Bait al Baranda on Muttrah seafront is a historical and archeological site, located just 300m from Port Sultan Qaboos and 150m from Al Sahli beach, overseen by Muscat Municipality.
The word ‘Al Baranda’ is of Latin origin and means ‘Al Shorfah’ or balcony. The merchant Naseeb ibn Muhammad built the house in the late 19th century, named it Bait al Baranda, and made it his second residence. It was often called Bait Naseeb or Bait al Naseeb in the early years after its builder. Over the years, the building has been used in various ways by numerous entities.
It has become one of the most important historical tourist attractions in the wilayat of Muttrah after its renovation and development by Muscat Municipality. It was officially inaugurated in December 2006 under the patronage of H H Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture.
In 1909, the American Mission rented Bait al Baranda as its headquarters until 1933. The British Council also rented the premises and renovated it to include classrooms, a library, administration offices and other facilities. In 1979, the structure was nominated for the Aga Khan Architectural Award.
From 1984 to 1989, Bait al Baranda was rented by an engineering consultancy following which it was closed down until the Ministry of Heritage and Culture renovated it. In 2004, it was handed over to Muscat Municipality, which turned it into a tourist centre after installing several historical elements of tourist interest and opened its doors to domestic and international visitors.
A visitor to Bait al Baranda is taken on a tour of the different historical periods of the sultanate. It is considered a cultural and architectural landmark that illustrates the history of the region in great detail using modern technology. It also has a large volume of reference material needed by researchers, historians and students on the culture and history of the early inhabitants of the sultanate and how they lived.
Speaking about Bait al Baranda, its director Malik bin Fahmy al Hinai, said it has a number of galleries, including the Old Wildlife Hall, which displays images of the wildlife once found in Muscat, the Geological Diversity Hall which shows the amazing diversity of the natural formations in the city, the Tectonic Plates Hall which illustrates the movement of continents and tectonic plates, and the Oldest Human Settlements Hall which has a model that simulates how the early man constructed houses. There is also a display gallery called the Glimpses of the History of Oman Hall where visitors can see how the first human settlements in the Governorates of Dhofar and Al Wusta happened more than 1mn years ago, in addition to the maritime history of Oman and its trade with the Sumerian civilisation of Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley Civilisation in India. The Travellers Hall presents audio-visual clips of orientalists’ impressions of Muscat, while the Al Busaid State Hall describes the history of the Al Busaid Dynasty which was founded in 1744. Here visitors learn the history of this family, the significance of the port of Muscat since the 16th century and the developments in Muscat during the Blessed Renaissance. The Muscat Port Hall includes a number of drawings illustrating the old trade routes, the international strife for control of the port of Muscat and its history. The Muscat Today Hall shows the great strides of the capital city, while the Traditional Arts Hall presents various traditional Omani arts.
In addition to attractions for tourists and the culturally inclined, Bait al Baranda, organises workshops every summer in cooperation with college and school students to convey the municipality's message to preserve the environment besides using the participants' leisure time in refining their skills. The workshops involve recycling, clay modelling, paper mache etc.
Bait al Baranda has also hosted several art exhibitions – well over 100 Omani and 50 international artists have displayed their works here.