Nizwa Fort (Oman, 17th century)

Nizwa Fort (Oman, 17th century)

The round tower of the largest fort in the Arabian Peninsula had an ingenious defense system.

History

Keywords

Nizwa Fort, Nizwa, Oman, fortress, castle, fortress architecture, defensive ring, circular bastion, rook, tower, round tower, Arabic, building, architecture, siege, military strategy, shelter, sultan, Arabian Peninsula, modern history, history

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Defense

Narration

The Sultanate of Oman is located on the Arabian Peninsula. Due to its geographical location, it has often witnessed attacks, for which reason numerous forts have been built on its territory over the centuries. The town of Nizwa, which was earlier a commercial, religious and cultural center, is the oldest city in the country. The Nizwa fort is the largest of its kind on the Arabian Peninsula and is also the most visited monument in the Sultanate.

The fort was built in the second half of the 17th century, although its foundations actually date back to the 12th century. The fort is protected by a wall surrounded by towers and bastions, which also forms part of the city wall.

The main component of the fort is a huge round tower that is 30 meters (98 ft) high and has a diameter of 36 meters (118 ft).
Its massive inner wall was reinforced with sand and gravel to strengthen its defense against cannon fire. The outer wall is coated with a special layer of lime plaster. The forts' deep wells, storage facilities, cells and place of prayer made it possible for its defenders to survive long sieges.

The tower's defense system reflects the ingenuity of the Omani military engineers and architects. To ensure surveillance of the whole area, the battlement was designed with arrow slits and observation points. Slots were carved in the walls for the snipers, so that the bullets could hit their target with deadly accuracy.

A sheltered terrace was built on top of the tower, right above the entrance, from where one could hurl stones at besiegers. The only way attackers could reach the top of the tower was by climbing a dark, steep, narrow, winding stairway one by one. Nor was a battering ram of much use in breaking down the reinforced doors.

Also, defenders had a number of surprises in store for attackers on both sides of the doors. Boiling liquid would be poured onto unwanted visitors through the shafts from the upper floor, while an almost invisible trapdoor would await those who did manage to enter through the gate.

Although the majestic castle was rebuilt on several occasions, it still bears witness to Oman's bright past. Year after year it attracts a great number of tourists.

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