Mirbat – diving paradise with the eternal hunting grounds of Nemo and former trading base in Oman
If you put your folding rule along Oman’s east coast without coming into contact with the waters of the Arabian Sea, you will see that the city of Mirbat in Oman is quietly stealing into the “exclusion zone” ocean. As the crow flies, it forms a tangent with the village of Lakabi, leaving Ras Madrakah to the right and Duqm easily to the left.
All these places have one thing in common: as coastal cities, they offer you free access to the sea and all its obvious and (still) hidden treasures. Mirbat has clearly emerged in the quartet of coastal resorts. It is one of the most sought-after diving spots in Oman, not overcrowded, attracts with first-class sandy beaches and still holds one or the other dark secret with a breathtaking ghost town.
Press your toes into the damp sand, close your eyes and fill your lungs with pure sea air! Mirbat in Oman, both above and below the water, is an incredibly captivating composition between the sport of modernity and the traditional history of Oman.
Hotspot Mirbat – perfect for an active stopover from the Caribbean of the Orient
The seductive lash of Mirbat unfolds in the south of the Sultanate. The next largest city is Salalah, which is at least as charming in its own way, but many times more bustling. In about 70 km and one hour driving time you have covered the distance between Salalah and Mirbat.
About halfway along the route, it’s worth making a detour to one of Oman’s most beautiful beaches – the fine-sugar Taqa Beach. In the end, there is only one road that carries you from Salalah further and further east as if by magic in the clutches of the warm wind. It is the NA49 that leaves its apex at Mirbat on the coast and then meanders on for a while through the barren land in the south of the Sultanate.
If you have only visited Salalah so far, Mirbat in Oman is a must-see for a day trip!
Mirbat’s top highlights – active holidaymakers and sun worshippers come and go
A former trading base with merchant shipping so important to Oman, Mirbat was an important hub in the Sultanate as early as the 17th century. The city comes with a history that is second to none.
If you have always liked to stick your nose deep into the history books, the sights in Mirbat are a real land of milk and honey for you. If you prefer stroking your fins and squeezing into a neoprene shell that won’t graciously let an ounce disappear, Mirbat in Oman is a welcome place to simply get away from it all.
As befits a fortress, Mirbat Castle is located above the entrance to the city. From here, it was possible to keep a close eye on the enemy in the 18th century. Incidentally, this century was also the heyday of the trade in incense.
The fort made its last major appearance on July 19, 1972. Hundreds of insurgents from the southern region of Dhofar fought against Sultan forces after they occupied Mirbat. Mirbat Castle was guarded at that time by only a few defenders who stood up against the rebels. This was accomplished with the assistance of the Royal Oman Air Force. The defeat of the rebels ultimately also heralded the end of the Dhofar War. Incredibly, it was the last embattled fort in the world to enter the history books.
The fortress has since been restored and opens to visitors Monday through Thursday and Sundays from morning to early afternoon hours. The fort is closed on Fridays and Saturdays. In a detailed replica of the rooms you will get an insight into the life of the defenders at that time.
In the outdoor area, the old cannons hold themselves ready for a photo with you. Moreover, it is a good idea to climb up the hill of Mirbat Castle. Because from up here you have a fabulous view of the snow-white Mirbat Beach, which with its gently rolling waves brings some movement into the silence of a long forgotten time.
If you love solitude, Mirbat beach is an ideal place to be alone with your thoughts, the wind and the sea. Characteristic of the orphaned gem are the old ruins of the city visible in the distance, pressing into the heat-saturated, shimmering scenery like building blocks. A few boats anchor here and there, but they don’t seem to belong to anyone. In fact, they are used by locals who use them to go fishing.
You will look in vain for a tourist development on the beach. Instead, you encounter an unmusical silence. The beach is segmented into several picturesque bays and here and there you will spy some larger sediments in the form of natural stone.
Singles and couples yes – children rather not
Mirbat Beach is rather unsuitable for a stay with children, since any catering is missing and also sanitary facilities are conspicuous by their absence. For solo travelers or couples, it is a place that invites inner reflection in complete seclusion. You can reach the beach easily with a rental car and park in the immediate vicinity. Enjoy a naturally clean idyll and moments of pure romance.
