Around Misfat Al Abriyyin

Misfat Al Abriyyin is a mountain village located just up the road from Al Hamra.  It is one of the few old villages that actively welcomes tourists, though the signs posted at the parking area of the village entrance remind visitors to act respectfully.  We stayed here after hiking the Balcony Walk in the Grand Canyon of Oman and really loved our authentic experience.

Where to Stay

Upon arrival to the town which offers lovely views of the mountains and the Village of Al Hamra below, we retrieved only the items we needed for the night and followed a pathway through crumbling ruins down to Misfah Old House.

Misfah Old House in Misfat Al Abriyyin

Misfah Old House is a guest house located in a renovated family home.  We were greeted instantly on arrival and shown to our area of the home which included three bedrooms, a living area and a shared bath. 

The quaint bedrooms include mattresses on the floor, towels, air-conditioning, and many nooks for storing a day’s worth of things.  The cool breeze and authentic décor provided a wonderful ambience in both our rooms and dining areas.  The breakfast buffet was served on the first level while the dinner buffet was served upstairs.

Book Here

Not only did we enjoy our overnight stay at Misfah Old House, we loved Misfat Al Abriyyin.  Believe it or not, this mud village of a few thousand people offers a handful of things to do.

Things to Do in Misfat Al Abriyyin

Take in the Sunset

On the way up the road from Al Hamra, stop at the overlook and take in the sun falling over the Hajar Mountains.  We mistakenly passed up this photo thinking the higher view at the parking area would be better, but it was not as a ridge of homes blocks the view.  Having said that, the ridge of homes and even the town of Misfat Al Abriyyin have their own character.

Misfat Al Abriyyin
Misfat Al Abriyyin

Stroll the Streets

Maybe it is the photographer in me, but I love strolling old streets.  Who knows what will be around the next corner?  We found colorfully painted doors, bags of goat manure used for fertilizing, pottery, and even a package of date shoots ready to insert in the top of female date palms.

door in Misfat Al Abriyyin

Walk the Plantation Circuit Trail

Speaking of date palms, after five days of our week-long tour of Oman with Sami, we finally got to see the farmers climb the trees to pollinate them with date shoots as we walked along the Plantation Circuit Trail. 

The 123 varieties of date palms are very important to the Omanis. Not only are dates served with just about everything, the saying goes, “a house without 10 date palms is a poor house.”

Anyway, the trail begins at the base of the village near Misfah Old House and ascends through a grove of palm trees alongside the falaj.

date farmer pollinating tree

This is path is actually a good place to see the force of the gravity fed falaj system as it passes between a water station and a mosque before it ultimately reaches an old watch tower and then continues over the mountain ridge.

the falaj in Misfat Al Abriyyin

Visit Bait Al Safah

We only took a short morning walk along the Plantation Circuit Trail before we left Misfat Al Abriyyan to do some hiking and off roading.  Before we made it too far out of town, however, we visited Bait Al Safah located in the aged and deteriorating old quarter of Al Hamra.

This interactive museum whose name means House on the Rock is a must see!  We expected to look at some pots and other artifacts, but instead we met three women and two men who demonstrated past Omani traditions.  In addition, we could photograph them which in town is only allowed by consent from men and not at all by women.

Downstairs Demonstrations

We began our tour in the downstairs where traditionally families kept their livestock.  Here we watched the women demonstrate grinding and boiling coffee, bread making and oil pressing.

Coffee

I thought it was interesting to learn that the coffee makers shook the can of beans at a beat so that community members the coffee was about to be ready.

Bread

Watching the quick hands of the bread maker tap and lift a ball of dough across the hot plate, made me realize how they made the bread so paper thin.  The residue turns into a crispy wafer in seconds.

making bread at bait al safah

Oil

And while I’ve seen the argan oil process in Morocco, I didn’t notice that after a few minutes of hand pressing, there is only about a tablespoon of oil to show for it! No wonder the beauty product is so expenive.

Upstairs

From the downstairs demonstrations, we were escorted upstairs into the majlis where traditionally men meet in the house for coffee and dates.  Of course, we were offered both, as this greeting is customary among all Omanis. 

The coffee cup which should be taken with the right hand is only filled about halfway.  Not to worry, for more, just hold out the cup .  If finished, just shake the cup back and forth.

The upstairs includes a variety of pots and artifacts which is a photographer’s dream.  Our friend Mike said he could have spent all day in the museum capturing images.

For fun, tourists may dress up in outfits, and of course we did.  It might have been the most colorful we looked the entire trip!

dressed up at bait al safah

I believe we spent longer in the museum than expected, but we really enjoyed it.  It was a perfect cultural experience before leaving Misfat Al Abriyyin for our next adventure…off-roading to and hiking in Snake Gorge!

Go Off-Roading on Wadi Sahtan Road

About 1.5 hours from Misfat Al Abriyyin along a mountainous road is Balid Sayt and Snake Gorge.  The description of the road in my guide book, “You don’t need to see the heaps of metal at the bottom of the vertical cliffs to realize this is one off-road driving route that needs extreme concentration”, made me a little nervous.

To my relief, the road was rather wide, well graded and in far better condition than the forest roads I have driven in Colorado.  Having said that, we didn’t drive it after one of the eleven times it rains in Oman when it can be treacherous.

wadi sahtan road

Hike Snake Gorge

Anyway, we enjoyed wonderful views of the surrounding mountains on our way to hike in Snake Gorge.  It is my understanding that certain areas of Snake Gorge afford some very adventurous hiking experiences.  We, however, took a short and simple route to Balid Sayt, a beautifully terraced village in the mountains.

balid sayt

The trail began with steps up the side of a cliff face before it leveled off in the canyon between two towering walls.  With the exception of wading through one ankle deep area of water, we were able to side-step the other pools as we ascended the rocky gorge to the edge of town.

snake gorge

Instead of going into the village which prefers tourists to admire it from afar, we walked up the road for spectacular views of the jumbled houses that overlook an oasis of green crops.  After observing the scenery, we continued our four-wheel drive to Bait Bimah where we had our final lunch in the countryside of Oman before returning to Muscat.

Before arriving in Oman, we knew very little about its friendly people and its natural beauty.  We might have even been slightly leery of visiting simply due to the media coverage of the unrest in the Middle East.  But now that I have spent a week in this country, all I can say is see for yourself.  The country and its people are amazing.  From Muscat, to the Wadis, to the Desert, and the Grand Canyon of Oman…we loved it all!

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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