The 18th- and 19th-century Al Hisn Fort was once the defensive structure and residence of the reigning rulers of Ras al Khaimah City and now functions as the National Museum.
The origin of the Al Hisn Fort in the Old City of Ras al Khaimah City goes back to Sheikh Sal im bin Sultan al Qasimi, who ordered the construction of adequate defences after the Persian occupation of what is now the emirate.
And so in 1749, exactly where the tents of the hostile Persians had once stood, the fortress of Al Hisn was built, which over the next few years, together with the city wall and other fortifications, grew into an imposing defensive structure. For the construction of the fort, stones, coral and mortar were used, which were extracted from many a wadi quarry.
In 1819, when the British occupied Ras al Khaimah and forced the then ibn Saqr to sign a maritime peace pact, Al Hisn Fort and numerous other defences were destroyed.
Some parts were rebuilt in the years that followed, including the south-west tower, which is still one of the oldest parts of the fort still preserved in its original form. The entire fort was extended and expanded again and again, and most of the walls that still stand today date from around 1900.
The impressive structure was initially used only for defence, but was gradually used by the Qasimi sheikhs as a residence, eventually until 1964, making it an optimal example of the traditional Arab mix of residential and fortification.
National Museum of Ras al Khaimah
In 1987, the imposing fortress was given a new purpose and the venerable walls now house the National Museum of Ras al Khaimah. At the forecourt, its visitors are greeted by several historic cannons.
Inside the fortress, immediately to the right is the impressive former reception hall of the ruler (unfortunately not open to visitors), which should leave visitors to the sheikh in awe. A winding corridor leads deeper into the palace to the former living quarters of the ruling family, which are grouped around an idyllic courtyard.
To the east is the wind tower from the 20th century, which provided pleasant coolness in the hot summers of the Arabian desert. The two crenellated towers were used exclusively for defence, with the one in the southwest dating back to the early days of the fortress.
The rooms are decorated with magnificent doors and the typical ceiling made of wooden beams and palm mats. There is a pleasant breeze through the windows, which are only fitted with a wooden grille.
In addition to the premises of the Al Hisn Fort, the National Museum of Ras al Khaimah also presents archaeological, ethnographic and natural history exhibitions dealing with the past and the flora and fauna of the emirate.