WEEKEND-TRANSCENDING TIME-MISFAH

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  • February 25, 20166

    Weekend Special

  • Why Misfat Al Abryeen? Answers could be exhaustingly varied: a lingering frustration of being disconnected from ones roots, a complete burnout, or an utter self-contempt born out of habitually donning smart masks designed to engage in

    equally clever world. Or, simply an intense urge to just be. But Misfat al Abryeen could be a random

    choice as well, just like any other place. Whatever the case, thousands from across the world are drawn to the mystic charm of this ancient Omani village that looks as if eternally stuck in a time warp. The only elements that contradict its primordially are the superb roads and cars, and electricity, along with telecom connectivity. Misfat Al Abryeen is almost 225 km away

    from Muscat, but the road to Misfat Al Abryeen doesnt end there, but goes a little further to the depths of ones being. The village, an alluring land perched a thousand meters above sea-level atop jagged mountainsand full of life with the lush greenerylies in the wilayat of Al Hamra in A'Dakhiliyah Governorate. It is a mind-numbingly cool arrangement of alleys, primitive adobe buildings, man-made water canals and terraced farms on slopes, and if you feel disoriented, thats perfectly okay; it just shows you have truly arrived.The village is home to the Al Abri tribe,

    who cultivate bananas, pomegranates, papayas, mangoes, lemons and dates on terraced farms on mountain slopes. They use the traditional falaj system for irrigation.Of the total 43 mud-stone houses

    in Misfat al Abryeen in existence for hundreds of years, and which 700 people once called homeonly four are

    Sarnga Dharan Nambiar

    Weekend Special

  • inhabited by families; others have abandoned their homes to the care of nature, preferring the ultra-comforts of modern houses built on the plains. These ancient houses with typical arched wooden

    windows, palm-frond roofs and adobe walls transcend time. This transcendence of the land and its dwellings is what brought the trio from Birmingham, UKJohn Mc Bride and his wife Dea Mc Bride, along with their son Matt, and Matts friend Ada from Colorado, US, to the village. I joined them in their late afternoon tea at the

    famed Misfah Old House, the only traditional Omani guesthouse for tourists there. Quite wonderful to experience the distant past in all its natural splendour, John exclaimed. Look at how well they have preserved the Omani architectural legacy, he continued with Omani coffee in hand, and eyes on the ceiling gracefully done with palm

    fronds and stems. The Misfah Old House is the 150-year-old ancestral

    house of Ahmed Mohammed al Abri, who along with nephews Naif and Yacoob converted it in 2009 into a bed-and-breakfast lodge for visitors, offering them a glimpse into traditional Omani life characterized by a harmonious co-existence with nature. It has seven rooms, with shared baths. Ahmeds business ourished, and in due course,

    he bought another abandoned house nearby and converted the same into a second lodging facility. The rooms are spartanly decorated, and share well maintained baths, except one extra-large room in the second house which has an attached bath. While the large room charges RO 70 per night for two adults, the other rooms are priced RO 55, including breakfast and dinner charges. There are two rooms to accommodate tour guides and drivers

    John McBride and family Ahmed Mohammed al Abri

    8 February 25, 2016

    Weekend Special

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    9February 25, 2016

    Weekend Special

  • who accompany the tourists.Locating the Misfah Old House itself is an

    exploration. From the parking space at the entrance to the village, guests must follow the correct path among a maze of winding lanes, corridors and stone-steps, which spread out to all directions, to reach the adobe structure. Ahmed al Abri, who previously worked with

    the Ministry of Tourism, knew the scope of ecotourism, and also the lack of facilities for eco tourists in Oman, which encouraged him to go for this innovative concept. I was not inclined to allow my ancestral house to disintegrate and become useless I felt it could be well serve the accommodation needs of tourists to this area. And I am satis ed that this humble house is appreciated by tourists from all over the world, who spurn the

    luxuries of star hotels to taste traditional Omani life as it is in my house, Ahmed said. But Ahmed had to do a lot of convincing to get the

    approval for his business idea from village elders and others as they had concerns regarding privacy and cultural invasions.Misfah Old House boasts an international guest

    pro le. According to house-in-charge Suresh, as much as 90 per cent of their guests are Europeans, with Germans forming the largest group followed by French. They get a signi cant number of bookings by visitors from Holland, UAE, and the US as well. Indians also are increasingly turning to this village house, as an alternative to the life-less luxury of star accommodation.A key attraction of staying in Misfah Old House is

    the food offered: Guests get to savour genuine

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    10 February 25, 2016

    Weekend Special

  • homemade Omani food, cooked lovingly by none other than Ahmeds own sisters. The roof top dining area overlooking lush plantation and falaj and under the starlit sky is a tourists dream. We switch off the lights at around 8 in the evening, and then its just you and nature, Suresh said.Signi cantly, the simple house

    has maintained an average rating of 8.6 from reviewers over the years, while some ve star hotels in Oman struggle to reach the gure. There is limited free WiFi in

    all the rooms. The house is open to tourists

    from August to May, but business is brisk during October-March, during which the house remains fully occupieddespite the guests required to follow a puritan life. No drinking or smoking is allowed inside, and guests are required to honour a decent dress code. Though it is closed during Ramadan, Ahmed is thinking of keeping it open this Ramadan, but nothing is nalized, said Suresh.Those who dont want to stay

    overnight have the option of making advance bookings for dinner or guided tours of the village.

    Suresh

    The house is open to tourists from August to

    May, but business is brisk during October-March, during which the house remains fully occupied

    despite the guests required to follow a puritan life

    11February 25, 2016

    Weekend Special