Manah Oman has one of the Sultanate’s most complete remaining mud-bricks towns.
About 163kms southeast of Muscat, the mud town is on the edge of the new residential areas of Manah and southwest of Nizwa.
Visited by James Wellstead and in 1835 he wrote
“Is this Arabia, we said; this the country we have looked on heretofore as a desert? Verdant fields of grain and sugar-cane stretching along for miles are before us; streams of water flowing in all directions.”
Today the region like so many in Oman suffers from drought, however, the town he visited is still much as Wellstead found it. He noted that it was claimed “to have been erected at the period of Nushirvan’s invasion” by which he means the Persian ruler Khusrau Anushirwan who ruled from 531-578AD. The Omanis also associate it with the arrival of Malik bin Fahm – the legendary leader of the Azd Arabs arriving from Yemen – perhaps from a similar time period or earlier.
Manah’s old mud brick town is called Harat Al Bilad and is set on the edge of a shallow wadi, and therefore benefits from the shallow water table, into which several wells have been sunk within the town. Essentially it is a walled town, whose oldest area in its north gradually expanded south with the housing facing the exterior creating the protective wall.
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A principal street, Kab Al Bilad, runs from the northern gate, under the tower Burj Al Juss, to the southern gate with side streets running off into residential areas. Several mosques are found along this street, and elsewhere in the town.
South, beyond this walled area is the castle, Husn Al Najd, which seems as if it has just been bombarded into submission. Close to this it the Great Mosque with an austere exterior and inside one of Oman’s 16thc Mihrabs, in this case created by Isa bin Abdulla Al Bahlawi.
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North of Manah is Al Fiquain, with its tall narrow fort that until the 1980s could only be accessed by a climb up a rope. The Falaj Al Fiquain has its source from the water created by the flow of Wadi Al Muaydin at Birkat Al Moz. This is the principal water supply for much of the oasis to the north of Manah.