Muscat [Mascate]

Lat: 23.614192000081000, Long: 58.595718000138000

Muscat [Mascate]

Persian Gulf | Red Sea, Oman

Historical Background and Urbanism

The city of Muscat, capital of the sultanate of Oman, is wedged into a sheltered bay, the best on the coast extending from the Cape of Ras al Haad to the Musan- dam Peninsula. During the time of Afonso de Albuquerque, who captured it on the 2nd September 1507, and in the words of Brás de Albuquerque, Muscat was a “large well populated city, surrounded by very high mountains on the land side and washed by the sea on the other. In back against the interior it has a field the size of Lisbon’s Rossio (Portugal), all pans and salt; nearby are many freshwater wells from where the residents drank; they had orchards, vegetable gardens and palms, and wells for watering, with the water drawn out using oxen. The port is small, shaped like a horseshoe and sheltered from all winds... it is an outlet for shipments of horses and dates; it is a very pleasant place with very good houses; the hinterland provides plenty of wheat, maize, barley and dates that can load as many ships as they desire. This city of Muscat belongs to the kingdom of Hormuz and the land belongs to a king named Benjabar [...]and this Benjabar rules over Fartak, Dofar, Qalhat and Muscat”. At that time the city would have been a typical Arab town, with its narrow shaded streets not easily penetrated by the burning sun. Brás de Albuquerque mentions those streets, saying that the conquerors tripped on each others’ spears in their eagerness to get the upper hand. The only building then worthy of note was a mosque, which in the chronicler’s words was a large beautiful house of well-carved wood. But it was destroyed by the conquerors and nothing remains. For 143 years, that is, until 26th January 1650, when the Arabs captured the city, Muscat was a major commercial entrepôt and the main city on the entire Oman coast. For this reason it was subject to constant attacks by the Persians and Turks – namely in 1517 by Suleiman Pasha, Piri Reis (Haci Ahmed Muhiddin Piri) in 1550 and Ali Bek in 1580 – attacks which led the viceroy of India to order the fortification of such an important port. Muscat had an administrator appointed by the crown for three years, during which, and based on income from the trading post, he would pay from 3,000 to 4,000 cruzados. During the nearly 150 years of Portuguese presence the city was endowed with important buildings such as the hospital, church and convent of Our Lady of Grace, pertaining to the Augustinian order and established in 1596, as well as a belt of walls with moat which in 1909- 1912, during the visit by Mariano Saldanha, still had the two gates depicted in the 17th century drawings by Pedro Barreto de Resende.

Military Architecture

Religious Architecture