The once important trading town of Mirbat in the south of Oman today has the makings of a holiday resort par excellence with its dreamy sandy beaches and spectacular diving grounds. Due to the secluded location, the paradisiacal bays around Mirbat are (still) almost deserted.
Mirbat was already very important as a trading post in the 17th century. Ships from India and East Africa entered the sheltered bay of Mirbat in droves and exchanged spices for incense and Arabian horses.
A horse sculpture at the entrance to the town, as well as the town name, still remind us of the proud animals that were traded here (Mirbat means "horse market"). Magnificent two-storey trading houses in the town centre, some of which were defended with their own tower, still bear witness to the wealth of that time.
Particularly noteworthy are the ornate wooden window grilles and the typical South Yemeni plaster, which was created with stone imprints in the moist clay. Even in the 18th century, when many other port cities along the Arabian coast had already lost their importance, the trade with then world-famous incense from the Wadi Dawkah still flourished in Mirbat.
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The Mirbat fortress, perched on a hill overlooking the entrance to the city, was built in the 18th century at the height of the incense trade. With its embrasured roof, it still gives a warlike impression today. The fortress itself has only been partially restored and is not open to visitors. From its hill, however, there is a wonderful view over the dreamlike beach of Mirbat, which is one of our 10 most beautiful beaches in Oman.
In July 1972, Mirbat made history once again when Dhofar insurgents attacked the town with 250 men and fought fierce battles with the Sultan's troops. The fort, then manned by only 9 men, was able to repel the rebels and eventually received reinforcements from the air force. The rebels suffered a defeat from which they never recovered and three years later the Dhofar War was declared over. Mirbat Castle thus went down in history as the world's last contested fortress.
In the centre of the village there is another, smaller fort, which dates back to 1806 and served as a place of residence and work for the Wali (something like a mayor) at that time.
Diving in Mirbat
Mirbat attracts visitors today with its species-rich underwater world on dreamlike beaches where small pavilions provide shade. Hotels, restaurants and dive centres create the necessary basis for a wonderful holiday resort on Oman's south coast. Turtles, rays, lobsters, moray eels, squid and octopuses can also be found among the colourful schools of fish off the coast of Mirbat.
The tourism infrastructure in Mirbat is to be developed slowly, but this will not be easy due to its remote location.
Also in the vicinity of Mirbat are many lonely beaches and partly still completely unexplored diving grounds at a depth of less than 20 metres, where not even all fish and coral species have been catalogued yet. Numerous shipwrecks add an extra dose of adventure to the dives.
Tomb of Saint Bin Ali
1km off the main road about 2km before Mirbat lies the shining white tomb of Saint Bin Ali. The two shining domes guard the final resting place of Shaikh Muhammad bin Ali al-Alawi, who died in Mirbat in 1161.
According to an inscription inside the mausoleum, he is descended from the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed. However, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the shrine.
Other graves are located in the vicinity of the mausoleum, but these are only marked by gravestones that display the typical design elements of Sunni Islam.