Forts and Castles are Oman's most striking cultural landmarks and, together with its towers and city walls, they have historically been used as defensive bastions or look-out points. Forts were often the seats of administrative and judicial authority. There are over 500 forts, castles and towers in Oman which has a coastline of 1,700 kms, so they were needed to protect it from potential invaders. The architectural styles vary, being determined by the architects who built them or the periods in which they were built.
Jalali and Mirani
Which are among Oman's most famous forts stand at the entrance to Muscat bay. Mirani, which was built before the arrival of the Portuguese, was originally shaped like a tower. Then in 1588 the Portuguese rebuilt it on the ruins of its old structure, adding emplacements, stores, living quarters for the commander and a place of worship. The building was enlarged to its present size in the reign of Imam Ahmed bin Said, the founder of the Al Busaidi state in the 18th century, and his grandson Sayyid Said bin Sultan, at the beginning of the 19th century.
The forts of Al Jalali and Al Mirani are the capital's most prominent landmarks and were built in the 16th century AD. The Portuguese completed their construction of Jalali Fort in 1587. Its present-day form dates from the reign of Sayyid Said bin Sultan, and this Fort was restored and converted into a museum in the reign of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
Is amongst the oldest, is the tallest, and is surrounded by watch towers. (Al Batinah) originally known as Qalat Al Kisra, was built in the 13th century. It has four towers: Al Burj Al Ahmar; Al Burj Al Hadeeth; Al Burj Al Reeh; and Al Burj Ashiateen (which means, ominously, the devil's tower). A falaj ran through the fort to supply water to its inhabitants. Should this become contaminated, the inhabitants were able to rely on a well. There are many rooms to this fort and it also boasts a mosque, weapons' room, prison, and reception area.
Main feature is its 7-mile long walls which were patrolled by sentries night and day. The Fort's internal staircases and walls were built of mud, coated with gypsum and sarooj (a traditional type of mortar) which are as hard and solid as present-day cement. UNESCO has approved Bahla Fort and Wall for inclusion in its World Heritage List.
Nizwa Fort, (A'Dakhliyah) built by Imam Sultan bin Saif al Ya'arubi in 1668, is the biggest fort in the Arabian Peninsula with an exterior diameter of its circular structure of 150 feet, and over 115 feet high. The fort was once used as the Imam's headquarters and is a stronghold designed to withstand some of the most aggressive sieges. The traditional doors are inches deep and over the lintel of each is a hole through which boiling oil could be poured over the marauding enemies.
Jabrin Fort was built by Imam Sultan bin Saif Al Ya'arubi in 1670 as a defensive stronghold and as living accommodation for the Imam. It has rooms and ceilings decorated with fine carvings. It has two huge towers with walls two metres thick.it was built by Bil'arab bin Sultan, an Imam of the Ya'aruba dynasty during the 17th century. It is 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. The tomb of Imam Bil'arab remains within the fort.
Nakhl Fort (Al Batinah) is within an hour's drive of Muscat and provides a morning of sight-seeing. The fort is 350 years old and is set in a gorge, surrounded by a mountain enclave. In 1990, sympathetic restoration work began, using traditional building materials and period furnishings. The carved master gate is believed to date back to the 1830's during the reign of Sayyid Said bin Sultan.
Al Hazm Castle
Located in Al Hazm town in Welayat Rustaq. It was built by Imam Sultan bin Seif (the 2nd.) in ( 1123 A.H.–1711 A.D.) when he established Al Hazm town as a capital of Oman instead of Rustaq. The Castle is distinctive from other Omani Castle and forts by its magnificent shape and massive building. It contains the tomb of its builder / Imam Sultan bin Seif (the 2nd.). It was restored by the Ministry in ( 1416 A.H. - 1996 A.D. ).
Located in Harat Al Hajara in Sohar town. Dated back to 179 A.H., It was renovated, to its present shape, in the (Eighth - Ninth century A.H.) (14th A.H. - 15th A.D.). During the reign of Imam / Nasser bin Murshid Al Ya'arubi, he was able to conquer and expel the Portuguese from this castle. Sohar castle remained as administration Centre for the ruling Al Busaid dynasty. The Ministry restored the Fort in 1985 and used it as a museum in 1993.
Dated back to the 19th. century or earlier than that and located in the Welayat of Mirbat in Dhofar Governorate. This castle played defensive and administrative roles throughout history. It was restored by the Ministry in 1991 and was officially opened in 1996 on the occasion of the Year of Heritage. It was furnished and equipped with handicrafts from Dhofar Governorate and from the other Regions of Oman.
Located opposite to the seacoast in Welayat Khasab in the north of Oman. It consists of four buildings surrounded by a wall and it was built in the sixth century A.D. The Ministry restored it in 1989.
Al Mintrib Castle
One of the oldest castles in Welayat Badiya. Built during the reign of Imam / A'zzan bin Qais Al Busaid ( 1285 A.H. - 1868 ) and was used in the past as a center for the Welayat. The Ministry restored it in 1989.
Al Khandaq Castle
Located in Hamasa town in Welayat Buraimi. It was called ( Al Khandaq ) because of the ditch surrounding it . It is a square shape building with four circular towers and a main gate surrounded by high fences . The Ministry restored it in 1994.
Albuquerque in 1507 described Sohar Fort as "a fortress of square shape, with six towers round it, having also over the gate two very large towers". The fort was so large that it then required over 1,000 men for its defence.