Daily Archives: February 6, 2012

The Castle of Bait Na’aman, Batinah Region

Driving in the direction of Sohar, 50 kms from the Muscat International Airport, there is a tourist sign pointing right to “Bait Na’aman“. (Most tourist signs are easy to spot in Oman as they are usually painted brown.)  On a recent trip, I decided to see this ancient house (“bait” is Arabic for “house“)/castle/fort with my own eyes.  Another 2.9 kms and I reached the ancient wall you see above with the castle just a little further down the road.

A very beautiful small castle/country house restored and furnished. Operated by Ministry of Heritage and Culture. Opening times: Saturday to Wednesday, 0900-1330 hours. Telephone: 24641300 (ext 142)” (from Oman Tribune’s useful info page)

Another closed fort/castle during my travels!  It didn’t stop me from enjoying the beauty of this castle from outside the walls though.

This castle “was built by Imam Bil’arab bin Sultan and his brother Imam Saif bin Sultan in the last decade of the 17th century.  Later used as a rest house by Imam Ahmed bin Said, whose sons lived there for some years, it continued to provide a meeting and resting place for travellers and armed forces until just a few decades ago.

Bait Noa’aman stands in a small courtyard with large shady trees.  Imam Saif bin Sultan was well known for his planning and building skills and is reputed to have planted 30,000 date palms and 6,000 coconut trees in Oman.  There is a well that used to provide water for the residents and their crops.”

As was common for forts and houses of the Imam, this house has its own falaj that used to run through it from Habra just outside Nakhl.  The falaj is now dry, though one can still trace its route.” (from the Ministry of Tourism’s “Concise Guide to Batinah“)

This backdoor to this castle (escape route?) is unlike any I’ve seen at the numerous forts I’ve visited so far.  It seems almost too narrow to be a door and yet too low to be a window.  I wonder about its original purpose.

Bait Na’aman is a charming site.  I think a tourist who drives all the way out from Muscat just to see it might be slightly disappointed in its “simplicity” and they might find it “not quite worth the trip” but if you see this fine castle on the way to or returning from another spot, then it’s well worth the 2.9 km drive off the main highway!

Muscat Festival 2012: Come Celebrate Culture, Community & Cuisine!

It’s good to get to Qurum Park between 4:30 and 5pm.  You don’t want to arrive before 4:30pm (at Qurum or at Naseem Park) or you’ll just have to wait in line till it opens anyway.  It’s always nice to get there in time for the sunset!

Make sure to take time and smell the flowers during all the fun at the park!

A nice change to Muscat Festival is the addition of many of these “Festival Activities Site Maps“.

Lots of police and emergency staff on hand to ensure the safety of the crowds

Muscat Festival is also a great opportunity to enjoy Marah Land with all its amusement park rides.

The poster pictured here is advertising a photo competition held by Oman Tourism.  Here is the link to details if you’re interested.  In this picture, you can also see the lake where they do the fountain and light show each year at Muscat Festival.  Here is a video I took of the last few minutes of the show:

Kebab is reason enough to get my wife to Muscat Festival, haha! At 200 baisas per stick, you can’t beat those prices!

They’re also selling these packs of mango for 1 rial.  Check out the guy’s shirt on the right.  Definitely should be one of the banned items from the festival that local papers have published. 😉

While there may be no Starbucks or CostaCoffee joints, there are plenty of instant coffee stalls around Qurum Park during the festival. I think it was 300 baisas for a small coffee (no lid) and 500 for a slighter larger one (with a lid).  This Indian gentleman told me that he normally works in Salalah the rest of the year but was brought up to Muscat for the sake of the festival.

Thanks to the folks at Muscat Festival, our son Gershom cannot pass one of these guys without pointing and getting excited, hoping to get another sugar fix.

One satisfied customer!

Walking by the popcorn stand is another lost battle.  He was happy to get another ball that lights up when you bounce it.  We bought one at last year’s festival and it lasted about 9 months.  Not bad for only 600 baisas (or about $1.25 US).

Lots of nice green grass to sit on.  Just make sure to bring a mat with you.  All the more important if you come later in the evening to enjoy the firework show from 9 to 9:30pm.

Last year they had a long neon parade just before the fireworks at 9pm each evening. (Not sure if they still have it this year as we haven’t been at the festival past 8:30 pm yet)  It is nice to see a smaller parade of characters marching around this year at earlier timings for the wee ones.

Here is the parade in a short video:

Meanwhile, back in the Omani Culture & Heritage Village within Qurum Park, there were a lot of Omani customs on display such as this “parade” with drumming and chanting.

Here’s a short video I took of this interesting scene:

In an area marked “Bedouin Environment” are many tents like the one pictured above with different scenes of Bedouin life with actual Omanis participating!

I can only imagine what this lady was texting…”I’ll call you later, Fatma.  I’ve been asked to entertain silly foreigners at Muscat Festival. La moshkelah.”

This lady and children were showing a typical traditional Omani school setting from the past where the children would repeat (verses of the Quran) after her.  Here she is giving them candy during a break.  And I know it may look like she’s giving the camera “an evil eye” but far from it.  The Omani volunteers were all very hospitable and are there to promote culture and tourism in Oman.

When I asked if it was okay to take a photo, this older Omani smiled slightly and gestured that it was okay.  Often in this case the smile is given at the request, but it’s back to “a more serious look” during the actual photo.

This cute girl had no problem smiling at all! 🙂

There were a few cute Omani girls in their festive cultural clothing near a traditional rope-swing in the culture and heritage village that were very photogenic.

An Omani artist displaying some of her masterpieces at the festival

These gentlemen were singing away and invited me to sit down and have tea with them as I took a few pics (after asking).  They weren’t actually singing.  I’m guessing that they were reciting passages of the Quran in unison.  Here is a short video of them singing chanting reciting away:

If you are interested in reading more about Muscat Festival, why not go to their official website here: www.muscat-festival.com?  There is a choice of 3 languages: English, Arabic and German.  Click here to download a PDF file with a booklet describing all the events:  http://muscat-festival.com/MUSCATFESTIVAL2012BOOKLET-EN.pdf  If you are in Oman, definitely try to make it to Qurum Park (for everyone) or Naseem Park (for families with children) before the festival ends on February 23rd.  I know my son is looking forward to our next visit!