I had set out to check the Old Muscat, conveniently located within driving distance from the hotel. Like a good girl (yes yes! I can be it occasionally!), I had read about its 2 forts: the Al Mirani and the Al Jalali and its Al Alam Palace the night before. I was readier than I would normally be for a work deadline, simply because this is something I love to do, exploring.
Having found the palace, I decided to scout the area first, partly making sure I get an overview of the distance I’ll be walking later and partly for shutting down my mind and its incessant ‘are you sure it’s the right place?’, ‘the forts are supposed to be close’, ‘where are the forts?’, ‘why can’t I see any fort?’. So I drive around and spot the first: Al Mirani. I look for the second one. I keep driving, a bit longer this time, ending up having a ‘second’ in my sight. A road sign reading ‘Mutrah’ confirms my doubts about it being the one. It definitely is NOT the one. Going through the list of the forts I printed from the Omanet.om website, I don’t find it. Which makes it the first contender to my inquisitive mind. Yeah, I’m weird this way.Omanis are nice and chatty, something I pleasantly discovered the first day I got here. It’s hard to get lost in this country, someone somehow will chat you out of wherever you are, then chat you onto the right way. Omani men are even friendlier and more helpful. Too helpful I have to rightfully stop and give my blond hair (my 6-year-old-loyally-tainted-blond hair) the credit it deserves.
Provided with some guidance, I walk myself up a small hill, into a bending alleyway, flanked with white houses. In the last part of it, I get some company, the male type of course; the younger type too -the story of my life lately.I click photos along the walk. I chat, take more shots. I excuse myself from my companion who insists on waiting and take my time climbing the contemporary staircase leading to the fort. The views of the bay it overlooks are splendid it would be a crime not to snap more photos. So I do it over and over again, with every couple of steps up. Looking backward, the sight of the town (I’ll call it the white town or white town M for Mutrah) against the dark mountainous background is equally amazing. Click click.
I hurry the last few steps up, the sun is too hot at this time of the day. Bang!!! The door is closed!!!
‘Of course it is closed, this fort is not opened for tourists, it is around 400 years old’ my companion utters. Staring at him, I start sliding into my reflective and philosophical mode, thinking to myself ‘so what if it is 400 years old, we close it down?’, ‘is this what we’re supposed to do with the past? close the door on it once and for all? even if it had once a powerful effect?’
Snap out of it Anne-Marie! Now! You’re not here to think. As a matter of fact, you’re here to have a break from thinking. You’re here to explore, so explore away.
Right! Besides, why am I doing it again? Why am I making of them (men) more of what they are or say or do? He –the man, or kid-man- made a SUPERFICIAL comment and is JUST looking for hmm a female company. He is obviously not experienced enough to realize that I’m what? 8 to 10 years older? And that I am a proud expert at evasion and elusiveness.
Later that night, surfing the net, I got to know that the Mutrah Fort I checked is one of the most well-known forts in Oman. With 6 towers, it was first built in 1578 by the Portuguese at a time they occupied Muscat, then became the seat of the government when Sultan Said Bin Sultan Al Bousaidi was ruling, which makes complete sense taking into consideration it overlooked the coast from high up there. Today it oversees the port and its activities -what you find on maps under the name ‘Mina As Sultan Qaboos’.
Exploring away, I head back to the Al Mirani Fort, hoping for sightseeing luck there. I am not sure why I’m hung on forts today? I’m bizzarely determined to get into one or onto one, whichever. What do forts represent? Control? Ok never mind, let’s keep going.
The Mirani fort is in the vicinity of the Al Alam Palace, which is not opened for visitors by the way. You can only view it from outside the gate. Simple stripes of blue and golden colours make it agreeable to look at. They say blue is supposed to reflect the colour of the sea behind it and the golden colour the sun shining. They also say it’s good to see it at sunrise and sundown. I got there in the afternoon.
I kept curving my way along the walls of the palace and eventually reached the Mirani Fort. Unlike the Mutrah one, this fort was built before the Portuguese arrived, in a tower-like shape. When they eventually did, they rebuilt it and added stores, living quarters for the commander and a worship place. No sightseeing luck here either as it is currently used by soldiers, probably as a military base from the look of it.
With so many forts spread around this country, being its most striking landmarks, I’m bound to find one who’d take me for a visit. In the meantime, I’ll follow the saying ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. And this is what I did, I put my hands together with theirs, protecting Muscat, the Sultan and its people. I even took the opportunity to add my own touch, unarguably known as ‘posing’.