Time Required: Two days including the hike and a stay at the renowned Misfah Guest House
Cost: Entrance to the village is free.
Misfat Al Abriyeen, Oman Overview
If you are looking for a truly unique and awe-inspiring trip to Oman, visit the ancient, gorgeous and charming village of Misfat Al Abryeen. Alighted high on the mountains of Jebel Shams is mesmerising village whose inhabitants have transformed the terrain to a fertile oasis by the strength of their backs and the sweat of their brows. It is no wonder that this quaint little village is one of the most sought-after destinations by tourists and locals alike. The village didn't just crop up one day but has a rich and vibrant history spanning over three hundred years of human settlement and an agriculture practice of ingenuity. The village is well known and more reputed for its building excavated from a mountain and mud. The substantial size of the foundation stones proves the excellent skill and craftsmanship of stonemasons in the olden days.
Step away from the bustle of the city and the need to power walk among pedestrians and reach out to another dimension in the village where its authenticity is well preserved. Despite being a tourist attraction, the heavy brunt of development for tourism has not tainted this picturesque village. The village is a breathing community putting on display life in historical Oman in a modern timeframe in the region of Al Hamra. It is a plethora of alleyways, houses, beautiful gardens and open terraces. The village is packed with an architectural style that is unique in itself. The homes here are built on large rocks and making its way up to become towering multi-level dwellings. Each of these houses is made by excavating and constructing it into the mountain itself. Each house is built in very close proximity to each other. Therefore a view from the outside makes the village to appear as a single unified entity. The building style also gives indomitable security to the village.
The village is named after the first settlers called Abri. The oldest houses still in use are nearly two hundred years old shedding a glimpse on the sturdiness of the buildings. The village has unique sights to offer like water and oil pots left hanging used by households even now. The village also has windows painted in psychedelic colours and doors with intricate designs. Each dwelling in the village has a unique design for themselves. The community is not wholly ancient. Air Condition units and broadcast dishes can be seen perched atop of houses. The village, in short, is a canvas involving a concoction of the age of modernity and age of bygone.
Best time to visit Misfat Al Abriyeen
Oman is a desert location and primarily has two seasons Summer and Winter. As a desert predominantly it has a hot climate with temperature and precipitation rates far below the extreme desert climate. Having said that the temperatures around Misfat are delightful even during summers with a growing chill as the evening advances. The temperatures around the northern mountain areas of man are not affected, and very different from the climate experienced over to the South. During winters which are from October to March, there can be occasional snowing and a sharp drop in temperature. We advise you to visit Misfat during the summer months which are from April to September.
Although the village of Misfat is a must visit location in any given itinerary, the village is not packed with visitors as the Sultanate of Oman is still on the developmental paths on tourism. Hence visitors are on the low. Therefore from the perspective of tourism density, feel free to visit the village on any day.
How to Reach Misfat Al Abriyeen
Misfat Al Abryeen is a mountainous village packed with ancient customs and are zealous in preserving their way of life. Development and modernisation are kept to a minimal. Isolation is one of the optimal ways to keep rampant growth at bay. Therefore the only way to reach the village is through Al Hamra which is located six kilometres away from the village. The road follows a zig-zagged way uphill and is paved all the way up to the entrance of the village. Al Hamra is about 200 kms away from Muscat, and it can be reached by following the main highway connecting Muscat to Al Dakhiliyah or come down from Nizwa which is the biggest city nearby fit five kilometres away. We recommend travelling by car as public transport are not much developed. If you come in your private vehicle, leave the car at the entrance of the village as the cars have not yet achieved the technology of commuting over excavated steps and narrow alleyways built into a mountain.
If you are wondering where to stay in an ancient village cemented into the bosom of a mountain, the village has a guest house called Misfah guest house, and we highly recommend visitors to book a stay here. You can enjoy the peaceful beauty and serenity of the village all the while listening to the stories of the valley which will go down three hundred years down memory lane. The guest house has many rooms in nearby buildings with shared commodities. The rooms are very cosy and laid out in traditional Arabian fashion. The guest house has a simple but splendid terrace to have your food. They also treat visitors to well prepared and delicious home cooked Arabian food which includes soup, vegetables, fish, hummus and a perfect cake. Take care as to not to ask for alcohol as the community is deeply imbibed in religious values and in short is bone dry.
Sightseeing in Misfat Al Abriyeen
Al Hoota Cave
Al hoota cave is estimated to be more than two million years old. The cave system is a must visit location for those who want to enjoy Oman for all its natural beauty and splendour. It is the only and first cave in the Arabian peninsula which is open to the general public. The cave is located in the vast Jebel Shams mountain of Oman. The cave spans nearly 4.5 kilometres inward out of which only 500 meters is made accessible. Inside the cave is four naturally formed lakes that also is an abundance of a rich and diverse ecosystem despite the arid conditions of the Arabian peninsula. Three of the lakes are located to the north of the cave while the remaining is the central lake which is accessible. The lake is eight hundred metres long, ten metres wide and fifteen metres deep. A trip to the cave becomes well worth and exceptional with the blind fish, a rare marine species that has evolved over time adapting to the arid conditions of the cave. There are also other forms of life inside the cave including bats, arthropods, molluscs, spiders, snails and water beetles.
