A Place of Respite – Ras-al-Khaimah’s National Museum

Visiting the National Museum in RAK is not a very exciting experience when one is simply focusing on the exhibits. Although artefacts that were discovered in the area are housed here, and as a result, capture my interest, it is the atmosphere of the old fort that makes the experience noteworthy. Wedged between the fish market and the old souk it is an oasis of peace and calm where the constant noise of traffic is banished into a soft background hum.

As I slowly walk through the different exhibits I marvel at artefacts crafted and used up to 4000 years ago. With every step more questions swirl through my mind. Whose earlobe did the delicate golden earring once adorn? What was her life like? What hopes and dreams did she harbour?

The fragments of pots, gently put back together again by archaeologists with infinite patience and hawk eyes, who could spot these amongst the piles of stones of the Hajar mountains, are decorated in geometric designs. No two are alike. There are beautiful examples of the large clay pots that were created and baked in the kilns of Julfar at the crossroads of ancient trade.

The chlorite jars, beakers and boxes weathered time better than the clay pots, and are mostly just chipped. Chlorite is a soft mineral that is found in certain parts of the Hajar Mountains. The geometrical designs created by artists’ hands long expired, still capture the eye and I wonder how exactly these were made. They hold the secrets and myths of ancient civilizations that ebbed and flowed on this northern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. As I travel to distant times my imagination becomes aware of the whispers of ghostly voices in the deserted enclaves of the fort. Do these belong to the owners of these objects or to the workers currently busy with restoration work?

Here history is tangible and real. I can simply reach out and touch the past. Well, I could, if it wasn’t for the glass shield that is protecting it from hundreds of curious hands like mine.

Later as I perch on a wooden bench under the canopy of a tree, daily life seems far removed. The birdsong above my head captures simultaneously the sounds of excitement and tranquility. In this space it is easy to reflect and daydream. Here the past and the present happily intermingle to create a vacuum in which time is indefinitely suspended.

The smells of lunch drifting towards me rudely pluck me from my daydreams, as it causes an involuntary production of saliva and a severe onset of hunger pangs. I quietly slip out of my oasis of calm and quiet, and dash towards my kitchen and the delights it holds. On route just briefly stopping at a tiny one man shop barely able to hold the clay oven that bakes the most tasty flat Arabian breads. . .