Today we are traveling to an ancient city in Oman called Nizwa with Jori Meyer. You can find her on IG here.
Nizwa is an ancient city in the Northeast region of Oman and was the nation’s capital during the 6th and 7th centuries. This beautiful city is rich in Omani culture and history and is home to Nizwa Fort (said to be the most visited site in all of Oman) as well as the popular Nizwa Souq.
Why did you choose this destination?
For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of travel is the ability to learn first-hand the history, culture and customs of someplace new. Nizwa Fort did not disappoint! I knew from having seen pictures before my trip that the architecture of the fort was going to be spectacular….and it was! But it wasn’t until my visit that I was able to gain a deeper appreciation of the significance of the fort from a defense standpoint as well as the brilliant planning that went into constructing the fort to protect Nizwa from enemy invasion.
How long were you there?
I visited Nizwa Fort and souq on a long day trip from Muscat, Oman (our trip also included a stop-over in the old village of Misfat). Nizwa is about an hour and a half drive from Muscat – the trip is made easy with Oman’s modern highway system and is quite a pretty journey. The mountains along the way are a deep rusty-brown color and the houses and buildings are bright white. The contrast made for a scenic trip, especially with the pop of green palm tree here and there!
What’s the estimated cost of the trip?
I did not rent a car in Oman – I hired a guide to drive to Nizwa so I could enjoy the view and not worry about navigating my way. My hotel arranged the guide – it was around 90 Rial Omani for the trip (not including tip). Once in Nizwa, entrance into the fort is 5 Rial per person.
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Must do attractions?
Nizwa Fort is most definitely the highlight of this historic city followed by the souq. The main fort was built during the 17th century with parts of the foundation dating back to the 12th century. The fort was built to protect Nizwa due to its strategic location along important trade routes as well as its natural wealth. Nizwa Fort has been beautifully restored and serves today as a living museum where visitors can experience life at the fort and learn about the history of Oman through various displays filled with maps, photographs and artifacts along with walking the grounds. Certain days you will find fort greeters performing traditional Omani song and dance, craftsmen such as potters at work and women making Omani bread for sale.
The old souq in Nizwa is unique in that it showcases more traditional Omani goods than some of the other souqs in Oman. It’s hard not to fall in love with the beautiful large pottery pieces that have been carefully handcrafted by local artists. They are unique in size, shape, design and purpose! Along with pottery, you can shop for traditional Omani daggers, silver, spices, dates, jewelry, antiques and more! There are meat, fish and vegetable souqs nearby to explore local produce. On Friday mornings, there is also a goat market.
Things to know before you go
The fort is open daily from 9am-4pm with the exception of Friday when its open from 8am-11am. It’s important to be respectful of the modest dress in Oman – men and women should cover their shoulders and knees. Bring cash for shopping in the souq as well as buying some delicious bread at the fort if it’s being made during your visit!
What was your least favorite part of the trip?
I don’t have any significant least favorite parts – Nizwa was definitely a highlight of my time in Oman! I think one negative aspect for other visitors could be the weather. I happened to be there in mid-March when it wasn’t too hot. But if you visited later in the spring or summer, I think the temperature would make visiting very uncomfortable. Also, the crowds were not too bad when I was there, which made it easier to capture some photos without people in the background. Given the layout of the fort, it would be difficult to do that on a busier day.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
I found learning about the structure of the fort – how it was built and why – to be absolutely fascinating. The fort foundation was built over an underground stream, providing soldiers access to fresh water. In addition, the fort’s 4 wells are located within the fort walls to protect the water supply from being poisoned from the outside. Large cellars provided ample safe storage space for food and other provisions. The walls of the fort itself were built so thick as to withstand attack from enemy cannons. The fort’s large drum tower with its wall and openings gave soldiers full 360 view to keep watch for any sneak attack as well as fire upon enemy soldiers before they ever reached the fort walls.
If enemy soldiers did make it inside the fort, they were not likely to make it out! The various doors throughout the fort were constructed with long slits above called murder holes. Fort soldiers could pour boiling water or date juice on intruders through those holes if they make it through the main gate. There are also trap doors throughout that dropped to a bed of spikes to prevent intruders from advancing once inside the fort. The fort feels like a maze of rooms, secret passages, corridors etc. You can just imagine how difficult it must have been for intruders to successfully attack Nizwa!
Make sure you try
If the traditional Omani bread called Regag is being made, I highly recommend trying it! I loved watching the woman making the bread – she would scoop up dough out of her basket, carefully spread it with her hand over the hot skillet and then use her spatula to smooth it out. It looked similar to a giant crepe when she was done. After flipping the bread over to cook on both sides, she would then fill it with items of your choice. The day I was there the options were local honey, local honey and dates, or local egg and cheese. I tried both the honey date bread as well as the egg and cheese – they were so delicious and the perfect snack during my visit.
I also recommend going to the nearby spice souq – they have a large variety of local palm dates for sale that have various flavors and levels of sweetness. I was able to sample the different types of dates as well as some Arabic coffee, which does a fantastic job of cutting the sweet taste! Next door to the spice souq is a shop that sells a traditional Omani dessert called Halwa that should definitely be sampled, along with more Arabic coffee or tea!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jori Meyer is a travel and photo enthusiast who has lived in 2 countries and traveled to 18 (with dreams to visit many more!). She loves photographing her family, street art, doors, clouds, small details and just about anything with a pop of color!