100 years ago
February 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Photo - Hi

Bait Al Zubair Museum is continually evolving and adding new collections in order to remain fresh and interesting for both old and new publics.  The complex has added seven exhibition rooms to mark the 100th anniversary of Bait Al Bagh.

A century has passed since 1914 when Mohammad Al Zubair's father, Sheikh Al Zubair bin Ali, who was living at Bait Al Oud, the old family home, took the decision to build a house of his own, and chose a spacious plot nearby in the heart of old Muscat.

Surrounded by beautiful gardens, the new house was called Bait Al Bagh (House of Gardens). Sheikh Al Zubair, Advisor to the Sultans of his time, had a keen interest in the arts and Bait Al Baghwas frequented by the major literary and artistic figures of early twentieth-century Muscat. Until the late twentieth century, Bait Al Bagh served as a main residence for the Al Zubair family.

In the early 1990's, Mohammad Al Zubair created a new vision for the Bait Al Bagh property – it was to be a museum complex, private, but open to the public in order to support the national aim of preserving Oman's heritage and culture. 

The first new building erected on the property replaced the old Bait Al Bagh and was named for that venerable family house. Opened in 1998, Bait Al Bagh holds the Al Zubair family's collection of Omani treasures and artefacts which spans five centuries and comes from all regions of the country.

The Bait Al Zubair Museum complex evolved over time with new buildings created as needed. The property presently accommodates six buildings. The opening of Bait Al Bagh as the main museum was followed by the renovating Bait Al Dalaleel, an early twentieth-century house still extant on the grounds. This traditional house serves as a museum linking the complex to the old domestic architecture of Muscat. 

In 2008, a community mosque was built along with Bait Al Oud, the 'Grand House', a gallery and museum named after the old family house and located immediately inside the main gate. The gift shop adjacent to Bait Al Bagh opened in 2010 and Bait Al Nhahdha, the 'Renaissance House', a very fine facility for art and culture, was inaugurated in 2011.

Seven New Exhibition Rooms
The latest addition to the complex consists of seven newly-created exhibition rooms in Bait Al Bagh, which were opened last week to mark the hundredth anniversary of the original House of Gardens. Fahad Al Hasni, Bait Al Zubair's talented Exhibition & Collections Manager took me on a tour of the seven new rooms at Bait Al Bagh.

This project was originally led by Sarah White, the late BAZ Foundation Arts Advisor and Manager of the Museum. Fahad, an excellent curator who was Sarah's close colleague and protégé, explained that the project was about twenty percent complete when Sarah passed away last April and the major responsibility was assigned to him under the guidance of Mohammad Al Zubair.

I could see the trademarks of Sarah's approach in the overall design of the exhibition and the details of its implementation. Fahad remarked: "As I approached each task, I would remember what I learned from Sarah. I would hear her words and I felt that she was sitting next to me as usual. All the exhibits had to be carefully crafted. People seemed very happy with the results. One of the secrets of success that I learned from Sarah was to set up each room so that that it tells a story through the text and the manner in which the collection is arranged. Sarah always insisted on this as it makes the exhibition more interesting and user-friendly."

Exceptional Stamp Collections
In order to expertly curate this exhibition which features specialised collections of Omani and Arab stamps, coins and manuscripts, Fahad studied for two months with a stamp specialist who taught him how to handle and display stamps professionally. Until Fahad explained what was involved, I had not noticed that each one of the thousands of stamps i

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