Oman Photowalk Series: Harat Al Bilad in Manah

Overview of the town of Manah in Al Dakhiliyah with photo gallery of its resorted historic quarter – Harat Al Bilad

Oman Photowalk Series is a new series of posts I am start at OmanTripper in order to share some of the many many photos I take during my trips around Oman, and which I never get a chance to post. It will also give me a chance to provide some basic information on the places I post on my social media channels instead of having the draft posts languishing on my ‘to do list’ for ages.. today’s post is on Manah and its historic old quarters: Harat Al Bilad!

Manah (منح) is one of the eight provinces (wilayat) of Al Dakhiliyah Governorate in Oman. It is probably fair to say that Manah is not on top of the list for many tourists or visitors to Oman, especially compared to its neighboring town of Nizwa. However, I believe Manah is a great place to stop by for any visitor to Oman – whether it is as in combination with a day-visit to Nizwa, or as part of your tour in Al Dakhiliyah (which should definitely combine a visit to Misfat Al Abriyeen and Jabal Shams). Manah is thought to have been formed by people from Al Azd tribe (الأزد), who are ethnic Arabs that settled in Oman two millennia before the arrival of Islam, and whom the Al Said (آل سعيد) Royal Family of Oman trace their roots to.

Manah hosts a number of very interesting places, and even though they are likely not suitable for tourists it is worth mentioning: one is the Oman Across Ages Museum (متحف عُمان عبر الزمان), which is currently under construction (as of the timing of this article) and will be one of the largest museums outside Muscat. In addition, Manah also hosts one of the palaces of H.M. the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Hisn Al Shumookh Palace (حصن الشموخ), as well as the Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic to Non-Native Speakers – which is run by the Diwan of Royal Court and I understand it to be a fantastic place for foreigners who wish to learn Arabic in Oman and immerse themselves in the culture.

The main reason I recommend visiting Manah is to visit the historic quarters of Harat Al Bilad (حارة البلاد) (can be translated as ‘the old neighborhood‘). This is the old part of Manah town, which is similar to the old houses you see in many other towns and villages in Oman: full of buildings and houses made of mud and clay with narrow alleyways separating them. However, Manah’s Harat Al Bilad is much more unique in that not only it is probably the largest old quarter neighborhood (haraah) in Oman, with a couple of really old mosques, but that it has also been preserved and restored in its entirety! (Unlike, for example, Harat Al Yemen in Izki).

One problem with old houses and buildings all around Oman is that they are all still used as homes or storage areas by their owners, and as they get damaged due to weather conditions – the owners either restore them with new material (which changes its character) or completely demolish them to build a new house with concrete blocks and cement (thus completely erasing its history) – of course this is their complete right as they want to live in comfortable homes, but it is also unfortunate to see the historic quarters of many towns of Oman slowly getting changed and erased. This is why Manah’s Harat Al Bilad is so important – the entire neighborhood has been preserved and maintained! I understand that the government have been purchasing the houses of every private owner in the area since over a decade ago (I remember this distinctly when I first visited Harat Al Bilad back in 2009, where my friend’s father from Manah was showing us around and showed us their old home which they had sold for this program a couple of years prior).

Harat Al Bilad is still undergoing restoration work (as you may see from one of the photos of the planned restoration in the Gallery below), and lots of the houses and buildings are empty – but it is still a fascinating place to visit and explore with over 300 rooms, 4 mosques and lots of interesting details (and bats – be careful as you explore!). Access to Harat Al Bilad is organised and run by a local group from Manah – I understand their opening hours to be from 9am-5pm (except that it is closed during Friday prayers ~11am-1pm) and entry fee is 1 OMR/person. There is a phone number at the entrance you can call if you see the desk unmanned (these details are correct as of my the time of my visit in November 2018).

Harat Al Bilad in Manah Gallery:

How to Reach Harat Al Bilad in Manah:

Manah is about 160 km away from Muscat, and can be reached by taking the Muscat-Al Dakhiliyah highway to Nizwa. Manah is adjacent to Nizwa, and you just have to simply take the highway exit across to the other side. Harat Al Bilad is inside the old quarters of the town.

2 replies on “Oman Photowalk Series: Harat Al Bilad in Manah”

This is such an interesting part of Oman which will ultimately become a tourist destination once the ‘Across the Ages’ museum is complete. The archaeological site of Salut is nearby where a famous Battle took place.
A wonderful description with super images.

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