After about 2 hours of driving from Muscat, we arrived in Nizwa. Nizwa is one of the oldest cities in Oman and was once a center of trade, art, and religion. It is strategically located at the crossroads linking the interior of the country with Muscat. The highlight here is the Nizwa Fort built in 1668 AD which served as the administrative seat for the presiding Imams and Walis. The fort is unique due to the cylindrical shape of its main tower that rises 30 meters above the ground. There was once 24 cannons on top of the tower providing a 360-degree coverage of the surrounding countryside. There are shafts called murder holes above each set of doors where boiling oil or date syrup would be poured through onto any intruders. Other than these murder holes, the windy passageways and numerous thick wooden doors studded with metal spikes make this tower extremely difficult to breach.
Next to Nizwa Fort is the Nizwa Souk or Market. On Fridays, there is a livestock auction of bulls and goats that has apparently been going on for hundreds of years. The rest of the market is mostly housed in newer buildings selling fruits and vegetables as well as meat and fish. There is also a section dedicated to handicrafts and ceramics. We did a quick walk through in the older part of the market which sells grains, nuts, and herbs.
After lunch we continued to Jabrin Castle, about half an hour away from Nizwa. Jabrin Castle was built in 1675 and is considered the most beautiful historic castle in Oman. It is different from the other Omani forts because it was built during times of peace and prosperity and was intended to be the summer residence of the Sultan. There is minimal fortification built here although murder holes for pouring boiling date syrup on intruders still exist. The castle is decorated with intricate carvings, woodworks, and ceiling murals.
Most people will also visit the neighbouring Bahla Fort which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and underwent over 20 years of extensive restorations. Bahla was the capital of the Banu Nebhan tribe who dominated the central Omani region between 12th and 15th century. It is a fortified oasis settlement with an intricate system of wells and underground channels bringing water from distant springs. Surrounding the fort are mud brick family compounds, mosques, and souqs. Bahla Fort is massive and I was told there is not much information on the rooms and it is not as beautiful as Jabrin Castle. We were tired after the long day and decided not to go in, and instead headed back to Muscat.
This was quite a short but relaxing visit to Oman. Next stop is Iran. Stayed tuned!
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