Ultra important: Between May and August, the current at Mirbat beach is extremely strong. During this time, swimming in the sea is completely prohibited due to danger to life!
Mirbat fishing port
The port of Mirbat in Oman is rather a haven and enchants with its fishing boats whitewashed in aquamarine blue and white as well as traditional dhows. While the locals drift with life in the seaside cafes and the fishermen are busy systematizing their caught fish, scrubbing boats and mending nets, you can watch the seagulls in all peace of mind as they let themselves be carried nonchalantly rocking by the waves – with their feathered backsides in the water.
In the heyday in the 17. until 18th century Mirbat was considered an important incense port. Arabian breeding horses were also traded here. They lined up with a cloud of incense on the ships that arrived in Mirbat from India and China. After the catch of abalone snails like abalones and abalones was strictly limited by the Omani government to only a few days per year due to overfishing, Mirbat is still fighting for every tourist.
With your visit to the port of Mirbat in Oman, you are therefore making a major contribution to ensuring that the tranquil little town has an economic perspective again in the future. Stroll along the quay and let the images of the past times appear in your mind’s eye. Surely you will feel the magic of the ancient trade culture even today with a slight touch of goose bumps.
Old Town of Mirbat
You really can’t miss this underrated city in Dhofar Governorate. Because your arrival is witnessed by two horse statues that welcome you to Mirbat. They represent the meaning of the place name “Mirbat”, which means “horse market”.
As soon as you pass the colossal archway, a real ghost town welcomes you. Make sure that you slow down your speed considerably when driving through the old town. The houses here are so fragile that it could theoretically happen in all seriousness that a house facade lands on your hood if you shake it too much. That’s because the buildings here are extremely dilapidated and look like a former war zone. The destroyed houses were inhabited by the rebels during the Dhofar rebellion.
And yet: the streets are neatly paved. At least felt a bit of life, which at the time had apparently taken hold here. In the old town of Mirbat it is difficult to decide what should be on the photo: Past or present? For between the shattered houses push magnificent and seemingly inhabited buildings, which are equipped with pretty battlements and arrangements in the form of fortified towers. Also a small mosque brightens the rather gloomy scenery with modern Omani life.
Near Mirbat Castle you will also find a few trading houses. Even if they are no longer completely sealed on the roof side, their wooden doors, decorated with valuable carvings, radiate grace. The trading houses of Mirbat in Oman were once significant for the incense and spice trade. Later, the desert caravans set out from here, making their way as far as the Omani north. It is planned to restore the dilapidated houses of the old town. When this will happen, however, is written in the Arab stars.
On the road in and around Mirbat – the most beautiful undertakings in the southeast Romanian wilderness
Bin Ali Tomb:
On the route between Salalah and Mirbat – about 2 km before the gates of the city – pointed hats dipped in a sheer white swirl towards you from afar. They mark the domes of the tomb of Saint Bin Ali, gently stretching into the cloudless blue sky.
The mausoleum houses the remains of Shaikh Muhammad bin Ali al-Alawi, who died in 1161 and once immigrated from Hadramaut in Yemen. He is a descendant of Caliph Ali bin Abi Talib, who in turn was Muhammad’s son-in-law and cousin. Around the mausoleum, other tombstones – mostly broken pieces of rock – spear into the barren, dry ground. On a few specimens you can see cryptic inscriptions. They reflect the Sunni orientation of the Islamic religion.
You can reach this sacred place via a narrow access road. There is also a parking lot here. The mausoleum is a kind of pilgrimage site, even though it is not actually customary in Islam to attribute a spiritual effect to holy tombs. Its interior offers believers an opportunity for prayer. For the entrance you have as a woman to cover your hair completely with a cloth. Your shoes will be sizzling in the sun outside during the visit.
Old town of Sadah:
Couldn’t be lonelier? But always! About 50 minutes drive and 60 km further east from Mirbat in Oman you will come across a touristy deserted village with friendly locals who will make big eyes at the sight of you. Holidaymakers rarely get lost here. And if they do, they are usually passing through on their way north.
If you want to experience Oman in its purest form, Sadah is the place for you. Here you can stroll through small tranquil streets and taste fish biryani in charming street eateries. You can also enjoy a walk on the beach and the “harbor” here and discover the mystery of the many cars parked on the coast.
