Khasab Castle has been lovingly restored and is a beautiful testament to the Omanis’ obvious pride in their history. It used to be right on the water’s edge, but with modern development and reclamation it now lies a bit further inland and look out on the harbour and a brand new monstrous Lulu’s Hypermarket.
The Castle is filled with displays that are not only informative, but also simple and beautiful. Inside the courtyard there are three examples of different boats that have been built and used in the area in general and Kumzar in particular. Kumzar is the most northerly part of the Musandam Peninsula, and as it is geographically isolated, it can only be reached by boat. Its isolation has bestowed a unique gift on it: a language that is distinctly unique and believed to be a mixture of Arabic and Farsi with a possible influence of Hindi, Baluchistani and Portuguese.
The reconstruction of two typical houses of the area gives one a glimpse into the practical nature and inventiveness of the locals. The arish house is lifted off the ground and made from palm fronds to allow the cool sea breeze to make the summer heat more bearable. These summer houses were used by both mountain dwellers and inhabitants of remote coastal settlements who came to Khasab during the summer months to fish and harvest dates.
The mountain dwellers during winter made use of a style of house that is unique to this area: Bait al Qufl or “house of the lock”. These houses were built of stone and are partially submerged. One steps down about a metre into them through a narrow doorway and is immediately enveloped by darkness. The only light streams in from two tiny windows on opposite ends and through the doorway. The heavy door opens into the house and when the inhabitants weren’t home it was locked by means of an elaborate locking system which is responsible for the name of the house.
These houses evolved as a way of safeguarding the possessions of their owners while they migrated to the coast. The storage pots inside the house stand on raised slabs and were built into the house so that they could not be removed once the house was finished. The roof is made from acacia timbers covered with a mixture of earth and gravel and with and edging of stone blocks.
One of the little booklets we got when we bought our tickets told us that one can still find these houses in the mountain enclaves of the Musandam and that some are still in use. Not only am I intrigued by these words, but know for certain that there are plenty of hidden treasures still to be discovered in the area. Michael would love to own one of the long-handled axes (jirz) that are carried by the Shihu tribesmen as a weapon and an all-purpose implement, and I am coveting one of the pretty little terracotta incense burners. Our booklet promises that both these items can be purchased from the artisans that live in Lima, a remote village about 3 hours from Khasab and accessible only by boat. Mmmm . . . I can see the makings of another trip . . .
Note: For more photographs of Khasab Castle, visit the Gallery Section.