It was what I looked most forward to: the palace of Ibrahim, right in the downtown area of Al Hofuf. Locating the late Middle Ages fort with its sturdy walls is not difficult, and after I park my car, I start my walk around the square building. The adobe walls rise high above me and look difficult to conquer. When I arrive at the door of the small museum belonging to the fort, I am surprised to find it closed, as I am visiting on a working day. Thinking that there might be another entrance inside, I walk to the southside of the fortress. The massive wooden doors are closed, and worse: it looks like they have been closed for a long time already. The keyhole is too small for a good look of the inside. I walk to the police station across the street, where the official lets me know with sign language that the palace of Ibrahim is closed. I find a small shop on the corner open, and ask the guy working there. He explains that there has been a serious flood the previous year, and the entire fort has been closed ever since for restoration purposes. It will not open anytime soon. Indeed, nothing of restoration works seems to be underway.
All the anticipation that I felt inside to see the fort now dissipates, and I accept his offer to have breakfast together. He then goes on to offer me an incense burner, incense and coal, and urges me to continue to Qaisariah Souq, because it will close within two hours. On my way back from the market, I notice that there is almost no traffic anymore on the streets, that shops are closed and that the streets are almost deserted - people are at home apparently. When I walk past the partly collapsed wall of Ibrahim's Palace, I have a second look at the crumbling stones, part of a palm tree, and rubble at a steep angle. I look around, and quickly climb the Achilles heel of the seemingly indestructible walls. I need to be careful at the top, as there are some iron grids and the stones start rolling, but once on top, I finally get to see the courtyard of this historic building.
After a peek in one of the buildings near the top of the wall, I finally get to see the Quba mosque, of which I could only see the minaret from the outside. Both the fort and the mosque were built in the second half of the 16th century. The whitewashed building has arched columns on two sides, as it is built in the southwestern corner of the palace, with smaller domes above them. There are palm trees in the courtyard, a well, stables, and a hammam, which King Abdul Aziz apparently used for date storage. With the police station on the other side of the wall, I do not dare to linger too long in this open space which has been closed for more than a year. I climb the wall again, enjoy the view once more, of the big courtyard, and the circular, fat towers that support the wall at regular intervals, before carefully heading down again. Stones start to roll again, this time bouncing all the way down to the street, one or two hitting a parked car. I manage to contain the damage, and am quite sure no one saw me on my secret mission into the palace of Ibrahim.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Qasr Ibrahim (Saudi Arabia). 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 Qasr Ibrahim. Read more about this site.