Serendipity serves Shaquel Al Balushi’s shutter well, as a historical site offers him a host of optical opportunities.
As a photographer, unexpected views inspire me daily. Some days, I discover discreet corners in Oman that I’ve never previously come across, and on other days I sometimes nearly overlook opportunities. This is how I came across Tharmad Castle. Located just past the Millennium Resort Musannah, this archaic fort can be found in front of a busy roundabout on top of some dishevelled rocks.
It was 3am, the sun was still dormant but the lorries were racing towards their final call time on the busy Muscat Expressway. After an hour-and-a-half’s drive to Musannah, the sun was slowly rising and the colours of the autumn, burgundy sky were seeping through. As I parked my car at the resort, I took a deep breath and took in the beautiful surroundings. In those few tranquil moments, the ambience made me drowsy. I was heavy-eyed and took a quick, 30-minute snooze.
Luckily, I woke up just in time before the sun was completely awake and came upon my discovery. I drove into a narrow corner and suddenly found myself at a tiny roundabout and a vast castle on my left. What amazed me was the electrifying energy the Omani citizens of the suburbs have. As I held my camera, I viewed children in uniforms impatiently waiting for the school bus, elderly men chatting while on their morning stroll to the corner shop for fresh bread and tea, and young apprentices hurriedly leaving their homes for their daily commute to Muscat.
The simplicity of Musannah is that, regardless of the vast projects in its surroundings, you can never miss out on the culture that seeps out between the streets. This wilayah (state) is known for its coast, Royal Air Force of Oman base and its illustrious football teams. In addition, it has one of the most venerable castles you could ever see, the features of which clearly influenced the architects who built the Royal Opera House Oman.
Tharmad Castle reeks of ancestry, defence, and heritage. You can marvel at the dome-like windows, cannon ball shoots and escape passages around it. The doors are wooden with hard knots, and access to the premises inside is limited. During my visit, I examined the fort’s exterior. The walls were of a beige hue, and I was astonished by how well the fort has been maintained. As the years have passed, the fort still looks intact. I applaud the Municipality in its efforts in keeping it so, and could see clerks diligently sweeping the dust off the fort’s surrounding alleyways.
On a side note, the weather in Oman is cooling down and I encountered many mosquitoes so be prepared to repel a few bites. But creatures are what makes the country come together, so birds were flocking on the castle’s heads and rails while goats were herded and myriad creatures were waking up.
Tharmad Castle is an architectural vision photographers will savour because of its array of angles that they can capture. A tourist can easily envisage the medieval Mussanah era by coming here, too. My parting shot of advice? Don’t overlook a corner as you might be missing out on an adventure.
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From Muscat, take Route 1 to Millennium Resort Mussanah. Tharmad Castle is easy to find and is just past the hotel at the roundabout. You don’t need a 4X4 for this journey.
N 23°47’24.8”; E 57°31’09.0”