The real thing

February 17, 2019

Heritage inns spread across the country are gaining popularity among tourists. It is a trend that hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Ministry of Tourism is now encouraging investments by citizens in green heritage tourist inns and guesthouses in an effort to add value to the tourism sector of the sultanate. For this purpose, it is showcasing the traditional and natural elements of old houses and rural settings to promote tourism.

The ministry is granting licences to citizens interested in investing in this area and setting standards and classification of facilities.

Ministry officials visit these inns to monitor activities, record observations and comments with the objective of improving the facilities and make these more attractive for tourists.

The heritage inns are aimed at informing and familiarising visitors with Omani traditions, customs and details of social life which is a unique mix of originality and modernity. This also gives an opportunity to introduce Omani crafts industries of various wilayats to visitors, besides offering a source of income to local people.

These inns have additional importance in wilayats which do not have adequate hotels. They fill the gap in demand and supply of accommodation facilities here.

Many tourists have been delighted with the experience of their stay in these inns – they see it as a tourism product with a distinct Omani flavour. The inns provide tourists an opportunity to experience authentic Omani life in minute details.

Recently, a number of investors in these inns expressed their satisfaction in this regard and were confident of success in their venture.

They said that their investments helped preserve heritage while making the inns more attractive without compromising tradition even as they reaped financial returns. This plays a significant role in the social, economic and financial stability in the areas where the inns operate.

Mounir al Ismaili, director of the Nizwa Heritage Inns, said, “These inns are aimed at preserving old homes and showcasing the stages of Omani urbanisation through the ages, as well as benefiting from them practically and materially.” According to him, the village of Al Aqar where heritage inns are located, is one of the most important heritage villages in Nizwa. He said that one of the main goals of the inns is awakening the sense among owners to take care of their old homes, restore them and even benefit from what they have.

Ismaili said that the Nizwa Heritage Inns include four old houses - 20 rooms with toilets and 42 beds in all. There are lounges of different sizes and an administrative office which works as a front desk to serve guests round the clock.

Guests of Nizwa Heritage Inns appreciate the beauty of the surrounding villages and their tranquility. These offer an opportunity to enjoy the treasures of Nizwa Fort and a traditional souq. Staying in traditional mud houses is a unique and unforgettable experience for most guests.

According to Yaqoub bin Badr al Abri, promotions executive of Misfah Heritage Inn, the inn is popular, especially in the winters starting from October to April, when occupancy stands at 70 to 80 per cent. During summer, occupancy is 40 to 60 per cent.

Besides serving Omani food, the most important activities of the inn is walks along mountain tracks, including Jebel Shams, Jebel Akhdar and Jebel Sharqi to reach outstanding camping sites. Tours of village farms are also organised.

The management of the inn is working on projects to increase the number of rooms. Starting with five rooms in 2009, there are 15 now. The plan is to increase the number to 25.

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Badr bin Saif al Abri, owner of Al Nakhr Inns in Al Hamra in Dakhliyah, said that the inn is amidst beautiful surroundings and landscape. Wadi al Nakhr is one of the largest wadis of the wilayat of Al Hamra. It is also one of Oman's most beautiful wadis that flows through Jebel Shams and attracts tourists for climbing and adventure sports.

Abri informed that Al Nakhr Inns has eight rooms, each with attached toilets. In addition, there are meeting and sitting rooms which are being further developed by the management which is also working to increase the number of rooms to meet increasing demand.

Al Nakhr Inns offers a number of facilities, including traditional Omani food, mountain trips, walking along Wadi al Nakhr and access to fresh water ponds in the wadi. In addition to this, Al Nakhr Inns offers job opportunities for people in its neighbourhood, and an outlet for  handicraft and agricultural products.

Mohammed al Mughairy, owner of Durat al Misfah Heritage Inns, located in a unique location in the village of Misfat al Abriyyin in Al Hamra, said they offer guests accommodation in a comfortable and clean setting, and in keeping with local customs and culture.

Mughairy said that thanks to continuing promotional campaigns, there has been an increase in the number of guests. All the rooms have windows overlooking the imposing mountains. Activities for guests include walks and cycling along mountain trails.

Guests get an opportunity to visit farmlands spread across the village, and enjoy the cool climes in the mountain, besides the friendly hospitality on Omanis.