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.
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
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
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
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.
Adapted from Oman Observer. Nizwa.NET is not responsible for contents.