Jibreen Castle, Oman – fortified palace of the Yaruba dynasty 2


Did you wander through the endless empty rooms, the labyrinthine bare corridors, the expansive yet unembellished courtyards of Bahla Fort, and find yourself thinking, well, this place is amazing, but it makes no sense to me at all. How did this place function? How did people live here? If so, then a trip to Jibreen Castle is for you.

Jibreen Castle

Jibreen Castle, Oman

Jibreen Castle. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Built in 1670, or thereabouts, Jibreen Castle was the palace of the Yaruba dynasty, who ruled Oman from 1624 to 1742.

Jibreen Castle, Oman

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Some of the more notable exploits of the Yaruba dynasty include the eviction of the Portuguese from Muscat, the unification of Oman, and the transformation of the country into a maritime power – they went on to take over many of the Portuguese’s assets in East Africa, including Lamu, Mombasa, and Zanzibar.

Not bad for 120 years in the hot seat.

Jibreen Castle, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Features of Jibreen Castle

Unlike the unadorned rooms at Bahla Fort, Jibreen Castle is furnished throughout with handsome period furniture. And your entry ticket includes a well-produced audio guide.

Listening to the one, while observing the other, means you should come away from Jibreen Castle with a decent understanding of the functioning of this fortified palace.

Jibreen Castle, Oman

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The highlights of the castle tour include the falaj system – irrigation channels that bring water to the castle from distant springs – which you will encounter in the kitchen and ground floor areas.

Date store, Jibreen Castle, Oman

The date store. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

And there’s the date store, where thousands of dates, once retrieved from the rows of date palms surrounding the castle, would have been brought and stacked.

The viscous oil that slowly seeped out of the stacked dates would run along the grooved channels in the floor. The oil was collected for use in cooking, beauty products, and occasionally as a defensive measure (boiling date oil would be poured onto attackers heads through special slots in the castle walls).

Jibreen Castle, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White

On the first floor of the castle you’ll find a special room, which has no furniture, and which is connected to the ground floor via a curious, covered ramp.

This was the room given to the sultan’s favourite horse.

Jibreen Castle, Oman

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Sun and Moon Hall, Jibreen Castle

Prestigious guests would be received in a chamber with an extremely high, intricately painted ceiling known as the Sun and Moon Hall.

Jibreen Castle, Oman

Sun and Moon Hall. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

This room had one set of windows at ground level, and another much higher set of windows, which, when working together, were meant to flush out the hot air and keep the hall pleasantly cool.

Jibreen Castle, Oman

Photo credit: Benjamin White

When you finally reach the expansive rooftop, ever so bright and baking hot in the midday sun, you’ll find there a small mosque and a tiny classroom.

And from the rooftop: views of the date palm plantation that surrounds Jibreen Castle, and beyond that: the harsh, dry deserts of Oman.

Jibreen Castle, Oman

Rows of date palms surrounding Jibreen Castle. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit


Practical information and how to reach Jibreen Castle:

Jibreen Castle is located 8 km from Bahla Fort, 40 km from Nizwa, and approximately 200 km from Muscat.

Public transport options are extremely limited in Oman. Travellers are best off hiring a car to get around (I say this as someone who would much rather use public transport than drive). More transport info here.


More on Oman:

The Balcony Walk – it’s Jebel Shams lite

Bahla Fort – labyrinthine 13th Century mud-brick castle

The archaeological sites of al-Khutm, Bat, and al-Ayn

Muscat – beautiful city, but don’t expect locally-grown grapes


Posts on the Middle East:

Iran:

Chogha Zanbil, Iran – the original ziggurat

The Historic Hydraulic System of Shushtar, Iran

Jordan:

Petra, Jordan – Al Siq: narrow, magical chasm leading to Al Khazneh

Petra, Jordan – Ad Deir: the monastery?

Qatar:

Doha, Qatar – city under construction

Turkey:

Pamukkale, Turkey – chalk white cliffs, turquoise pools 

Fethiye, Turkey – pebble beaches and Lycian tombs

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