By Swati Badu Das — Standing exactly to tell time is hardly the role played by any clock tower these days, yet they are the one major crowd pullers as directional landmarks. Some of the famous clock towers in the world include the Big Ben in London, the tower of Philadelphia City Hall, the Rajabai Tower in Mumba, the Spasskaya Tower of the Moscow Kremlin, the Torre dell’Orologio in the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy and the Zytglogge clock tower in the Old city of Bern, Switzerland.
In the Sultanate, they took the form of typical minarets well-known as manara in Arabic. They hold distinctive architectural features. They not only showcase time but create a diacritic position reminding one of where, when and sometimes even which direction to head to. Here in the country, people make countless visits to these clock towers — where they are silent witnesses to people’s rendezvous.
The clock towers in Oman have become more than timepieces. They’ve become embodiment of the places they are located — become synonymous of the place where they stand
In Oman, people are well aware of the minaret clock tower and dome of Zawawi, are familiar of the clock tower in Muttrah, Masjid Asma Bint Al Alawi 1986 and even the clock tower roundabout on the way to Sur and Burl al Sahwa. These structures serve many purpose but they’d been time telling towers of the country for the longest time
Built in 1991, the Ruwi clock tower in Muscat used to be the reference time for watches in the area. It’s also used as reference in looking for directions. Information conveyed by a clock — like time, location, scheduling — is why clock towers were placed at the site of important historical events or built as part of city walls or part of transit systems such as bus stations in Ruwi, Seeb and Salalah.
Running a few minutes early, the train station clock in Limoges, France, makes passengers keep moving along swiftly to catch their trains. The clock tower in Saudi Arabia reminds people when to pray.
“The Muscat Clock Tower in MBD, Ruwi is the oldest monument in modern Oman and showcases the Sultanate’s commitment to modernization,” said N Jafar, an Indian expat living in Oman for the last 30 year.
Years ago, most people did not have watches, and prior to the 18th century even home clocks were rare. The first clocks didn’t have faces, but were solely striking clocks, which sounded bells to call the surrounding community to work or to prayer. These clocks were therefore placed in towers so the bells would be audible even from far distances.
In addition, clock towers were often placed near the centres of towns and were often the tallest structures there. As clock towers became more common, the designers realized that a dial on the outside of the tower would allow the town people to read the time whenever they wanted.
Residents said clock towers in Oman are today mostly admired for their aesthetics. They did once serve important purposes.
“I was a regular at the Ruwi Clock Tower some years ago when my kids were small, as the lawns provided them place to run about and play,” Koshi, an Indian expat said.
The iconic tower known as Burj al Nahdah in Salalah was built around 1986 and is now considered the best landmark that significantly represents the city.
“Salalah doesn’t have any skyscraper. In absence of skyscrapers, this tower’s significance has grown more. Due to good lighting, the tower looks stunning during night,” says Manpreet Singh, Chairman Indian Social Club, Salalah.
For those entering the junction towards Muscat from Nizwa, Sur or Salalah, travelers will not miss the clock tower of Burj al Sahwa which is a stunning site on that particular location.
“One of the most recognizable icons of Muscat is this clock-tower near City Centre as you are arriving in Muscat,” residents said.
The 8 beautiful mosaic-tile scenes on the 4 sides of this tower — 4 on the outer wall and 4 on the inner — are masterpieces that calls for admiration. They reflect important scenes from Oman’s dynamic and colourful history. The 50m tall archway shaped tower has four clocks adorned with magnificent motifs and mosaics.
Political significance, dazzling architecture, and rich history ensure the towers to be some of the must-see sights in Oman, and it’s easy to see why they sit atop the lists of the most photographed sights.