“ Arts and antiquities museum located in the city of Muscat. „
Bait al Zubair Museum:
From the souk we drove around from Muttrah to old Muscat to the Bait al Zubair museum. This is open From Saturday to Thursday from 9.30am-1.00pm and then 4pm-7pm and it appears to be free as we got no ticket. Outside this old traditional house in the courtyard were a great number of fantastically original painted oryx, very similar to the painted lions in raffles in Singapore or the painted bull ornaments you see in Spain. I believe different companies had sponsored them but I am not sure, however they were really very beautiful and we were quite taken with them. There must have been at least 30 of these beautifully painted oryx placed in different places around the outside area of the museum.
Bait Al Zubair which means House of Al Zubair is actually a small private museum which opened to the public in 1998. It is totally funded by its founders who are the Zubair family and indeed the museum displays the family's own private collection of Omani artefacts, which is considered to be the finest that is privately owned.
Inside the museum were some very interesting and well put together displays showing Omani traditional dress. The domestic artifacts through the ages and how they were often still used today, jewellery, weapons and a display of old photographs. It was clearly set out and the exhibits were clearly labeled and there was room to move around freely. It was a really good display showcasing the rich and interesting culture of Oman.
The Khanjar collection:
The Museum prides itself on its collection of valuable handcrafted khanjar or Ormani daggers. These kanjar are an essential part of male dress in the Sultanate for hundreds of years. The khanjar is worn on a belt around the waist and is an important symbol of manhood, and social status. In the past it was worn daily for protection but today it is a national symbol and is worn for celebration or at formal occasions.
Each khanjar is individually crafted by master craftsmen whose skills are traditionally passed down from father to son and it consists of a curved steel blade, a horn or resin hilt and a scabbard of wood and leather decorated with silver, gold, leather and yarn.
The Ladies Clothing Display:
The female clothes collection consists of pieces from the 20th century. There are traditional clothes from the different tribes and regions showing the varied styles and accessories which often reflect environmental conditions. Some of the items had the most amazingly intricate embroidery and many were really bright and colourful. The bright beautiful clothes are all covered by the black abbaya to go outside though so are only seen by the family when inside closed doors.
It was interesting to see that there are distinct regional differences in style and fabric and some were certainly more fancy that others. The museum exhibit had pieces representing each of the eight main regions.
The Male clothing display:
There was a lot less variety in the men's display as the white dishdasha is worn by most throughout Oman. It has long sleeves and a round neck with an embroidered opening that goes down the chest, and is fastened by a button at the neck and features a special tassel that is often perfumed; it can be seen in a variety of colours although white is considered most formal and is the most commonly seen around. The display shows a collection of bisht which is an elegant cloaks edged with golden trimming, worn with a dishdasha, khanjar and a sort of turban called a musr.
The Household Furnishings Display:
There were many household artefacts including pottery, copper ware, furniture, windows, doors, keys and accessories that date from the 3rd millennium BC to the 20th century. Traditional Omani pieces were mainly used for storage, cooking and as incense burners.
The copper ware collection showed trays, bowls, containers, spoons, cooking vessels and coffee pots which were still very much in use until very recently in all Omani households. Coppersmiths still produce various vessels with age-old designs that often feature inscriptions from the Holy Qur'an, Islamic geometric designs, palm motifs and floral designs.
The furniture included beds, wardrobes, cabinets and chests that represented typical pieces found in Omani homes. There were also examples of the beautifully decorated windows and doors as well as keys and other authentic household accessories.
The fact that the museum was very crowded on the day we went meant that after looking at these exhibits we got rather fed up with being rammed together with groups and their guides and so we decided to move on outside.
Outside in the grounds apart from the colourful oryx there was a complete miniature village with river and mosques and houses set on a hillside and valley. The garden also features a barasti which is a traditional palm frond hut, a falaj which is the ancient water irrigation system, a souq area, a boat display and stone houses.
There was a gift shop as ever and although I'm not usually that bothered by gift shops I had to go in this one as they had a very special perfume for sale in there . This perfume is called called Amouage and was created for His Highness Sayyid Hamad bin Hamood Al bu Said of Oman by the Parisian perfumier Guy Robert. The perfume combines Frankincense, Rosewater and myrrh. Originally this was bottled in gold carat plated designer bottles and sold for $7,360 US but it is now available to others at the more reasonable 150 Euros a bottle but not gold plated. Even at this greatly reduced price I didn't buy it bit luckily there were testers so I had a good try and did like it - there were two or three different scents and some were nicer than others! Maybe one day in Duty free I will be able to afford one of the Amouage 'Ubar' scents!!
This is not the most exciting museum in the world but it is well worth spending an hour or so looking at the various exhibits. I was particularly interested in the exhibits showing and describing the traditions clothes of the different tribes. The unique perfume and its history was also a little gem I found as I do love my perfumes. Beside these the oryx were also worth the visit as they were really lovely.
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