Old houses preserve heritage, attract tourists

Muscat: At a time when Oman turns to domestic tourism as country remain largely closed to overseas visitors due to coronavirus, heritage houses are key to the revival of tourism sector in the country.  People find it more safer than staying in hotels as they do more local travel than facing the uncertainties of out of the country trips.

Traditional guesthouses or heritage homes are innovative initiatives which have begun to attract tourists. These homes highlight the unique natural, heritage, and cultural experiences of Oman and will allow local visitors to appreciate the country’s diversity.

According to the National Center for Statistics and Information, the number of old Omani houses reached 1,029, while the heritage houses reached 124 in 2018. They are all old houses inhabited by citizens not so long ago. With the rise in standard of living during the blessed renaissance, people have moved to houses with modern amenities cities

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The Ministry of Heritage and Tourism has taken care of some of these homes and restored them to help the new generations know the lives of their ancestors.

In some willayats that do not have luxurious facilities such as hotels, some young people began to establish farm houses and guest houses for many visitors.

Misfah guest house in Hamra, Bait Beema are fine examples of heritage homes.

Restoring these old buildings means paying attention to them and re-establishing their history so that it becomes present in the minds forever.  Basam al Hadhri, an adventurer, said, “Transforming ancient houses into tourist lodges highlights the architectural aspects of the Omani civilization through the ages and the ancient treasures they contain.”

Ali al Mataani, a journalist, said that these kinds of projects shed light on the Omani heritage.  This will also provide job opportunities for citizens and boost the local economy and handicrafts.

According to the General Directorate for Investor Services and Quality Management in the ministry, there are various criteria for the rehabilitation of heritage houses. It must be made of mud and have basic facilities for tourists.  The house must have a minimum of two rooms and maximum of nine rooms. It also should include bathrooms, reception area, and a hall for serving food, if not a restaurant, where authentic Omani meals are served in a traditional style.

Some people have also converted the old houses into museums to preserve heritage and attract tourists. Examples include Bait al Gharbi Museum in Rustaq, House of Ghasham Museum in Wadi Al Ma’awal and Ghalia’s house in Muttrah.  Besides, some houses are used as public libraries. In Samail, one of the shaikhs transformed his house into a library containing all the books that his father owned. In Rustaq again, the locals turned the fort of Al Mushayeb village into a public library for the community.