Oman // Al Batinah and Al Dhahirah //


Strung out along Buraimi-Nizwa highway (Highway 21) more or less in the middle of nowhere, IBRI sees few foreign visitors, although it boasts a surprisingly absorbing cluster of traditional sights including a fine fort, interesting souk and one of the region’s most memorable walled mudbrick villages at nearby As Suleif. The town was formerly a stronghold of Ibadhi conservatism, though modern Ibri derives its importance from its proximity to Fahud, where Oman’s first oil was discovered in 1964.

The main sight in town is the large and carefully restored fort. Inside, the spacious gravel courtyard is surrounded by an interesting jumble of buildings and towers. To the right of the entrance stands the main defensive tower, an impressive three-storey structure; to the left, the remains of a mudbrick mosque with a deep well built into the platform alongside; and, on the far side of the courtyard, a residential building. Head left across the courtyard, through a second gateway, to reach a subsidiary courtyard, where steps lead up to a sizeable mosque, one of the largest in any Omani fort and still in use today, although kitted out with eyesore modern glass windows and metal pillars. This is actually only half the fort; the rest, beyond the mosque, remains closed to the public.

The area around the fort is significantly less manicured, but ultimately much more memorable, with dozens of imposing mudbrick houses (and a particularly fine ruined mosque opposite the fort) in various states of ruin, dotted here and there with little patches of dead oasis with decapitated palm trees. It’s a perfect picture of the physical passing of old Oman – intensely atmospheric, and rather sad. Pressed up hard against the west wall of the fort is the town’s attractive old souk, including some neat little arcaded sections.

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