Bahla Fort – a Monument of Clay

At the eastern end of the oasis the ruins of the Hisn Tamah fort, a masterpiece of clay architecture, rises above a hill. Bahla Fort has been inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1987.

 

The fort is named after the apparent architect of the gigantic fortification, a tribal chief of the Nabhani in the 17th century. But the origins of Bahla fort stretch much further back into history. The first fort was probably built on the height in the pre-Islamic era. When exactly it was founded by the Bahila tribe is not known. In 1406 Bahla was ruled by Imam Makhzum ibn Al Fallah and was the capital of Oman and the seat of the ruling Nabhani dynasty.

Today the impressive ruins bear witness to the former importance of the town. They resemble a vast, rugged landscape, immense rocks piled up by human hand and bizarrely eaten away by the forces of nature. Fragments of wall and tower soar over the steep cliffs of the outer walls, the foundations of which were reinforced with blocks of rock. Niches in the walls placed at dizzying heights give you an idea of the dimensions of the fortress.

You first get a real impression of the mammoth complex from some distance. Follow the way along the west wall, past the remains of the old mosque, now restored, and you will reach a hill and the large mosque, also restored. From here you can get a clear impression of the richly artistic architecture of this clay fortress and its site commanding the wadi.

This fortress is certainly not only the largest example of the art of building in clay in Oman, but in its own way one of the most impressive. The restoration work will undoubtedly take some more years. As long as the work continues, the inside of thebuilding will not be open to visitors.