecting the house and its eastern annexes through the upper floor. It appears that Bait Al Darwaza and Bait Al Sudoor were both single houses called Sablat Al Mughwiya. The museum also contains many beautiful inscriptions. It is believed that a huge sum of money was used during its reconstruction.

Salim says the museum looks like a military fortress with areas for guns and cannons built with Omani plaster and stones.

The museum faces Ibra old souq market and the arches of Sifalat Ibra. One of the oldest mosques in Oman is close to the museum. Al Qanatir is another ancient historical monument village, about 200 metres from Al Minzfa which is frequented by tourists.

He also recalls how the ownership of Bait Al Darwaza was transferred to a number of people. The house belonged to Hussain bin Muhammad bin Salam al Barwani, the then heirs of Saeed bin Amer bin Muhammad bin Salam al Barwani. Later, it was sold to Saud bin Ahmed bin Saud al Shikairy, and to Hilal bin Hamad bin Saif al Busaidy who bought it and restored and maintained it to its present form.

About the museum’s future plans, Abdullah says he plans to add a cultural café by using the beautiful halls in the spacious house. Plans are afoot to launch an integrated cultural forum based upon requests from tourists, citizens and residents. They have received all encouragement and support from the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, and also from the Governorate of North Al Sharqiyah and the wali of the wilayat.

Today, Bait Al Darwaza stands as a historic and heritage landmark in the Wilayat of Ibra.

The museum sees hordes of foreign tourists from the UK, the US, Italy and other countries during the peak winter season and also residents and locals.

Opening hours are from 8 am to 1 pm and 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm. Entrance fees for Omani citizens are at RO 1, children under 12 years old pay 500 baisas and tourists and residents at RO 2.

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