Bait al Baranda museum in Muscat, Oman

The Bait al Baranda provides visitors to Muscat with an overview of the Omani capital’s history and culture.

The name of the museum translates as “The Veranda House” because “baranda” is the local pronunciation of veranda.

“The building itself is over 100 years old; so it is one of the oldest kinds of architecture [in the city] and has influences from the Subcontinent – from Indian and Pakistan – and Africa also. If you go around the room you’ll see the open skylight. This is the wind tunnel that we have here. The beams and ceilings, that is exactly how rooms were,” explains Malik al Hinai, Director of the Bait al Baranda.

The Cornich at Muttrah in Muscat, Oman.

The Corniche at Muttrah in Muscat, Oman.

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture

The venue is still known locally as “Bait Nasib” after Nasib bin Mohamed, who had the house built in the late nineteenth century. It 1979 it was nominated for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. After a major renovation the building opened as a museum in 2006.

Unlike most museums, which focus on a fairly narrow period of history, the Bait al Baranda also puts Muscat and Oman into a geological context.

Displays show where Oman has been on the globe as the earth’s tectonic plates shifted over the course of millions of years. An interactive digital display allows visitors to move the map of the world back and forth in time, illustrating how the continents have shifted and geologists’ predictions for the future.

An ornate skylight in Muttrah Souq in Muscat, Oman.

An ornate skylight in Muttrah Souq in Muscat, Oman.

Geology and Omani oil

Geology, of course, is very important in Oman as this is an oil rich area.

The displays, shown in various rooms, also showcase the development of life in Muscat. Musical instruments, drums, local weapons and tools and articles of clothing are shown.

Historic maps show the work of various topographers, tracing the rise and fall of the dynasties and nations that have had influence in Oman. The Portuguese, for example, held bases in Muscat in the 1500s.

One of several video displays provides information about the Al Bu Sa’id dynasty, Oman’s royal family.

There’s also a display on the progress of Oman over the past 25 years.

The ground floor rooms provide space for temporary exhibitions, which change every month. These have included photography exhibitions with a local focus but the works of artists – including masters such as Picasso and Klimt – have also been displayed.

A visit of 45 minutes to an hour should be long enough to provide an overview. The museum is situated close to the Muttrah Souk and the fish market, meaning it can easily be incorporated into a tour of Muscat’s main attractions.

Al Alam Palace in Muscat, Oman.

Al Alam Palace in Muscat, Oman.

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