Cliffs of Hasik:
At the easternmost tip of the Dhofar region, you’ll encounter dramatic sandstone formations that plunge wildly into the sea. It takes you less than two hours to get here from Mirbat and feel the ruggedness of nature in its perfect form on your skin. In the bays around Hasik, with a little luck, you can spot numerous cormorants that find a place to stay here.
The narrow road leads directly along the sea in front of the backdrop of steeply rising mountains and offers you an indescribable panoramic view that makes the exclamation mark above your forehead alternate between Wonderland and No Man’s Land. A bright pink beach finally demands your attention. It is composed of powdered snail shells and mussel shells. You can also find palm-sized shells here. By the way, cute dolphin colonies live off the coast of Hasik. If you have some time and patience, you can watch them dance in the sea.
Abalone bases around Mirbat, Sadah and Hasik:
With a little luck you will travel to Oman in December at a very convenient time. It is the month when the kick-off for the abalone diving season takes place. In the bays around Mirbat and Sadah, as well as the northeastern village of Hasik, the parking lots are massively occupied with the cars of the locals during this time.
From here you can watch the abalone divers bring to light nets upon nets of the costly marine delicacy. Around 200 euros per kilogram is already a steep value that rests in the depths of the Omani east coast. From Oman, the noble snail is exported to Asian countries such as Japan.
Deep sea diving in Khuriya Muriya Islands from Ash Shuwaymiyyah:
For a real deep sea diving adventure in Oman, the east coast is a mega hotspot. Seemingly weightless, you glide down into the depths of the ocean and even have the opportunity to dive dramaturgically valuable shipwrecks. The five small islets of the Khuriya Muriya Islands are among the most sought-after dive sites in Oman.
Since there is no ferry here to take you to the islands, you will have to rely on an exclusive charter. You can book this HERE. It starts from Ash Shuwaymiyyah and takes you to the tracks of Nemo. From Mirbat to Wadi Ash Shuwaymiyyah you are on the road for about two and a half hours and a manageable 210 km.
Directly in front of Mirbat, you will find a reef whose topography is reminiscent of four fingers. Here you can indulge in diving at a depth between 7 and 25 meters. In addition, the “Chinese Wreck” and “Marriott Wreck” shipwrecks off Mirbat in Oman are sleeping their sleep.
In addition to Nemo and various snapper species, you will encounter fusiliers, rays, cuttlefish and grumpy looking moray eel species. Dives off Mirbat can be realized at a total of about 25 exclusive dive spots.
Near Mirbat in Oman, you can leave the here and now for a moment and enter the world of the surrounding mountains, which seems as if from another star. For the Wadi Hinna is a place that is located only among connoisseurs. There are no street names here, nor an exact route suggested to you by the guidebooks.
Therefore activate the coordinates 17.053864, 54.609977. They will take you to Wadi Hinna with its impressive Baobab trees. At coordinates 17.054243, 54.608153 you will find enchanting natural pools and from Salalah View Point with coordinates 17.057833, 54.609870 you will enjoy a breathtaking bird’s eye view.
If you continue north along the only road here, the Masjid Rehman Mosque and Al-Taqwa Mosque (coordinates: 17.070772, 54.626982) will rise majestically before you at the coordinates 17.063279, 54.597146.
Even before you enter Wadi Hinna, Wadi Shaabon is on your right from Mirbat (coordinates: 17.053682, 54.644242). Stop at the Shaabon Valley photo point at coordinates 17.049726, 54.638985 and let the splashing of the springs bubbling in the wadi reach your ears. The wadis around Mirbat are truly insider tips that make adventurer’s hearts beat faster!
Mirbat’s millennial history
From the perspective of Omani trade, Mirbat’s importance not only took a turn for the worse after the 10th century, while at the same time that of the maritime trade hotspot of Sohar on the northern coast in Oman visibly fell out of favor with the mostly Asian maritime traders.
The entire world of maritime trade from Mirbat in Oman revolved around the shipment of the exquisite gum resin frankincense, which at the time was akin to a twilight of the gods in Oman. Mirbat gained this advantage after the Portuguese occupation forces disappeared from Al Baleed. For the ancient incense port of metropolitan Salalah once enjoyed a reputation as the undisputed leader in incense exports. What remained was Mirbat as the only and last Dhofar trading center.
