Runaway Photo: Bait al Safah – Al Hamra’s Living Museum

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Runaway Photo: Bait al Safah – Al Hamra’s Living Museum

Children in Bait al Safah

Is there any better way to welcome the visitors than open a festival? What a special welcome by people of Bait al Safah 

Al Hamra is one of the best-preserved old towns of Oman. Old Al Hamra’s narrow stony alleyways and mud-brick houses take visitors back a few centuries.

Bait al Safah was an especially memorable place for us. It is a living museum of old Oman, a great example of traditional Omani culture. Mud-brick buildings are restored with old artifacts and traditional furnishings. In this special town, there was a surprise welcome festival waiting for us. Well dressed Omani men rode their Arabian horses, sword fighting, and jolly old ladies from the town sat nearby enjoying the festivities. It was one of the traditional performances that typically welcomes guests. Horses ran through the narrow main street between people singing people near the mud-brick building wall. There were drums, swords and shields, and singing and dancing. Children were nicely dressed and held special items for the festival: frankincense and rose water. Boys wore a Khanjar, the Omani dagger, and girls were dressed in many colors. All of us ran from scene to scene, capturing the unique moment. We followed the horsemen, walked behind the singing group, chased down the dancing ladies, captured nicely-dressed children, and watched the sword fight. it was one hectic yet joyful afternoon.

Inside of the mud-brick building, lunch was served. Home-cooked mutton curry, saffron rice, and fresh vegetables were the simplest and the best meal I had in my two weeks in Oman. The environment added something special I assume. We were sprinkled with rose water after the meal. Rose water is the specialty of Jabel Akdar (Jabal Akhdar – Green Mountain) region. They harvest right before they blossom (before they explode the fragrance in the air) and distilled in the traditional bud-brick oven. For several centuries, rose water has been used in medicinal, culinary, and celebratory purposes. We rub the water on our hair and clothes. A perfect way to end the traditional celebration.

The same old women who had danced for us out in the street demonstrated basic domestic tasks like how to make traditional bread, hand-squeeze oil, and make accessories. Children learned (perhaps to demonstrate to us) the Quran, by singing a traditional song. We visited a small shop that made halwa (halva or halua). They boiled palm sugar and some ingredients in a huge pot. It is a Middle Eastern dessert that is (usually) made with palm sugar and nuts.

Not to mention, it was the best day for photography. The colors, characters, traditions, and the stories: it was what I wanted to experience in Oman. Here I take you back to the scene with a series of photos from Bait al Safah.

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .

15 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Juno – these are some of the most stunning images I have ever seen. Well done. Just brilliant. You’ve captured the character and colour exceptionally well.

  2. The expressions in your portraits and the colors in all your photos are mesmerizing! Great stuff 🙂

  3. These images are breathtaking!

  4. Andy says:

    Your pictures really bring the experience to life. Looks amazing!

  5. Leslie says:

    Great photos Juno! You really captured the excitement of the scene. I love the portraits 🙂

  6. Uma says:

    Such an exotic land … out of all the countries in the Middle East, Oman is the one I want to see the most!

    • Juno Kim says:

      It was my first time in the Middle East, and Oman was certainly a great place to start. Can’t wait to visit other countries in the area as well.

  7. […] Combine a visit to Bilad Sayt Oman with one of the Sultanate’s most spectacular drives, the mountainous Wadi Bani Awf or to the living museum of Al Hamra. […]

  8. Sunny says:

    Hi Juno, you must be so lucky that you witnessed this festival of Bait Al Safah. Well, can you tell me which date or month you visited there? When does this festival happen?

    • Juno Kim says:

      Hi Sunny, thanks! We were certainly lucky. My understanding is that they hosted this ‘festival’ because of our visit. We were doing a photography tour that was hosted by Omani photo studio, and we did a photo exhibit in Muscat’s Opera House. So the visit was treated as an important event in the region. But I can find out if there’s any event scheduled. Are you planning to visit Oman?

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