MUSCAT: “Oman Across Ages Museum” seeks to highlight the unique model of the Sultanate of Oman, introduce its prominent features, its ancient history and its renaissance which is continuously making progress at the local and international levels under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik.
The museum contributes to spreading awareness and consolidating the relationship of Omani youth with their cultural heritage, while at the same encouraging them to interact in a manner that effectively inspires their participation in building their homeland and shaping its structures. The museum demonstrates Oman’s transition between its past, present and future in an interactive and modern style by audio-visual means, right from the early stages of past glories to its bright present.
In 2015, the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said laid the foundation stone for the “Oman Across Ages Museum” project in the Wilayat of Manah, Governorate of Al Dakhiliyah. The project occupies an estimated area of 300,000 sqm and it has a construction area of 66,591 sqm. Its design is inspired by Al Hajar Mountains. It introduces an architectural wonder that represents the Omani environment, with its unique geographical traits.
The project organisers envisaged that the edifice has a creative character, an icon that represents the Omani Renaissance era in terms of structures and manifestations. It portrays Omani architecture in a unique modern style, along with its technical details, construction features, and building materials.
The building of Oman Across Ages Museum is an environment-friendly structure. It assumes a low profile on the eastern side so that it could receive sunlight in the morning and protect the internal spaces from direct sun rays. On the west side, a set of windows are placed on slanted walls that prevent the impact of direct sunlight and reduce the volume of energy that the museum needs in lighting.
Its design replicates the standards of castles and ancient buildings.
Typically, its walls cool down the passing hot air. Since some specifications require that the building be an environment-friendly structure, high-quality Omani stones from the governorates of Al Dhahirah and North Al Batinah were used to coat the walls of the museum, both from inside and outside, covering a surface of 130,000 sqm. Waste materials from the stones has been utilised in the garden. The museum is distinguished for its glass facades that extend to heights ranging from 9 to 16 metres, and sometimes rising up to 25 metres, offering the building clarity and prominence over the horizon. The specifications include the use of steel colour glass.
Four layers of glass are used, each 6 centimetres thick and extending to 5 metres upwards. This offers the museum an aesthetic outlook, allows the visitors to have a comprehensive view of the project and harmonises the museum with its surrounding environment. An insulating layer has been placed between the structure of the museum and the ground to protect it from the impact of earthquakes. In the event of occurrence of an earthquake, the insulation system will diminish the effects on the building and it will absorb the repercussions, and this is an exceptional feature in such projects. The museum consists of two halls: the “History Hall” and the “Renaissance Hall”.
Once a visitor sets foot at Oman Across Ages Museum, he/she embarks on a journey in the geography and history of Oman. A visitor contemplates the country’s past, present and future in an interactive manner through the use of modern technology, with antiques of the museum dating back to prehistoric eras. The History Hall consists of the “Land of Oman” pavilion, the “Early Settlers” pavilion, the “Civilisation of Majan ” pavilion, the “Kingdom of Majan ” pavilion, the “Maritime Heritage” pavilion, the “Aflaj” pavilion, the “Embracing Islam” pavilion, “Al Ya’ariba Dynasty” pavilion, and the “Al Busaidi Dynasty” pavilion. Thus, the visitor can span time and space, right from the country’s geological formations, through experiences of the early settlers to the present-day renaissance age.
The History Hall also relates various events to their historical epochs, with two basic features taking prominence, which are Maritime Heritage and Aflaj (an ancient irrigation system or water streams). Also, two basic sets can be observed: The geological formation of the Land of Oman and the Stone Age that is represented in the Early Settlers pavilion, the Bronze Age is seen through the Civilisation of Majan pavilion, while the Iron Age is represented in the “Kingdom of Oman” pavilion. This is in addition to other pavilions, like the “Embracing Islam”, “Al Ya’ariba Dynasty” and “Al Busaidi Dynasty”. The exhibits are introduced via digital media to create multi-dimensional environments that enable the visitor to experience the virtual reality of each era. A selection of material evidence and charts gives rise to a measure of realism.
The pavilions of different ages exhibit various aspects of daily life. These are evident in the settlements of Ras Al Hamra and Ras Al Jinz and their relationship with seasonal migrations, maritime communication, copper trade and the construction of the Aflaj system. The pavilions comprise a high-definition environment showcasing the contribution of the people of Oman to Islam, in addition to different aspects of intellectual, political, and social life and economic life.
Through the use of high-definition audio-video presentations and virtual maps, the History Hall also explores the eras of “Al Ya’ariba Dynasty” and Al Busaidi Dynasty. About the latter, it chronicles the period of the State’s establishment, the period of the Omani Empire, the period of division of government between Muscat and Zanzibar; the period that led to the Renaissance, with emphasis on aspects of daily life and achievements in various fields of life during the rule of the imams and sultans of the Al Busaidi Dynasty. The Renaissance Hall consists of the pavilions titled Dawn of the Renaissance, Building A Nation, Our Society, Healthy Environment, the Peace and Stability pavilion, Towards A Sustainable Economy, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Ash’shura, Oman and the World, Inspiration, Creative Expression, Media and Communications.
