Khasab Castle A testament to the medieval Musandam

YAHYA ALSALMANI –
MUSCAT –
Dec. 23: Khasab Castle is one of the oldest historical sites in the Governorate of Musandam, 570 km from Muscat. Omanis rebuilt it on the ruins of the old castle constructed by the Portuguese in the seventeenth century.
The castle used to house wali and his family and to protect people from any sudden attack. It is now a museum and displays several handicraft and archaeological collections.
In its courtyard there are boats such as ‘Mashuwwah’ which is an adaptation of the earlier double-ended vessel. It can be rowed. Sailed or fitted with an outboard engine. These boats, retired from service in 1999, were used in Khasab harbour to ferry goods and people back and forth from anchored ships off shore. In the past it was also used on ocean-going cargo dhows such as the baghlah, or boum, where they served as lifeboats and provided a means of communicating between ships at sea. During the long sail to East African ports, the ship’s carpenter would often use his spare time on board to build a ‘Mashuwwah’ to sell at the end of the voyage.
There is also ‘Zaruqah’ vessel which was first built in Khasab in the mid-1900 and it is still common in the bays of Musandam.
In the courtyard, visitors can see the ‘clay oven’ (Tannur) and the ‘Rotary Quern’ locally called (Raha).
The ‘Arish’ (the Summer House) is also one of the essential parts of the castle. This kind of house used by locals when they used to move from one place to another in different seasons. ‘Arish’ was elevated on pillars of stone to capture cool breezes blowing in from the sea.
A family would return to the same house each year, refurbishing the roof and wall panels with fresh palm materials as needed.
On the first floor of the castle there are many rooms such as a wedding room and Quran school. The castle has an exhibition hall, which provides detailed information about Musandam geology, wildlife, architecture and traditional medicine.
The castle ranks as one of the most attractive tourist sites in Musandam. There is a walkway from Khasab castle to Alkmazrh fort, which was constructed recently to facilitate the visitors’ movement between two historical sites in the city.