Mirbat has intrigued me and thousands of others I’m sure over the years. With its rich history, hidden mysteries and diverse geography, it deserves more attention than it actually gets. The wilayat of Mirbat is a haven for explorers, campers, hikers, fishermen, and divers. It is home to some of the most beautiful unspoiled white-sand beaches in the country and the bays are home to an incredible variety of marine life.
The caves of Mirbat with their pre-Islamic writings are fascinating and the Tawi Attir sinkhole and bird sanctuary which lies deep in the mountains behind the town is 112m deep and was featured a few years ago in National Geographic magazine. Every month during the full moon, hundreds of locals from Salalah head to Mirbat to camp on the beaches and enjoy the timeless feeling of the area.
The pre-Islamic archaeological site of Sumhuram (Khor Ruri) west of the town of Mirbat dates back to 4000BC. Inscriptions rec-ord that it was established by LL’ad Yalut to control the Dhofari frankincense trade. According to history, Indian seamen who brought cotton cloth, corn, and oil in exchange for incense over winter, waited for the favourable monsoon winds to take them home. The site has been open to the public for a few years and as of this year has its own little museum. On site are two temples and several locations where you can see ancient inscriptions in a language that appears to have branched from the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet in the ninth century BC.
In addition to frankincense trees, the mountains behind Mirbat gravity point are also home to a mysterious valley of rare and ancient baobab trees. Some baobabs are reputed to be many thousands of years old, which is difficult to verify, as the wood does not produce annual growth rings.
While driving through the mountains you are likely to come across camels, mountain goats, deer, wolves, and even the occasional hyena or two. I’ve seen strange creatures in those mountains that I have yet to identify!
The actual town of Mirbat is home to many crumbling yet still-inhabited buildings and old abandoned Yemeni-style mud-brick structures. 14th century traveller Ibn Battuta spoke of the town of Al Baleed being famous for the export of horses to India though in fact the horses were exported from Mirbat.
If you plan to visit Salalah, take the time out to drive to Mirbat. Take a walk through the old houses and marina, and up to Mirbat Fort. Sit on the beautiful smooth rocks by the water with the seagulls and admire the clear blue ocean and the wooden dhows moored in the Arabian Sea. Try to capture the essence of this beautiful old town as we know it, for the winds of change are blowing our way!
Published October 11, 2011 - Muscat Daily