As more products are made using high-tech manufacturing processes, the potters of Bahla are keeping traditional methods alive, finds Jerzy Wierzbicki
Some 40km from Nizwa and 200km from Muscat lies the ancient town of Bahla, home to one of the most famous pottery factories in the Sultanate.
The Abdullah bin Hamdan al Adawi pottery factory is one of the largest and oldest artisan producers in the north of Oman.
For over 150 years, they’ve been crafting everything from small incense burners to huge pots for storing dates, as well as vases, bowls and jugs.
It’s an entirely localised process that draws in the surrounding resources, from the original raw material, to the water used in the process and the skilled craftsman that work there.
The clays used to make the handcrafted ceramics come from around Bahla and have a pale yellowy-green hue, in contrast with the red-coloured clay from Al Hamra.
Once collected, the clay is rolled out by hand and then shaped on a traditional potter’s wheel. In the past, the potters operated the wheel by foot but recent changes have seen them adopt an electrically powered wheel.
It’s only the most simple of tools that a skilled potter needs; small pieces of wood are used to create the delicate patterns and decorative ridges on the pot.
After the final sculpting has been done, the pieces are left to dry in the sun before being placed in the kilns.
Using modern electric kilns and gas-fired kilns, the potters at Bahla are able to experiment with various glazings before firing up the traditional clay kilns for mass production.
The fame of the pottery has now spread worldwide, attracting tourists from as far away as Germany, France and the USA to buy the unique earthenware.
What was once a local industry is now a perfect way for visitors to take home a piece of Oman.