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