Detail of the above photo: The old Bayt al Alam palace, the main palace of the Sultan of Oman in Muscat
Muscat Panorama in 1900
The original photo (1900 or earlier) with the panorama of Muscat harbor is of very high resolution: when we magnify the photo to well over a meter it is still sharp. See the slide-show for some details (real details are better than on our website) The photo slide-show also contains a photo by von Oppenheim (see ref 7) of the side of the Bayt al Alam palace Harem.
From Left to right we see:
- Al-Jalali Fort
- British consulate compound
- House of Masjid Hamnadbin Muhammad
- Customs House
- Harem of Bayt Al Alam (sultan´s palace)
- Rest of Bayt al Alam
- Bayt al Barza
- Start of the hill that has fort Al Mirani on top (not visible)
Most Omani are Ibadhi moslims who adhere to a puritan form of Islam. They also underscore their their strictness and simplicity in the decoration of their mosques and lack of high minarets. The only spectacular decoration being the Mihrab (praying niche) Several Omani mosques have spectacular praying niches dating back to the 15th / 16th century (for illustrations of beautiful Omani Mihrabs see e.g. ref 4 page 70 and 71) These Mihrabs are similar to Miharbs in Iran dating back as early as the 9th century.
The British explorer Wellsted writes in the 1830´s that the town displayed a nice appearance from afar, with handsome houses and a palace of the Imam, which the Italian physician Maurizi had noted, had been rebuilt in a European style, see ref 6.
The exploring couple mr. and mrs Bent visited Muscat in the 1890´s and noted that most of Muscat in now in ruins and that three walls of the big Portuguese cathedral are still standing and that the interior is used as a horse stable for the sultan.
S.M. Zwemer (see reference) in 1900 writes in his book Cradle of Islam p 204/205: "That in 1895 there was a major uprise from tribes in the interior (he calls Bedouin) These tribes managed to take Muscat and looted the town. The cause of the trouble was a difference as to the amount of yearly tribute a certain Sheikh Saleh of Samed should pay the Muscat ruler. The "bedouin" came to Muscat for negotiations and Saleh received some money from the Sultan. The sultan asked the "bedouin" to camp outside the gates during the night. However part of the "bedouin" remained inside the town and during night the gates were attacked by them. The Sultan fled to one of the two forts after the "bedouin " entered the palace. Subsequently the sultan´s forces in the two forts opened fire with ancient Portuguese canons and bombarded the "bedouin" in th Sultan´s own palace!!! The "bedouin" took possession of the town closing the gates and posting armed men through out the bazaar and streets. The palace was completely looted. However the parts of the town occupied by the British were left unharmed. After some time reinforcements of the Sultan arrived and major fighting broke out. During a ceasefire the British subjects were allowed to leave Muscat and go to the town of Makalla. Subsequently British canon boats arrived but they did not help the Sultan.... When the conflict ended the British even saddled the Sultan with a large invoice of damage done to the British! "