A couple of kilometres beyond Bin Ali’s Mausoleum lies personable MIRBAT, one of the Dhofar’s most interesting smaller towns, and another in the chain of erstwhile frankincense ports which line the coast. Two miniature statues of prancing horses atop columns flank the entrance to the town – a whimsical memorial to its history as an important breeding centre for Arabian steeds. A short distance further you’ll see the town’s small fort just off the road on your right, standing proudly above the waves, with fine views of the coast, beach and mountains beyond. The building is currently fenced off for renovations, though you can make out the unusual hexagonal tower at one corner and neat shuttered windows in square stone frames.
Immediately below the fort lies the old harbour, a picture-perfect little sandy cove, dotted with boats and enclosed by a low rocky headland at the far end. Walking across the sand brings you to Mirbat’s old town, a wonderful area of old Dhofari-style houses. Most are simple one- or two-storey cubist boxes, painted in faded oranges, blues and whites, their minimalist outlines enlivened with distinctive wooden-shuttered windows. There’s a particularly grand trio of large three-storey structures (one ruined) next to the main road, with diminutive towers and battlemented roofs, like miniature forts, strikingly similar to the domestic architecture of nearby Yemen. The one right next to the main road is particularly fine, with a couple of intricately carved wooden shutters, spiky battlements and a picture of a dhow etched into the plasterwork at the top of the small corner turret at the rear. Beyond here lies Mirbat’s prettier-than-average main street, with shops painted in cheery pastel pinks and oranges and decorated with big green shutters.