Al Hoota cave is even more exceptional as the cave was created by water though made by stone. This natural activity takes hundreds of years, and a walk through specific columns and curtains of stalagmites took thousands of years to form. The cave is lighted with an intricate system of lighting to provide illumination to visitors also taking care not to disturb the natural conditions of the cave simultaneously. There are experienced guides to take visitors along the cave and throw further insights about the cave in both Arabic and English. The cave also comes with an array of facilities like cafes, wifi, digital tours, restrooms with disabled access, geological exhibition, gift shop and an electric train which will take you to the entrance of the cave. Catch a stellar view of the mountains on both sides as you get ready for another visual treat.
Cost: The ticket rates are very modest with a nominal charge of 3.50 OMR for locals and 7 OMR for foreigners. Toddlers under six are given free permit while children above the age of six and of Omani nationality are issued a ticket worth 1 OMR AND 3 OMR for others.
Time Required: Each tour takes 45 minutes, and on a day 750 people can be accommodated. On peak days it is advisable to pre-book your tickets.
Tips: Photography is strictly forbidden inside the cave.
Falaj System of Irrigation
The landscape of the Arabian peninsula is very arid and dry with extreme temperatures and not the ideal conditions for agriculture. Oman enjoys relatively better climatic conditions yet it a very rough region. Oman, however, employs a smart and elegant system of irrigation known as aflaj or falaj. Thanks to the system in place, it allows charming villages to exist in the mighty grandeur of mountains regardless of the bleak conditions in place. Misfat Al Abryeen stands as an exemplary circumstance of what can be achieved with simple and adequate irrigation. The reason why Misfat is green and teeming with agriculture is mostly due to the falaj system. Misfat from a vantage point appears to be a fertile oasis. The falaj system in Misfat is a simple process of diverting a source of water in the mountains employing artificially built channels and excavated drains to bring water to where it is needed. In Misfat the network expands to serve the community for household purposes. The system is a sight to behold once it rains and the water gushes through the channels and drains. Its ingenuity shows the will of men to do the impossible.
Produces of the Land
The village of Misfat is mostly dependant on agriculture. Conducting agriculture in the dry regions of Arabia is a humongous task, and the villagers need to put their backs to get good produce from the land. Thanks to the effective irrigation channels in place, the arid land looks more like a verdant oasis in the desert landscape. The towering palm trees and the greenery is a striking view. As you proceed up the village patches of cultivated land with ready to be harvested vegetable produces can be seen. The date groves in the village is a must see with rows of palm trees abounding in dates of various sizes and colours.
Activities in Misfat Al Abriyeen
A visit to the village of Misfat Al Abryeen is not complete without a hiking trip to Al Mazare. The village overlooks the gorge which holds the hiking plain. Al Mazare is a mountain oasis located in the foothills of Jebel Shams. Visitors and hiking enthusiasts are bound to be astounded by the scenic beauty, large boulders and the sheer size of the cliffs on both sides. The cliff is a must for those who love a drive of the adrenaline and adventure. However, we do not recommend this activity to those faint at heart and those afraid of heights. The hike begins from the village where you can follow the markers (white, yellow and red flags) to route W9. The signboard at the entrance of the village gives a detailed idea about the tracks. The path provides a magnificent view of the date groves and the agricultural terraces of the village. After an hour or so along the W9 route the paved trails come to an end, and from then the real adventure begins following occasional arrow marks inscribed on large boulders to keep you on the right track. The trek requires to wade, hop and climb to get across boulders, shallow pools and uphills. The trek nominally takes around seven hours to complete up and down. It is ideal to pack snacks, water and other eatables along the way. Do note that that the trek has crude steps, very cliffs and drops along the path. The path is most definitely not recommended for inexperienced hikers. If you are an amateur, we insist you try out other easier hiking trails in Oman.
Misfat Al Abreeyn is an age-old village deeply imbibed in Arabian culture and heritage. With the increasing rise in visitors to the village, a signboard now stands welcoming visitors silently admonishing foreigners to follow the customs kindly.
Refrain from using short or transparent clothes. Wear unrevealing clothes and always cover your arms and shorts/ skirts should be below knee length.
Greet people you meet on the track
Always ask for permissions before photographing locals.
Do not enter private properties without an invitation.
Keep off the grass and resist the urge to reach out to the fruits as it is the livelihood of the villagers.
Keep away from the ladies area and respect their privacy
The village is very famous for its local irrigation system. Do not drink or pollute the water source.
Arabian hospitality is well renowned however they do things quite differently from the modern cultures we have. Therefore always remove your footwear before entering a house. In Arabic, custom women are not allowed to give handshakes. If asked to sit in a traditional Arabic household, seat yourselves starting with the oldest. Avoid showing the soles of your feet and always accept with your right hand.
Coffee is served in small portions and helping yourselves to three servings is considered polite.
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