After a string of Destination pieces focusing on the beauty of Omani nature, I decided to branch out last week and visit the ruins at Al Hamra. The theme continued this week when I decided to find myself a fort or castle.
With nothing particular in mind, I decided to try my luck and go out searching for one. A friend of mine told me that coastal areas often have a lot of castles, so I took his advice and journeyed north from Muscat. Although I was driving without entirely knowing where I was going, I was keeping Sohar as a back-up plan the whole time.
Travelling up the coast, the first castle I found was a little over 150km from my home in Amerat, but unfortunately it was closed for renovation and I was informed that it wouldn’t be ready for the public until the end of next year.
Unperturbed, I stopped a passerby and asked him if he knew of any other castles or forts located in the area. As it turned out, luck was on my side and he pointed me further up the coast along the same stretch of road. This was how I stumbled upon Saham Castle.
Small but perfectly formed, Saham Castle has been skilfully restored to its former glory and now stands proudly looking out to sea as it would have done hundreds of years ago. Set in a square, Saham Castle features a watchtower at each corner and a courtyard within the complex.
It was closed when I arrived on Thursday, but I shot it from the outside, capturing some images of the striking cannons that stood guard on either side of the heavy-looking bolted wooden door.
As I raised my lens upwards to get some pictures of the walls and windows, I noticed almost every shot had the same crow in. It was as if the bird was determined to have his 15 minutes of fame in Y Magazine and no matter where I pointed my camera, he would fly over and perch in the same place, posing in the same style with his head slightly cocked to one side.
The castle is literally just across the road from a well-maintained beach, meaning you can enjoy them both together in one trip.
I found that a thriving community has sprung up around the castle, including a mosque and some shops. What interested me the most, though, was the ramshackle vegetable market that has established itself in the shadow of the castle’s imposing walls. Not at all modern, the rickety stands looked like they had been cobbled together, but they were all staffed by proud elderly Omanis.
Local fishermen selling dried fish doubled as stallholders and I captured a pair of them taking some time out to play hawalis, a traditional game that was covered in Y Magazine in Issue 396. They were seasoned professionals, their hands flying across their homemade board with impressive speed.
I presume that Saham Castle is open for visitors at the weekend, as it has been lovingly restored, but even if it’s not the beach is directly across the road and you can enjoy a day on the sand and in the sea regardless. Even better, you can pick up some fresh produce to cook a great meal when you get home.
Saham Castle is around two hours’ drive from Muscat, but it is very easy to find. Take Route 1 towards Sohar and take the Saham exit (next to Makka supermarket). Continue straight until you reach the coast road. Turn left and drive until you see the castle on your left.
GPS location of Saham Castle: N24° 10’ 21.63” E56° 53’ 26.131”