Boutique mud houses change fortunes of Omani village

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Misfat alAbriyeen, Oman

Perched on an Oman mountain top, the village of Misfat al-Abriyeen has changed its fortunes by transforming mud-brick homes into boutique hotels, drawing tourists to a region famed for hiking trails and tales of genies.

The village of 800 residents, situated on the dramatic escarpments of Oman’s “Grand Canyon”, opened its narrow streets six years ago to foreigners and locals seeking adventure in the deserts and green corners of the Gulf sultanate. Villager Yacoub al-Abri said it all started in 2010 when his uncle suggested they take another look at the mud houses that had lain neglected for years in the ancient settlement about three hours’ drive from the capital Muscat.

The owners had abandoned the centuries-old homes, fearing they could collapse, and moved to the opposite side of the village where they built new accommodation.

His idea was “to combine the simple and natural surroundings of an old Omani life with a modern touch that provides comfort and safety”, Abri told AFP.

The beige-walled homes, made of mud brick with palm-frond roofs, were turned into simple but elegant inns furnished with traditional wood and textiles.

Five years after the idea was dreamt up, the family’s first boutique hotel was up and running, inspiring neighbours and villagers elsewhere in Oman to follow their lead.

“We started with only five rooms, then we increased the number and bought other old houses. Today we have 15 rooms and there are plans to continue expanding until we reach 50,” Abri said.

At an altitude of more than 1,000 metres (3,300 feet), the tiny village which is home to the Abri tribe is a charming collection of traditional houses situated along dozens of small alleys overlooking lands bursting with banana plants and citrus and palm trees.

It is part of a region known as the Grand Canyon of Oman where tourists can hike the rocky mountains and valleys, and explore the old ways of local people.—AFP