Oman has a tradition of adorning homes with entrances that are ornate as well as inviting. Swati Basu Das gets her foot in the door, and goes back in time.
It’s 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon, and the blazing hot summer sun isn’t too scorching even though we have been travelling for more than two hours.
After parking our car, as we stroll through a narrow alley of a village at the foothills of Jebel Al Akhdar, an enchanting wooden door in front of me grabs my attention. I am standing there, just awestruck.
Staring at the spellbinding doorway, I can’t help but whisper “Is there anybody there?” while standing in front of it. While waiting for a reply from behind the door, I can only admire all its intricacies, curves and the artist’s impression on it. My lens wastes no time in capturing the sublime details on the pale, old yet sturdy wooden frame.
The iron latch of this flamboyant antique door has been pulled up and firmly locked. Abandoned centuries ago, the mud walls of the house have aged with time, and the roofless structure is standing in silence. It highlights how beguiling the entrance is while serving as a tribute to the denizens who once welcomed their guests here with pride.
As he admires the 200-year-old door with considerable pride, Nasser Mohammed Al Forkani, who lives in Nizwa, says: “Carved wooden doors are an integral part of Omani architecture. Some have simple designs on them while the one in front of us has heavy embellishments like the metal spikes on it. Every door you come across is exquisite and striking. No two designs are similar.”
As captivating as they can be, the wooden doors that enhance the entrance of any Omani home are part of a centuries-old legacy. The love for artistic doorways is evident in every house, be it ancient or contemporary.
Each of these doorways highlights a history of its origin. While some have recently been fixed and regularly maintained, some lay broken in a corner having lost their sheen over the years and go unnoticed. Showcasing a bygone era these doors still exhibit a faded grace.
One spot at Nizwa Fort is more than a thousand years-old and well-burnished. The fortified double-sided door of the fort has a smaller door on one side within the bigger door. The designs on the door and its lunette shed light on patterns that are predominantly Islamic. The solid iron nuts nailed in a row on the frame make the door look well-defended.
Ali, the guide at the fort, explains that Omani artisans meticulously engraved this, and maintenance work is done every two years to preserve its gloss.
He says: “The wood and the design of this door hold the essence of the land. The walnut tree wood used to make this door comes from the green mountain – Jebel Al Akhdar.
“The flowers and leaves carved on it are the sketches of the walnut and pomegranate trees grown in this region. The geometric patterns throw light on the Islamic architecture.”
Displaying the typical Islamic art form, the designs of Omani wooden doors are quite uncommon. From floral motifs, geometric patterns, Arabic calligraphy to Quran verse; the designs delicately embossed by skilled craftsmen of Oman on doorways are outstanding.
These doors not only have inscriptions on them but are also majestically decorated with ironworks and metal pendulums that clink as the door opens. The protruding wooden frame on it makes its appearance even bolder.
Nasser, a master wood craftsman, says: “The designs of the doors reflect the taste of an individual.
“Most people love the floral and geometric patterns. The rock art is also peerlessly crafted on some the wooden frames on demand. The woods mostly imported from East Africa and India include birch, oak, teak and mahogany. They are considered to be the best for these frames.”
But why have the doors been adorned with such finesse? Why did one highly-talented artisan put so much effort into embellishing the entrance? There’s no easy answer but we appreciate the results.
Giving the home an earthy feel, the Omanis’ fascination for wooden doors expresses their status and hospitality.
These double-sided front doors are considered to impress and influence the guests.
“Doors are the first thing anybody will notice before entering into the house,” says Nasser. “A grand door says a lot about the individual residing in it.”
A timeless piece of art, these regal wooden doors of Oman will unlatch to amaze us forever, and always with a warm welcome.”