Sentinels of the Past
Many of Oman’s stalwart forts are reminders of the years 1507-1650, when the Portuguese controlled Muscat (a rich and thriving port since the dawn of Islam) and Oman’s 1,000-mile coastline on the cusp of the Arabian Peninsula.
Forts built by the Omani before or after this period (when Omani rule stretched from Zanzibar to Pakistan) are Arabic in design, with a Persian influence. Many served as a combination royal residence and seat of government, sometimes containing a mosque, school, or prison. Oman’s forts are so much a part of its heritage that the image of the fort is seen everywhere, influencing the design of contemporary buildings and even the public telephone booths in Muscat, the sultanate’s capital city.
One need only look up on the way in from the airport to see the twin forts of Jalali and Merani, built by the Portuguese to guard the ancient trade and caravan routes and fend off rival foreign powers who scented profit in the Gulf of Oman. The Portuguese were never able to penetrate the interior, due to the hostility of the Omani as well as the mountain barriers.