A fascinating historical wonder is waiting to be discovered just a stone’s throw outside Muscat, says Shaquel al Balushi
I had been assigned to cover the opening of the Tour of Oman, the first stage of which began at Bayt Al Naman Castle last week, and decided to use the opportunity to explore a bit of Oman’s history.
The castle is located just beyond Barka and is clearly signposted from the main road, so thankfully it was quite easy to find. I’m a man who likes his history and the restoration work that has been done on Bayt Al Naman Castle is nothing short of superb.
I arrived early – about 8.30 in the morning – which meant that I pretty much had the whole castle to myself and got chatting to one of the guards, who kindly offered to act as an impromptu tour guide and gave me some basic details as he showed me around.
Built in the late 17th century by Imam Saif bin Sultan Al Ya’ruba, the castle was initially used as a royal retreat and a rest house for journeys between Muscat and Rustaq. A century later, Bayt Al Naman was given a military makeover by the Al bu Said dynasty, who transformed it into a formidable defensive position complete with murder holes, from which boiling oil could be poured over marauding attackers, and a 360-degree range of firepower over the surrounding territory.
Situated inside a walled compound, the whole castle has been more or less restored to its former glory apart from a few areas that have been purposely preserved as they were found. The fact that the difference between these “before” and “after” places is not actually that great stands as a testament to the engineering skill of those who built the castle 390 years ago. Amazingly, the tree that stands sentinel in the courtyard is actually older than the castle itself, with its age estimated at around 400 years.
Inside, the intricate details are fascinating. There are a number of exhibits on display, including hand-carved wooden chests, khanjars and teapots. The architectural features like the windows and staircases were interesting and I couldn’t help but marvel at how clever the builders were to have accomplished all that they did without modern technology. They really were geniuses.
I spent close to two hours wandering around the castle taking in the sights and was joined by a group of what looked like college students who were on a guided tour. As the minutes ticked by and the start of the Tour of Oman got closer, even a few of the cyclists appeared to take a quick look around and appreciate some of the Sultanate’s heritage.
Bayt Al Naman really is a beautiful castle and I would strongly recommend people to visit, especially those who live close by and haven’t been. It’s an important part of our history and I was glad to see it preserved the way it was. The castle has been kept very neat and clean, which was pleasing to see. Unfortunately, some of Oman’s other historical sites have been destroyed by people with little regard for their importance, who go there and leave litter.
How to get there:
Take the highway all the way out to Barka. Exit the highway 17kms after the turn-off for road 13. Turn left and then take the third right. The castle is 3km down this road on the left.
GPS location of Bayt Al Naman castle:
N 23° 42’ 16” E 57° 50’ 58”