The hall’s entrance is an open space in the centre of gigantic columns which form an interactive space for the presentation of the high-resolution audio-visual display system that deals with the first five years of the blessed renaissance.
This offers a panoramic view of the hall and consummates the visitor’s experience as it explores various aspects of social, economic, industrial, and political transformation experienced by Oman, while at the same time preserving its authentic identity and ancient cultural traditions. The hall comprises an interactive digital museum exhibiting tools that display the speeches of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik and the speeches of late Sultan Qaboos bin Said. It also comprises fundamental aspects of the blessed renaissance such as education, healthcare, infrastructure, foreign relations, tourism and economy, and other topics. Oman Across Ages Museum houses 310 film materials and 1,200 interactive, dual and tri-dimensional screens, map projection technology, as well as 1,300 antiques, 80 replicas, 500 text panels and drawings, 150 display boxes, 61 kilometres of fibre-optic cables and 21 km of audio-video cables.
The exhibition includes the jaw of the animal Omantherium, which belongs to a type of huge primitive elephant that lived on the land of Oman about 35 million years ago and was found in Dhofar Governorate. It also includes trilobites found in the Wilayat of Mahout in the Al Wusta Governorate.
They date back to about 250 million years to 500 million years ago, in addition to inscriptions on the rocks that were discovered in the Wilayat of Madha in Musandam Governorate. Those inscriptions were formed using other stones and they vary between human and animal forms. This is in addition to a votive incense burner decorated with animal drawings dating back to 100-200 AD. It was used to burn frankincense when making vows and it has the shape of a lion and an ibex, as well as the inkwell of Imam Muhanna bin Sultan dating back to the period 1131 AH/1719 AD.
They were made by Amer al Bahlawi, from the Wilayat of Bahla. The museum also contains the Majan ship, which is a reimagining of the vessels of the Magan Civilisation made of reed bundles, ropes of palm fibres, woven mats, woollen sails and painted with black tar. It comprises a message from the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said to his teacher in the month of Rajab 1374 AH, corresponding to February 1955. The museum includes educational games for children with modern interactive technologies that provide a unique museum experience. The museum seeks to convey the idea of each pavilion to the visitor with the best modern means through the use of several technologies, including the technology of map projection and screen display of various types with an area of approximately 800 square meters. Through the use of headphones, synchronisation with movies and instant artistic productions saves time and effort for the visitor.
This is in addition to the use of virtual reality technology consisting of multiple screens that contain suspended cameras. In the “Early Settlers” pavilion in the History Hall, the visitor moves the screen over parts of the museum to view representations of the first settlers in Ras Al Hamra and experience their way of life.
A 360-degree curved screen technology is used to enable the visitor to rotate his position and watch a movie about the Ya’ariba Dynasty era. The museum also contains Husn Al Shumookh Library, facilities for children, and the Knowledge Centre, which is an informative window for students, researchers, and readers.
It represents a basic pillar of the Oman Across Ages Museum and comprises a rich source of information that contributes to building knowledge among various groups, from children to researchers.
The centre provides equal opportunities for all to benefit from its facilities, equipment and services, besides promoting and developing cultural and historical knowledge and providing the necessary resources for students and researchers by providing them with lifelong learning opportunities.
The centre also provides interactive educational programmes, training workshops, besides hosting lectures and seminars. The Knowledge Centre is divided into three floors targeting all segments of society. It occupies a total area of 6,000 square metres. The ground floor houses the Ideas Lab and the Innovation Lab, which are equipped with tools and books suitable for children from 3 to 14 years old. The first and second floors include the library of Husn Al Shumookh, which was transferred from Husn Al Shumookh to the Oman Across Ages Museum. The library contains more than 46,000 titles in various areas of science and knowledge. It is equipped with devices that allow researchers to access their desired titles and references, in hard copies or electronic form. The library provides services through personal attendance or the digital reference service through the centre’s website, via the instant chat service, and the “Ask the Librarian” form.
This is in addition to providing the service via emails, smartphone applications and accounts on social media sites, including the current briefing service, interlibrary loan, copying and printing and scan. The library has facilities for various museum visitors, including secretariat rooms, a lecture hall, a multi-purpose hall, and facilities for people with disabilities. The museum has a gift shop, which offers a wide range of exclusive gifts with attractive designs, many of which are inspired by the history, heritage and culture of the Sultanate of Oman.
Oman Across Ages Museum is located in the Wilayat of Manah in the heart of the Governorate of Al Dakhiliyah and close to many tourist attractions. It is the cornerstone of other tourism, cultural and economic projects in the governorate.