Situated on the ridge above the ancient village of Shimal, the medieval Queen of Sheeba’s Palace is an ancient palace dating back to the Julfar period from the 13th to 16th centuries AD. It’s thought that the palace was the residence of the ruler of Julfar, once the most famous and prospering trading town in the lower Gulf area. The title refers to the famous queen mentioned in the Q’uran, who is said to have ruled the Kingdom of Marib in Yemen around 1000 BC. The attachment of her name to the site is developed from local folklore and has no historical or archaeological significance.
The palace overlooks Shimal, an ideal outpost for defence and a cooler climate. An extensive architectural survey conducted by German specialists revealed an impressive roofed cistern. They also restored the water reservoir.
A modern staircase makes Queen of Sheeba’s Palace easily accessible; it follows the original medieval approach. At the top of the staircase, a wall remains that would once have secured the only entrance to the plateau. Visitors will see the cistern and the first of the reservoirs constructed to collect and store rainwater. There is a natural divide of the plateau, which is clearly visible. The western area towards the palm oasis contains the remains of the palace, whilst the more extensive eastern section houses the remains of several single-room buildings, which are attached to the defence wall that runs along the edge of the ridge.
The palace affords magnificent views across the extensive Shimal date palm oasis; the Queen of Sheeba’s Palace’s elevated position provides a cooling breeze. Whilst only the foundations remain, they provide ample information about the former medieval residence. The well-built construction had plastered floors and walls. The corners of the 15-metre by 35-metre residence were strengthened with round towers. The main entrance was built into the centre of the southern wall. Two rows of interior rooms span the length of the building, divided by a corridor. The best-preserved area is the room originally constructed as a cistern in the southwest corner of the palace boasting an impressive arched roof which still exists today.
Post-16th century, the medieval complex was no longer used as a palace but as a retreat, or sur, for the inhabitants of the Shimal date palm gardens in times of danger. A stone wall entirely surrounded the top of the hill to ensure the safety of people and their animals during attacks and raids from the desert.