However, export by sea was not the only stroke that gave Mirbat a high reputation beyond the country’s borders. Desert caravans shipped the noble odor across the Rub al-Khali sand desert to Saudi Arabia. However, this mission did not run entirely voluntarily. Piracy made them necessary from 1600 to 1800, as the sea route around the Gulf of Aden as well as the Red Sea were besieged under threat of armed force.
The Dhofar uprising with the Battle of Mirbat at 5 a.m. on July 19, 1972, finally entered the chronicles as an internationally unforgotten event. The secluded pearl in the south of Oman was also the turning point in the Dhofar rebellion. After the attack of the rebel army on the base in the fortress of Mirbat, air forces had taken over the defensive fire in no time. Helicopters were also used in a supporting role.
The defense succeeded and soon there was no trace of the rebels far and wide. A total of 41 fatalities – 38 of them on the opposing side – represent a bloody battle that is hard to imagine for a peace-loving people like the Omanis. Defense from a fort was seen around the world – fortunately – for the last time with the Dhofar rebellion in Mirbat.
360° emergency compass for Mirbat
Nobody knows exactly how many inhabitants Mirbat has. However, the current population is believed to be around 7,300 Omanis. For a country like Oman, these are dimensions that can already be considered a larger locality.
If you want to clarify consular matters, the German Embassy in the capital Muscat will represent you. In urgent matters, the fastest way to reach them personally is via domestic flight from Salalah to Muscat. The address of the German Embassy is: Diplomatic Area, Al-Khuwair, Jami’at Al-Duwal Al-Arabiah Street, Muscat. You can reach them by phone at +968 2469 1218.
It is hard to believe and yet you can rub your eyes, because in Mirbat there is even a hospital. This provides initial medical care. It is the Mirbat Hospital and the safest way to reach it is by entering the coordinates 16.998058, 54.701815. If you want to call ahead, you have a hot line at +968 23 268316.
The nearest hospital is in Salalah, 78 km away. Calculate about an hour’s drive to get there. Absolute must-have: A health insurance for abroad! If possible, have your insurance company provide you with a confirmation of your insured status in Arabic. Even though English is widely spoken in Oman, this will help you avoid possible communication difficulties in an emergency in a not-so-modern place like Mirbat.
If you need the police, navigate to Al Hesn Street in Mirbat. Royal Oman Police Mirbat is available by phone via +968 9733 2655. The emergency number is 9999 nationwide. A little tip about the Omani road traffic regulations: camels ALWAYS have “right of way”! If one of them does not survive a collision, this can be very costly. Amounts of around 5,000 Omani Rial are due.
It is somewhat more difficult to call a cab in Mirbat itself. Since the passionate development of the local infrastructure is limited, it is recommended to order a cab through the hotel reception. This also has the advantage that your cab will be on the spot quickly, as the cab drivers are particularly familiar with the few sought-after hotels in the city.
Restaurants in Mirbat – Lebanese melt on the tongue vs. symphonies of fresh sea cuisine
Ahla Beirut Restaurant
If you’re looking for renowned cuisine that isn’t in a hotel, Ahla Beirut Restaurant is your ultimate solution. You will find it very close to Roshan Resort. Let your palate be tickled by Lebanese cuisine and taste your way through the endless variety of meat and fish dishes. The rice portions are so generous that you can easily feed two people with one serving, and the mixed appetizers and legendary burgers are also worth a sin. It’s accompanied by a freshly squeezed juice from the prairie. What more could you want? In the traditional house you dine in a casual atmosphere.
Nevertheless, the cuisine is upscale, the ambience very well-kept and the service absolutely excellent. You will be surprised when you are presented with the bill. For the quantity and quality of food, the price is rather low. Sounds like fantastic value for money, right? From Roshan Resort in Mirbat, Oman, you’ll be at Ahla Beirut Restaurant in no time. Plan on a walk of just 5 minutes for this. You just turn right once on Zuhayr Street and then immediately left again on Mirbat Street. Immediately on the left you will discover the Ahla Beirut Restaurant.
