www.omantourism.gov.om Oman’s landscape is punctuated by over 500 hilltop forts and castles, with distinctive regional architecture, that are monuments to a turbulent and fascinating past. They also offer insights into the lifestyles of their original inhabitants and traditional Omani craft and arts.
Many of these have been painstakingly restored, or are in the process of restoration. Following is a list of the major castles and forts of the Sultanate.
Set amid a verdant spread of date palms Nizwa Castle is a powerful reminder of the town of Nizwa's invincibility through turbulent periods in Oman's long history. The town of Nizwa has a strategic location at the crossroads of vital caravan routes linking interior, Muscat and Dhofar regions. Nizwa was declared the capital of Oman in the 17th century during the reign of Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al-Ya'arubi, who built and used the castle as his headquarters.
The most striking feature of the castle is the central tower–a colossal 150-feet-diameter circular tower soaring 115 feet above the rest of fortification, complete with battlements, turrets, secret shafts, false doors and wells.
4 cannons now remain on the tower's summit, down from a total of 24, which once served as the castle's main firepower provided complete 360-degree coverage of the countryside around.
Located in Al-Batina region, the castle sets on top of a 200-metre rocky prominance in the foothills of the Western Hajar Mountains, overlooking the extended verdant palm farms of Nakhl countryside which gave the castle its name.
The castle is believed to be dated to pre Islamic period and was restored in the 3rd & 10th century A.H. during the reign of Bani Kharous and Ya'aribah Imams, respectively. The gate, fence and towers were built during the reign of Imam Said bin Sultan in 1834. In 1990, restoration work began, using traditional building materials and period furnishings.
The castle nestles at the foot of Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar edging Al-Batina plain. It was first built upon Persian ruins circa in 13th century (around 1250 AD) but the current structure was re-established by the first Imam of Al-Ya'aribah dynasty between 1624-1649.
The castle has 4 towers and contains several structures, which were used for housing, storage and defence. Rustaq Castle is penetrated by Falaj Al-Sa'eghi and contains several wells, Bayadha mosque, and the tomb of late Imam; Sultan bin Seif. The Castle was restored in 1986.
The Sohar Castle is one of the most prominent features in the city of Sohar and was built between the 13th and 14th century AD by the 'Emirs of Hormuz'.
Imam Nasser bin Murshid Al Ya'arubi managed to conquer and expel the Portuguese from the castle, which was used since then as the administration centre for the rulers of Al-Bu Said dynasty. An escape tunnel runs from inside the Fort to the Wilayat of Buraimi, 10 Km to the west. It was used as a route to obtain reinforcements and supplies during sieges. The castle features a musium located inside it.
Located in Bahla; Ad-Dakhliyah region, the Castle is one of the oldest remaining strongholds in Oman and has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1988.
The Castle is a walled triangular-shaped building, with its wall stretching for 12 Km surrounding the old town of Bahla. The main structures of the Castle are located on a high land in the eastern corner, with some parts are thought dated back to the Pre-Islamic period. The Castle encompasses 132 watchtowers with guardrooms.
Bahla Castle witnessed three renovation periods: the first was during Nabhani reign (830 AD), the second was during the reign of Imam Nasser bin Murshid Al Ya'arubi (1624 AD), and the third was during the reign of Imam A'zan bin Qais Al-Bu Said (1868 AD). Restoration has been recently completed.
The Twin Forts
Flanking His Majesty the Sultan's Al-Alam Palace, the so-called Twin Forts: Al-Jalali and Al-Mirani, in conjunction with the veritable defences of the Fort of Muttrah and a host of fortified structures and watchtowers along the rocky ridges of the bay, made Muscat virtually impregnable. They collectively supplemented the old city's natural defences offered by the massed rows of rocky hills fringing the bay.
The forts were originally built by Portuguese in the early of the 16th century, and more fortifications and towers were added towards the latter half of the century. Upon the edifice's capture by victorious Omani forces in 1650 AD, the Forts were gradually rebuilt and strengthened to take their present form. Now, proud monuments of that glorious era of Omani gallantry and its martial heritage, the forts resemble a grand museum set in an authentic, but grandiose ambience.
Located in Jibrin town in Wilayat Bahla; Ad-Dakhliyah region, Jibrin Fort resembles a remarkable blend of defensive architecture and sophisticated artistry. It consists of three floors and 55 rooms, and is penetrated by Falaj Jibrin.
The Fort is considered one of the most impressive forts in the Sultanate and the details and carvings in the rooms and balconies are most elaborate. Finely painted flowers and symbols are found on the ceilings in the 'living' rooms. This exquisite palace was built by Bala'rab bin Sultan Al-Ya'arubi (1680-1692 AD). The tomb of Imam remains within the Fort. Was restored and furnished in 1982.
A picturesque stronghold situated on the inner cove of Khasab Bay in Wilayat Khasab–Musandam. The fort was built in the 17th century by Portuguese seeking dominion over regional maritime trade. Within its low crenellated walls, the fort contains a large central tower which is anticipated to pre-date the fort itself. Was restored in 1989.
Located in Hamasa town in Welayat Buraimi; Adh-Dhahirah Region, the Fort sets an excellent example of an entrenched stronghold in Oman.
The use of a defensive trench or "dry moat" is an ancient strategy which was employed in the protection of Omani cities, castles and fortresses since before the arrival of Islam. Was restored in 1994.
The old incense port of Mirbat in Dhofar is the site of one of the last battles in the world involving conventional attack and defence from a fortress. The documented and fiercely-fought battle at Mirbat Fort was a milestone in the Dhofari insurrection of the mid 1970's. Was restored in 1991.
The construction of Bayt An-Naman is among the many achievements of the political and economic renaissance that took place under the rule of Ya'aribah Imams. Serving as a resthouse for distinguished travelers and elites, this country stronghold continued to be used until a few decades ago.