Friday, January 7, 2011

Weekend Recap: Wilayat Al Hamra, and Jibreen Castle

Time for another weekend recap for those of you wondering what to do what next weekend, take note of my rather awesome weekend:

First off, in the day was a rather scenic drive through Bahla. OPNO blogged about Bahla here:

Since I can't upload pics because of a software malfunction, see the link for relevent pics.

Well, we stopped at the Souq [by car, since MOP is admant OPNO must NOT walk around in this souq], then drove by the massive castle still under repairations. It WILL be something to see when it is finished. It is still impressive just to see driving by.

If you garden, by your Bahla pottery here for the best quality, and the best price. Nizwa souq WILL RIP YOU OFF.

Anyways, since we left from Muscat at 9-ish [we were a bit out of Muscat], we stopped to pray in the Bahla Mosque. Which, BTW, has an impressive women's section. Non-muslims, this totally won't impress you, since, well, they don't let you come inside. Sorry.

But for you Muslimah's:

While most Masjids have a seperate women's section, Bahla Mosque built the women's section on an above floor, so women can still see the Imam through the screened windows, but men can't see them. It is also very clean and peaceful, and also beautiful in design. And it has real toilets, not just the hole in the floor ones.

This is officially (at least, until I see more of Oman) my favourite Masjid in Oman for women.

From Bahla we drove to Misfah Al Abriyan, which OPNO posted pictures of here

In Misfah, we walked around, saw the village, dipped our feet in the falaj (to the horror of OPNO's husband MOP), and watched people practicing their shooting skills. While we longed to try our hands at it, we didn't have time.

If you come to Misfah, try to dress conservatively, and don't do anything they don't like in Islamic culture. It is a conservative society.

OPNO to MOP: "What would you do if I strapped on my rollarblades right now, and sailed down the hill from Misfah to Al Hamra?"

MOP: "I would never show my face in Misfah ever again."

Entrance to Misfah Al Abriyan (home to the tribe Al Abri) is free. Opening hours are daylight. There is no guard, no official notices or placards.When you arrive at this pedestrian-only town, park just on the outside and walk in. Follow the beaten path into the old corridors. Do not wonder into any homes unless you have permission even if they look abandoned. They are owned by families still, even if unoccupied. Do now walk in any of the terraced fields. Do not pick or eat any fruits that you see since this is the locals' homes and livelihood. It is considered stealing.

Despite all the rules, that are NOT written down, totally follow these and enjoy one of the most traditional places in Oman, and witness how Omanis really lived, and continue to do so.

There is a map upon entry of the town so you may get your orientation and plan your walk. While you are in the town, there are painted markers like a flag of yellow white and red to show your way. Follow them so you will stay on the 'official' path and not wander into private areas.

After that we went to Al Hamra to see the BEST museum of Omani daily life, in Oman. People, along with Nakhl fort, this is one of OPNO's picks for MUST SEES in Oman. The OPNO girls are unanimous on this.

Bait Safah/ Safa House in the wilayat/town of Al Hamra.

Bait (the means house in arabic) Safa is a traditional Omani house made of stone and mud from a historical family in Al Hamra, converted into a museum. But this is no boring old museum.

While there are plenty artifacts lying around, there are also Omani women and men acting out living in the house, from daily chorese such as baking bread, firing and crushing coffee beans (coffee and bread both being food things you'll get to sample as a guest at safa house), making blankets, and cosmetics. For the perfect photo op, they also keep Omani national dresses from all the different regions for men and women for you to try on and dress up in. I chose a black velvet Dhofari dress with crystal embellishments called "father of the tale", but we didn't dress OPNO up or MOP, because MOP was already wearing dishdasha and khanjar, and OPNO always wears traditional dress, either a Suri from Al Sharqiya, or an Omani thawb with beaded sirwaal. And besides that, she was veiled, so it really would have been a hassle for her. But GREAT for Westerners. I have to take my family here when they visit.

For only a rial and half to 2 rials (I am not sure if they charge non-Omanis more because MOP and OPNO told me not to speak since usually they manage to get discounts on museums and stuff if I don't use English) [we paid 1 rial and half], it is quite a tourist bargain. So NOT boring.

I don't know the hours, but we went on thursday, and it was open when we left, around 2 o clock pm. So most weekdays, this would be the same. Friday, try to ask someone who knows better than me. I'll try and ask MOP, he seems to be able to guess this kind of thing.

And if you can't find the way to Safa house on your own, offer to pay the little local boys of Al Hamra 200 baisa each to guide you to it. If you get lost, like I did, without MOP and OPNO.

After that we took lunch by way of coffee shop (rice and meat in Arabic style seems to be food poison-less for the most part so I went with it). After that, MOP INSISTED we drive through Bahla to nearby Jibreen Castle.

Omigosh, this place, Jibreen, is LOVELY. I mean, besides Nakhl fort, Jibreen wins my pic for best castle in Oman.

We spent alot of time just wandering around, enjoying the castle. A remarkable blend of defensive architecture and sophisticated artistry, the exquisite palace at Jabrin was constructed circa 1670 CE at the height of the Ya'aruba dynasty a period of place and prosperity. Says a tour guide website.

Jibreen Castle: It is open 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (Sa - Th) & 8:00am - 11:00am (Fr).

While we got in for free, and we came after 4:00 pm, I believe the fee is one rial each person.

Sometimes, the Omani guard of forts gives you a better price (or free) if you are Omani or dressed like one and speak Arabic (or don't speak lol, like me). Why did they let us in after closing (this happens alot with MOP & OPNO it seems, when I've been with them) you might ask, when the door was closed on a British dude's face?

Seems Omanis in general aren't big "tourist in your home town" types, and in the words of the security guard, translated by OPNO "Westerners take a long time taking pictures of everything. Omanis let you go home on time."


After that, we went back to OPNO's place and watched OPNO's "Kingdom of Heaven" DVD with the special feature historical guide pop-up thing on, so she and MOP could argue about what was true and what wasn't in the movie about the Second Crusade and the victory of Saladin in Jeruselum, way back when. Whatev, I like Ridley Scott cinematography, whether it is historically accurate or not.

MOP WAS surprised, however, that Muslims were not portrayed in that movie, as evil, lustful, exotic headchoppers.

How was your weekend, dear reader and/ or follower?

Did you do anything interesting in Oman?

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