Al Dana Seafood Restaurant
For a fine dining experience with fresh sea fish, Al Dana Seafood Restaurant offers you a tasty selection of freshly caught seafood specialties. Located in KAIRABA Mirbat Resort, this elegant establishment is an à la carte restaurant with a stylish ambience. Close to the coast you will find the Al Dana Seafood Restaurant in the hotel complex on Al Fath Street.
Since Al Fath Street is a large main road that originates right in the center of Mirbat, you just drive straight down it to the bitter end, where there is no further to go except to the water. In the high-end getaway you let 5-star Prosecco bubble on your tongue, the finest sauces run along your palate and a few more bills out of your wallet. Because as exclusive as the KAIRABA Mirbat Resort is, as elite is the dining eye to eye with lobsters & Co. Accordingly, you can also expect a highly courteous service in the Al Dana Seafood Restaurant, which is extremely friendly even when the Al Dana is well booked and it is a little more stressful for the staff.
You can also look forward to a noble ambience with an Arabic-maritime atmosphere. Must-tastes at the restaurant include lobster, tiger prawns and seafood fresh off the grill. Import is not an issue here, by the way. The fish is caught directly on site – just as it should be for Omani authentic cuisine.
Shopping facilities in Mirbat
Basics for classic care somewhere in the middle of nowhere
Al Maha Shopping Center
When traveling in Mirbat, you may get used to the fact that the dimensions are consistently somewhat smaller than in the Omani hotspots Muscat and Salalah. In this respect, the designation “shopping center” for the Al Maha is somewhat unfortunate, because it is rather a small supermarket. It equips you with all the necessities of life for your excursions in the surroundings of Mirbat in Oman.
You can also buy household items and cosmetics here – perfect for saving on luggage and stocking up on necessary supplies when you get there. The staff at Al Maha Shopping Center in Mirbat is – typically Omani, how could it be otherwise – very friendly and will always meet you with a smile.
Al Maha Shopping Center
The Al Maha Shopping Center is located near the Mirbat Fishermen’s Marina. Just follow Al Marasy Street straight ahead and turn right at the second street after the traffic circle. Right at the next turn you will get rid of a few Omani Rial. Open daily (including weekends) from 09:00 to 23:30.
Hotels in Mirbat – stay to the unique sound of the rolling sea surf
KAIRABA Mirbat Resort
The 5-star luxury hotel KAIRABA Mirbat Resort offers you the most noble opportunity to dance with the Omani stars in the inky blue night. In the sprawling complex, located outside the city center on a large yet dreamy bay, you’ll encounter a colorful clientele of guests from Europe and Arab countries – clad in a wide variety of garb, from burqas to thongs. Pure culture!
From your bed, you can roll right up to the surf and then pull your sun hat deeper into your forehead while sipping a cocktail at The Wharf Bar by the lagoon pool. The fine dining restaurant introduces you to Arabic as well as international specialties, and the Balinese massage is so good that you might as well unpack your hand paddles to cross the Indian Ocean to your Ayurvedic home in Asia.
If you are traveling to the diving hotspot Mirbat in Oman mainly for snorkeling and diving, a real rarity will await you at the 3-star Roshan Resort. The resort with family atmosphere is located near the old town of Mirbat at the end of Mirbat Street/corner of Zuhayr Street directly on the dream beach and lets you dive blissfully on your own house reef.
The resort management is in German hands and has created a real box seat for the fascinating dives in Omani wetlands with the dive center “Sumhuram Divers”. You can also greet a resident dolphin colony with a little patience in the bay. You will sleep in bungalows and dine in the hotel restaurant on the spacious terrace with a direct view of the sea.
Seafood, oriental specialties and Mongolian barbecue leave hardly any culinary wishes unfulfilled. The clientele at Roshan Resort tends to be European and the resort exudes a quiet, serene flair. If you do not have big demands on design and luxury, but rather appreciate nature and the associated silence, you are exactly right at Roshan Resort.
Going out in Mirbat – the bear is dancing (tentatively) in the luxury hotel
You will hardly find bars where the locals indulge in illustrious pleasures in Mirbat. Therefore, you are well advised to indulge in the city’s few top hotels when it comes to cocktails, dancing and casual atmosphere. A popular bar is the “Champions Sport Bar” at KAIRABA Mirbat Resort. Here you can enjoy a delicious sundowner and just let yourself be carried by the Omani pulse for a while.