While staying at our luxury Muscat holiday hotel, explore the capital city that boasts a rich history & heritage spanning back to thousands of years. Evidence of communal activity in the area around Muscat, dates back to the 6th millennium BCE in Ras al-Hamra where burial sites of fishermen have been found. The graves appear to be well formed and indicate the existence of burial rituals. South of Muscat, remnants of Harappan pottery indicate some level of contact with the Indus Valley Civilization.
Muscat’s notability as a port was acknowledged as early as the 1st century CE by Greek geographers Ptolemy, who referred to it as Cryptus Portus (the Hidden Port), and by Pliny the Elder, who called it Amithoscuta.
The port fell to a Sassanid invasion in the 3rd century CE, under the rule of Shapur I, while conversion to Islam occurred during the 7th century. Muscat’s importance as a trading port continued to grow in the centuries that followed, under the influence of the Azd dynasty, a local tribe. The establishment of the First Imamate in the 9th century CE was the first step in consolidating disparate Omani tribal factions under the banner of an Ibadi state. However, tribal skirmishes continued, allowing the Abbasids of Baghdad to conquer Oman. The Abbasids occupied the region until the 11th century, when they were driven out by the local Yahmad tribe.
Power over Oman shifted from the Yahmad tribe to the Azdi Nabahinah clan, during whose rule, the people of coastal ports such as Muscat prospered from maritime trade and close alliances with the Indian subcontinent, at the cost of the alienation of the people of the interior of Oman.
The Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque sailed to Muscat in 1507, in an attempt to establish trade relations. As he approached the harbor, his ships were fired on. He then decided to conquer Muscat. Most of the city burned to the ground during and after the fighting.
The Portuguese maintained a hold on Muscat for over a century, despite challenges from Persia and a bombardment of the town by the Ottoman Turks in 1546. The Turks twice captured Muscat from the Portuguese, in the Capture of Muscat (1552) and 1581-88. The election of Nasir bin Murshid Al-Ya’rubi as Imam of Oman in 1624 changed the balance of power again in the region, from the Persians and the Portuguese to local Omanis. On August 16, 1648, the Imam dispatched an army to Muscat, which captured and demolished the high towers of the Portuguese, weakening their grip on the town.
Decisively, in 1650, a small but determined body of the Imam’s troops attacked the port at night, forcing an eventual Portuguese surrender on January 23, 1650. A civil war and repeated incursions by the Persian king Nadir Shah in the 18th century destabilized the region and further strained relations between the interior and Muscat. This power vacuum in Oman led to the emergence of the Al Bu Sa‘id dynasty, which has ruled Oman ever since.
Muscat’s naval and military supremacy was re-established in the 19th century by Said bin Sultan, who signed a treaty with U.S. President Andrew Jackson’s representative Edmund Roberts on September 21, 1833. Having gained control over Zanzibar, in 1840 Said moved his capital toStone Town, the ancient quarter of Zanzibar City; however, after his death in 1856, control over Zanzibar was lost when it became an independent sultanate under his sixth son, Majid bin Said(1834/5–1870), while the third son, Thuwaini bin Said, became the Sultan of Oman. During the second half of the 19th century, the fortunes of the Al Bu Sa`id declined and friction with the Imams of the interior resurfaced. Muscat and Muttrah were attacked by tribes from the interior in 1895 and again in 1915. A tentative ceasefire was brokered by the British, which gave the interior more autonomy.
However, conflicts among the disparate tribes of the interior, and with the Sultan of Muscat and Oman continued into the 1950s, and eventually escalated into theDhofar Rebellion (1962). The rebellion forced the Sultan Said bin Taimur to seek the assistance of the British in quelling the uprisings from the interior. The April 26th 1966, failed assassination attempt on Said bin Taimur led to the further isolation of the Sultan, who had moved his residence from Muscat to Salalah, amidst the civilian armed conflict.
On July 23, 1970, Qaboos bin Said, son of the Sultan, staged a bloodless coup d’état in the Salalah palace with the assistance of the British and took over as ruler.
With the assistance of the British, Qaboos bin Said put an end to the Dhofar uprising and consolidated disparate tribal territories. He renamed the country the Sultanate of Oman (called Muscat and Oman hitherto), in an attempt to end to the interior’s isolation from Muscat. Qaboos enlisted the services of capable Omanis to fill positions in his new government,drawing from such corporations as Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). New ministries for social services such as health and education were established. The construction of Mina Qaboos, a new port conceived initially by Sa`id bin Taimur, was developed during the early days of Qaboos’ rule. Similarly, a new international airport was developed in Muscat’s Seeb district.
A complex of offices, warehouses, shops and homes transformed the old village of Ruwi in Muttrah into a commercial district. The first five-year development plan in 1976 emphasised the infrastructural development of Muscat, which provided new opportunities for trade and tourism in the 1980s – 1990s, attracting migrants from around the region. On June 6, 2007, Cyclone Gonu hit Muscat causing extensive damage to property, infrastructure and commercial activity. Muscat might hold the 2016 Arab League Summit.
Early photographs of the city and harbor, taken in the early 20th century by German explorer and photographer, Hermann Burchardt, are now held at the Ethnological Museum of Berlin.