Al-Jalali Fort Muscat

Al-Jalali Fort, which is one of the two principal forts in Muscat, sits opposite its partner Mirani Fort with the picturesque harbour of Muscat between them.

Al Jalali Fort dusk
Al Jalali Fort dusk

Probably the existing fort was built on an earlier fortification, certainly in 1507 when Afonso de Albuquerque attacked Muscat, the town was described as being fortified.

Al Jalali Gun Platform when we visited the fort
Al Jalali Gun Platform when I visited the fort with a tour group

In 1552 the town was destroyed by an Ottoman fleet which arrived from the Red Sea. Portugal retook the town and the fortifications must have been rebuilt as the town successfully withstood an attack in 1554. However in 1581 there was a further successful attack by the Ottomans and the rebuilding of the forts in 1587 following this attack created the essence of the current fort.

Al Jalali Museum Display - when we visited the fort
Al Jalali Museum Display – when I visited the fort with a tour group

The principal Portuguese stronghold in the northern Arabian Sea  during that period was Hormuz, however in 1622 the Persians and English captured the town which forced the Portuguese to re-fortify Muscat. This included the city walls (the 2nd wall is now a ruin and hardly visible) and a number of towers on prominent mountain peaks overlooking the town.

Despite appearances, Jalali fort was situated on an island and the current infilling has made a permanent connection to the mainland.

My tour group descends the steep Al Jalali Fort Stairs
My tour group descends the steep Al Jalali Fort Stairs

The fort is built with 3 main towers and a castellated wall that encloses living accommodation and a courtyard. Previously it was Oman’s main prison, indeed the colloquial word throughout much of Oman for a prison is ‘Jalali’. The main gun platform looks towards the harbour and has early 19th c British ship’s cannon.

Currently, the fort still has accommodation and a small museum with sound & light type displays – which though I have been able to take groups to visit in the past, is no longer accessible.

Author: Tony Walsh

Book author including the current Bradt guide to Oman – edition 4