Al Mirani Fort < OMAN EXPLORER
Al-Mirani Fort
 
 
Breathtaking views of the harbour from the summit of Mirani fort Pictures by Abdullah Ibrahim al Shuhi

Their harbour-front location, together with the Palace and other historical landmarks of Muscat's old quarter, seem like elements from a picture postcard.Otherwise called the 'Western Fort', Mirani soars a notch above Al Jalali fort, towering above the surrounding landscape. From its pinnacle, there are breathtaking views of the harbour, as well as the entire old city in the protective embrace of the surrounding mountains. 

Barring a few watchtowers atop their craggy summits, no other man-made structure appears to soar higher than the Mirani.Like Al Jalali fort, the present Mirani edifice was built on the ruins of an Omani fortification. Following the Portuguese conquest of Muscat in the 15th and 16th centuries, the structure was bolstered in tune with advances in military warfare of those times, especially in cannon warfare. 

like the grandiose Al Jalali fort, astride a rocky pinnacle in historic Muscat, its twin the Mirani fort is no less magnificent. Flanking His Majesty the Sultan's Al Alam Palace, these splendid edifices once served as bastions in the defence of Muscat harbour and the old city. Now, proud monuments of that glorious era of Omani gallantry and its martial heritage, the twin forts are a singular tourist attraction as well.  
Ancient wooden doors, studded with iron spikes, can still be found inside the fort

  A plethora of cannon was added to the edifice's defences which, together with those at the nearby Al Jalali fort, made Muscat virtually impregnable in the face of any naval attack. The structure was eventually recaptured by the intrepid Sultan Turki bin Said after a ferocious battle, which also saw the fall of Fort Al Jalali and Fort Muttrah back into Omani hands.Mirani has been restored to its original majesticity as part of a concerted renovation programme initiated by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. On a moonlit night, the spotlighted citadel has the ambience of a fairy-tale castle. On the inside however, parts of the fort have made way for some amenities of modern living, yet retaining overall, the atmosphere of an ancient fortification.  

A formidable wall almost a metre thick runs around the fort, supplementing the natural defences offered by the rocky outcrop on which it stands.In fact, the structure was built along the contours of the outcrop, with the main fortification resting on the summit of the outcrop. Like Al Jalali fort, Mirani too has myriad rooms and a maze of stairways, all aimed at confounding the enemy if the initial defences were breached. For the first-time visitor, the fort can be as perplexing and intriguing as a rabbit's warren.One key feature of Mirani is a giant tower quite distinct from the main structure that telescopes skywards.  

Access into the fort is either by a spiral stairway leading to various levels, or an electric elevator. There are two circular towers at the diagonal ends of the fort, both at different heights. Another tower, almost semi-circular in shape, rises above the rest of the fort and dominates the surrounding landscape. From here, there are delectable views of the waterfront with the ships either at anchorage on steaming out on the horizon.

Modern interiors in a section of the fort

 

Ancient passageway leading out of the fort
Facing the fort is the famous rocky landmark adjoining Al Jalali fort, on which are chronicled the names of ships that called at Muscat harbour down the ages. The tiny stretch of water separating Mirani and the rocky mass is perhaps the most alluring along Muscat's coastal front. Although off bounds to fishing and swimming because of its sensitive location, the turquoise waters are rich in marine life. 

A tiny circular room on the topmost floor of the tower now serves as a museum for the fort's heritage and past glory. On top of the arched doorway to the museum is a Portuguese inscription which, perhaps, is the only evidence of that era.

 

Inside are some fine relics of Omani history and its martial heritage. There is a 17th century Omani sword, which is said to cut sharply when vibrated, besides an English-made Martin Henry gun of 1871-vintage. Also on display is an Omani wick gun of 18th century vintage, found in Nizwa, and an English-made double-barrel shotgun dating back to 1864.Preserved in glass showcases is a variety of Omani silver jewellery like brooches, necklaces, amulets and anklets, including a finely designed Mazrad or necklace lined with Maria Theresa coins which were in currency then.  

There is also a warrior's shield of rhino skin, apparently made in 1837, and an exquisitely filigreed pair of silver tweezers that were used to extract thorns from the feet.Adorning the walls of the museum are enlarged black-and-white photographs of Muscat harbour, offering a rare insight into life in the harbour in its heyday. One photograph featured large ships belching smoke from tall smokestacks.Other interesting exhibits are a silver gunpowder horn called Talahiq, used by young boys as an ornament behind the neck.

Mirani with Al Jalali Fort once served as bastions in the defence of Muscat harbour and the old city

 

This rare antique, made in the 19th century, was discovered in Al Rustaq. Right in the heart of the fort, tamarind trees grow in small courtyards, apart from a few other trees, adding an enlivening touch to the fortification. Tiled terraces are found at every level, while those along the summit of the fort are with battlemented perimeter walls. Many cannon ports are now glassed in with windows, but the formidability of the edifice looks hardly diminished without the cannons. According to published accounts, Mirani boasted an arsenal of cannons which, outside situations of conflict, were routinely sounded in greeting to passing ships or when vessels tried to sneak into the harbour without permission.

The cannons were also fired at sunrise and at dusk to announce the opening and closing of the gates into the walled city of Muscat.Brass cannons can still be found at the entrance to the fort which stands testimony to the role cannons played in the defence of the fort and harbour. The rounded towers and walls were built to withstand the pounding of enemy cannonfire. Many arched doorways inside the fort are still barred by heavy wooden doors, studded with iron spikes.

 

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