‘Omani Burqa’ vs. Decorated Façade of Modern Omani House; the Case of Salalah, Dhofar Region, Oman

Balkiz Yapicioglu, Liudmila Cazacova
Visiting Oman, one firstly encounters wide roads and exaggerated decorations of house façades—situated behind high walls. These broad roads and decorated dwellings are unlike traditional Omani architecture which can be identified as very sensitive to scale and climate. Omani architecture can also be visualized from the narrow streets and low height buildings across many well-preserved villages; built using humble mud or stone structures. Another encounter one might have is the traditional ‘Omani burqa.’ It is worn by some Omani women, originally designed for protection from dust and sand, which mimics the features of a falcon. Lately, the ‘Omani burqa’ has developed into a true fashion-item and is used as a ‘face mask’ with different colors and shapes. Fashionable burqas are often decorated with shimmering crystals or diamonds which differs from the traditional design. What is visible behind the ‘burqa’, the ‘eye’, and the ‘burqa’ itself, become quite embellished, subsiding the importance of the other parts of the face. The façade design of a modern Omani house and its walls are like the modern ‘burqa’ and the ‘eye’. Even though the house is separated from the street by high walls, the importance of visual access from the street to façade can be perceived from the highly decorated house façades, and decorated walls at the same time. This study—using visual analysis of house façades in Salalah, Oman—attempts to identify the architectural elements used in architectural design. These elements are repeated all over Oman, to accentuate visibility from the street to the façade. Eventually, the study concludes that the importance of the visuality from the street to the façade, in a changing ‘closed’ society, is the leading factor for the embellishment of the wall and the façades, rendering the overall design behind the wall insignificant.

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