Thursday, January 10: I heard a rumor recently that Bahla Fort had opened its doors to the public after a 25+ year restoration project. I figure I better take the boys to check it out this morning. We are pleasantly surprised to find it is in fact open, and it just so happens that today is our lucky day, since the fort has only limited operating hours: Thursdays from 8:00-4:00 and Fridays from 8:00-11:30 a.m.
The Fort is believed to have been built by the Al-Nebhan dynasty, the dominant tribe in the area from the 12th to the end of the 17th century. Some scholars, however, believe that parts of the fort predate the Islamic empire. The fort continued to be used as the official office of the Wali, or govenor, until the early 1970s (Bahla Fort: Virtual Tour).
Click on any of the photos in the galleries below for a full-sized slide show.
The ruins of the immense fort, with its walls and towers of unbaked brick and its stone foundations, is an impressive example of this type of fortification and attests to the power of the Banu Nebhan (UNESCO: Bahla Fort).
The Bahla Fort sits on a flat outcrop at the highest point in the oasis, giving it an all-encompassing view over the whole of Bahla. The fort’s ruined adobe walls and towers rise some 165 feet above its sandstone foundations. It has a triangle form with six towers in the corners, completely built by mud-brick with a stone foundation. There are a total of seven wells inside the fort itself, and in later years three cannons were used for defense. Excavations at Al Qasbah, the oldest part of the fort, revealed the foundation of an earlier tower and the team also unearthed the foundation of four rooms (Muscat Daily: BAHLA FORT MAY SOON BE THROWN OPEN FOR PUBLIC).
The fort was not restored or conserved before 1987, and had fallen into a precarious state, with parts of the walls collapsing each year in the rainy season. The fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 and was included in the List of World Heritage in Danger from 1988. Restoration works began in the 1990s, and nearly $9m was spent by the Omani government from 1993 to 1999. It remained covered with scaffolding and closed to tourists for many years. It was removed from the list of endangered sites in 2004 (Wikipedia: Bahla Fort).
We all enjoy exploring the fort, climbing up its walls and towers and looking out over the whole of Bahla. The grounds of the fort are quite warm, while the rooms, with their thick walls, provide relief from the heat as we dip into them. We are all drained from exploring the huge fort in the heat, so we take off for Al Hamra for lunch and then a trip up to Misfat al Abryeen.