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The crucial role of architecture in Mirbat’s history

Photos by Mohammed Tabouk

Architecture plays a crucial role in bridging the past and present by preserving cultural heritage, reflecting the values and aesthetics of a society, and providing a physical connection to history.

It also serves as a symbol of a community's identity, connecting individuals to their cultural roots and reflecting the collective memory of a society.

By preserving historical buildings and incorporating elements of the past into new designs, architecture helps maintain continuity and a sense of place, fostering a sense of community and cultural pride.

In Oman, architecture has also played a big role in the growth of wilayat. Ancient Omanis relied on architecture to provide them protection and it has become one of the most significant tools for defence. Mostly, every wilayat in Oman has a special building or buildings that express its heritage and legacy.

Mirbat is the wilayat of the day. It is one of the most important wilayats of Dhofar governorate that has an amazing history. Located around the area of Jabal Samhan, it is about 74 kilometres away from Salalah and almost an hour's drive from the airport.

Mirbat in Omani Dialect refers to the stud of horses and that is exactly what Mirbat was most famous for — breeding and exporting horses to a variety of Arab and Islamic ports and cities. Of course, its location in Dhofar made it also famous for trading frankincense and many other interesting handicrafts.

Like other wilayats of Oman, Mirbat is distinguished by the presence of several castles and historical and archaeological monuments that made it a destination for tourists and visitors. The most important of which is Mirbat castle.

The strategic location, overlooking the coast of Al-Fardah is one of the reasons why this castle is unique. Not only that, it is located near Al Noor Mosque which is the oldest mosque in Mirbat, and next to the old Mirbat market, which some historians consider one of the oldest markets in Dhofar.

The construction of the castle dates back to the beginning of the nineteenth century AD specifically in 1806 AD. According to historical sources, Sayyid Saeed bin Sultan ordered the addition of some towers to the castle, and Sultan Saeed bin Taimur also ordered strengthening it from the northern side after the floods that happened in 1948. Interestingly, the castle remained the seat of the governor of the wilayat until 1988 AD.

The castle is one of the archaeological landmarks in the wilayat. It was built in the Omani architectural style as a major defensive castle to guarantee the security of the wilayat and its people. Its area is 467 meters and it is 12 meters high. It consists of two floors and two watchtowers, one in the southwestern corner and the other in the southeastern corner.

The first floor includes a suite for the guards. It consists of a room for the commander, a kitchen, and a prison that is 9 meters long and 3 meters wide. That's in addition to the warehouse and the guards' room. It also has openings for reconnaissance and surveillance. The southern suite of the fort includes a room for the governor, in which the governor meets with notables and the people of the city to discuss their issues. In addition, there is an office for the governor and a room for the staff of the governor's office.

The upper floor also consists of a guest room that is 14 meters long and 3 meters wide, in addition to the ladies' room. This is along with bedrooms for the governor and his family. There is also a defence platform in front of the castle consisting of 3 cannons directed at the sea to protect the castle in case of any attack from marine vessels.

The facilities and halls of the castle include holdings of artefacts that were used in the past, the most prominent of which is a stone from the foundation of the old mosque near the fort, and the phrase "D312 AH" was engraved on it.

Mirbat castle was rehabilitated in 1991 and was officially opened in 1994 to become a tourist attraction. It also underwent another rehabilitation in 2011. As of now, it is being visited by many people who are interested in Omani's rich history as it tells many stories about ancient days.

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