As a long day of trekking two different wadis drew to a close, my friend and I were on our way towards the main road that would lead us back home when we spotted a sign for Al Awabi Castle. With the light still strong enough to get some good shots, I decided that we might as well make an impromptu stop and investigate further.
It is becoming increasingly common to see historical buildings like forts and castles right in the middle of towns and cities, with modern development surrounding and eventually engulfing them, but what I liked about Al Awabi Castle from the moment we pulled up was that it was still a good distance from the nearby village. It was as if the castle was playing the game on its own terms; a historical monument standing strong, reluctant to let itself become overgrown and surpassed by the 21st century.
In my experience of visiting Oman’s historical buildings, I’ve found that while forts generally occupy strategic vantage points high up, that would have allowed defenders a view of the surrounding territory for miles, the placement of castles sometimes appears more whimsical.
Al Awabi Castle, which dates back nearly 200 years and was restored to its former glory in 2008, is located alongside a wadi, isolated in the shadow of a large mountain and while I’m not sure this is the best strategic location, it certainly made for some dramatic photos.
The car park was empty when we arrived as it was a Friday and we had the place to ourselves. A quiet atmosphere settled over the entire area and although the heavy door to the castle was locked tight, the Omani flag still fluttered proudly in the light breeze high above the castle. Like many Omanis, I’m very patriotic and the image I captured of this scene was probably my favourite of the entire shoot. To me, it symbolised strength.
A few other details that I liked were the two short, squat cannons that guarded the castle’s main entrance and the splendour of the door itself. The doors of Oman’s forts and castles are famed far and wide and Al Awabi Castle certainly didn’t disappoint. The black paint on the latches and imposing metal spikes looked almost fresh and provided a strong contrast the brown wood.
The area surrounding the castle was kept very clean, which is always nice to see. There were several bins around and for once, it seemed like visitors were willing to use them and help preserve this site of historical importance.
Earlier that day my friend and I had a conversation with an elderly Omani gentlemen. Even though the sun was out and the sky was a glorious shade of blue at the time, the man looked up at the few wisps of cloud that were present and thought for a moment, before telling us that it would rain later. And sure enough, just as we were wrapping up our castle visit he was proved right!
You could tell in the air that the weather was beginning to change. The clouds were starting to set in, as was a fine mist, which eventually became a light drizzle. In all honesty, I welcomed the rain with open arms because I was exhausted after the day’s trekking around wadis.
Starting slowly at first, the rain began to fall steadily, changing the tone of the environment with it. The tall, sandy walls of the castle were sent a slightly darker colour, giving them an altogether more foreboding air. Although the temperature was mild and pleasant, we took the change in conditions as our cue to leave and headed back towards our car to make the trip home.
From Muscat, take Route 1, exiting left onto Route 13 when you get to Barka. Stay on this road all the way to Al Awabi. Keep the wadi on your left and you will eventually come to the castle.
GPS location of Al Awabi Castle: N23° 17’ 59.873” E57° 31’ 50.253”