Oman’s history goes back over 100,000 years with Arab settlements dating to around the 8th century when it is believed the Yaarub tribe conquered Oman and Yemen. Over the centuries thousands of forts and castles were built of which around 1000 survive today. These beautiful arabesque architectural marvels are scattered across almost every city, town or village and dotted along the country’s coastline. Amongst one of the country’s finest is the fort and castle in Nizwa.
Nizwa Fort was built by Sultan Bin Saif I, in the latter half of the 17th century although parts of the structure dates back to the 12th century. Once a feared prison with a maze of cells and rooms, the castle is today an exhibition hall with over 20 galleries depicting Nizwa’s rich history with one of the cells restored to their original condition. The bathrooms, date stores and wells have been preserved to their former glory.
Bahla is located at just 30 minutes away from Nizwa is Bahla and is renowned for its exceptional pottery and for the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bahla Fort. The Fort is on elevated ground and was built between the 12th and 15th century by the Banu Nabhan tribe. There are three main parts inside the fort. The oldest part of the fort is Al-Qasabah. Bait al-Hadith, or new house, was built by the Ya’riba dynasty (1624-1743). Bait Al-Jabal was erected in the 18th century.
Jabreen, a small town in the Ad Dakhliyah governate is not far from Nizwa and the majestic Jabel Akhdar Mountains. The town while small boasts an impressive castle. Built in the second half of the 17th century, the imposing structure was ordered by Imam Bil’arab bin Sultan during the Yaruba Dynasty. Turrets, cylindrical towers within a large block of rows, hallways, courtyards and chamber are all part of the unique architecture.
Nakhl Fort counts amongst its many visitors King Charles when he was touring the region as Prince of Wales in 2003. The Fort which was built in the 17th century with extensions added in the 19th century. It is home to an extensive collection of historic guns and also hosts a weekly goat market!
In the Batinah region lies the town of Rustaq which was once the capital of Oman and is where the imposing Al Hazm Castle. Islamic in its architecture, Al Hazm was built in around 1711 with its roof built on columns with no wooden supports. Despite this, the walls can take considerable impact with walls around 3m thick.
Muscat also boasts some wonderful forts. The twin forts of Jalali built in 1587 and Mirani fort completed 1588 are very popular with both tourists and locals and are a must see not least for their display of ancient war armours and weapons. The Muttrah Fort, which sits atop a hilltop on the Muttrah Corniche was built around the same time.
The ancient city of Sohar is the capital city of the Batinah North Governorate and is believed to be the mythical birthplace of Sinbad the Sailor. The city, a major Omani Industrial hub, also hosts the Sohar Fort and Castle. Both were built in the 13th and 14th centuries and have played a key role in defending the county. At the heart of the fort and castle is the museum which offers insight into the city‘s role in the copper trade over 2000 years ago.
Oman’s castles and forts offer a glimpse into its rich and diverse history, they are unique architectural examples of fine Islamic construction and each one unique in its own individual history.