On the way home from Ashakharah Beach, Shaquel al Balushi stumbles upon an imposing fort surrounded by a sea of lush, green palms.
It had been a long drive to Ashakharah Beach in the Sharqiyah region for Destination in last week’s Y (issue 438). And rather than take the coast road home again, my friend Imran and I decided to head a little inland and check out the landscape to see if there was another story we could rustle up.
We weren’t sure what we’d come across but not long after leaving the beach, we saw a sign for Jalan Bani Bu Hasan Castle. It was just under 100km away. It was an easy decision to make so off we headed to explore this area.
But just a word or warning: while the drive looks pretty straightforward on a map, high winds have shifted huge swathes of sand onto the road, creating some dangerous conditions on the road surfacing so it’s essential you drive carefully.
The castle, however, is well signposted along the way. But as usual, we got a little lost towards the end of the journey and we had to ask a passer-by to help us locate the castle. We were surrounded by what felt like a forest of palm trees, making it very difficult to get our bearings, let alone check if we could see the castle in the distance.
In the end, our new friend suggested that we follow him in his car – for all of five minutes! That’s right – the castle was literally under our noses but we couldn’t see the forest for the trees (as the saying goes)!
The landscape here was lush and green and the weather was also very amenable. It was early afternoon and there was a slight breeze blowing. A huge plus was that it was nowhere near the high humidity levels that Muscat has been experiencing of late. It was almost refreshing.
Meanwhile, we finally spotted the castle – an imposing structure that has been fully restored. Built during the time of Imam al Muhana bin Jaafar in the ninth century, it’s a huge fortress that has an open courtyard in the centre. Unfortunately, it was closed to the public even though it was a Saturday.
And just another handy piece of information to note: the castle is only open from Sunday to Thursday, which is disappointing as it means weekend day-trippers won’t get to see inside this stunning structure – unless they have a day off work.
It was extremely difficult for me to photograph it all at once without a wide-angled lens, which I didn’t have with me. I’d say I was only able to photograph half of it at a time.
Even though we couldn’t explore the inside of the castle, we walked around its perimeter, taking photos along the way, including the strong, jutting walls standing tall against the bright blue of the sky and small details of ancient doors.
One of my favourite photos was of a stone wall surrounding the property that had been built around a palm tree to allow it to continue growing freely. It was an interesting way to solve a problem. I was very impressed by this as it sent a message that you don’t have to kill plants or trees to do things.
But then it was time to head home as we faced a four-hour drive.
It had been a long day and we were very tired.
But it was a day of exciting discoveries – from exploring the windswept beach at Ashakharah and allowing fate to guide us to Jalan Bani Bu Hasan Castle. Hopefully, it won’t take me another four years to return.
[styled_box title=”How To Get There?” color=”black”]It’s an easy drive from Al Ashakharah Beach. At less than 100km away, it shouldn’t take too long to get there. The route is well signposted and you won’t need a 4X4.
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