After visiting the oldest mosque of the country in Al-Bidya, I am driving south, on my way to Al-Hayl Fort. Things seem more complicated than I thought. The road is under construction for a long stretch, slowing me down considerably. Then, the sky in the distance looks gloomy grey. I am getting always more worried that I will be late, and that the light will be awful. Actually, it seems I am driving straight into a heavy downpour. The idea of a great sunset now seems highly unlikely. The track up the Hayl wadi is passable for my car, and when I park next to the fort, it is still more than an hour before sunset, and no rain is coming down. Next to the carved wooden doors of the fort, a sign with opening hours suggests that it should be open, but the door is locked.
Walking around the outer walls of the 19th century Al-Hayl castle, I hope to find another entrance, but only find more closed doors. Someone shouts from a distance if I want to enter, and makes his way towards me when I confirm. He turns out not to be one of the villagers, but a South Indian who somehow ended up in this isolated settlement years ago. He turns out to be a friendly and patient guide, opens doors, takes me up to the top floor of the tower where the royal family once lived. He shows me where the king and queen lived, where their children lived, the bathroom and the kitchen. The inside of the rooms is simple. Climbing to the upper floors involves squeezing yourself through a hole in a corner of the room, using metal bars. The top floor offers great views over the compound, the wadi, and the surrounding mountains.
After exploring the various buildings in the palace compound, including the majlis, or reception room for guests, we leave the walled fort behind, and walk up to the defensive tower that stands on top of a hill, overlooking the fort and the village. The views from behind the crenellated walls of that tower are even better. I thank my guide, and walk to the archeological area where I find stone buildings, and a small mosque. Then, just when I am considering leaving, I see that clouds in the sky are starting to light up. I walk towards the castle again, with my eyes fixed on the sky. From yellow, the clouds turn orange, and warm light falls on the walls of Al-Hayl Fort. I hurry up the hill again, where the dramatically lit clouds form a perfect backdrop for the crenellated walls of the defensive tower. My dream of sunset at Al-Hayl Fort now gets beaten by reality.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Al-Hayl Fort (United Arab Emirates). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Al-Hayl Fort. Read more about this site.