When I was a little girl, my dad would wrap me up after my bath in a lovely pink towel dress. Then, he would spin me around and call me a princess and of course, I insisted on keeping my gown on as long as possible before putting on my pajamas that night. On the car ride to Nizwa (another interior city) today, I felt the familiar excitement of playing princess as great fort walls loomed ahead of us. I’ve gotten this feeling twice since arriving in Oman. Once at the Sultan’s palace in Muscat, and today at Jabreen castle just outside of Nizwa.
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The Sultan’s palace is located in the center of Muscat and while I didn’t enter the rooms, I did walk with as much poise as possible down the marble sidewalks and up to the palace gates to take a picture. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos would just three days later meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after a parade of horses and uniformed men marched up to this same spot.
The walls of the palace are brightly colored and a garden wraps around the building. Everything surrounding its walls is glistening and clean. Magenta flowers cascade down the outer fences in beautiful batches. Around the back, the palace looks out on a crystal harbor. For centuries, Portuguese ships would import and export goods to Oman in the same place.
As we looked around and watched the windows of the palace, I wondered what it would be like to live in such an enclosed structure. What would it be like to clean the palace or be a guest of the Sultan? As we walked away, the great gold crest of the Sultan beamed from its spot of the gates, and my skirt twitched in the wind. I twirled around as I walked through archways and posed for the camera feeling like a princess.
Today, we journeyed out to Nizwa and toured a different regal structure; Jabreen Castle. Built around 1680 AD, and home to Imam Bil’arab bin Sultan Al Ya’rubi this castle held many diplomatic visitors and was heavily armed in its prime. Passageway upon passageway wrap their way around the interior and just when I thought I had seen it all, another staircase would appear and take me to a brand new place.
The thick walls have been redone to mimic the structure of the castle in the past. As a result, there were many windows without rails and arches that I had to be careful not to bump my head on. I found the kitchen and the bath, the Iman’s personal quarters as well as his grave, and the tiny spots that armed guards would hide in if case intruders were threatening the castle. There was even a system of rooms devoted solely to date storage in case of siege.
On the top of the castle, there was an old mosque and at one point, a school for studying Islam. Peering across the horizon I saw great mountains, palm tree farms, and several camels roaming in the sand. When I looked down, a chaotic collection of people were going about their tours and taking pictures as they walked from their buses to the castle door.
Back inside, I walked through a hallway and found the men’s and women’s jail to be tight black holes in the walls. There was even a spot for the Imam’s horse to stay on the second floor! When I reached the courtyard in the center of the castle, I spun around and spread my arms out wide. I’m not sure this would be my ideal home as a princess, but with all the places to hide and wiggle through, it would make an incredible place to be a little girl ready for adventure.
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