Earth : Asia : Middle East : Oman : Northern Oman : Nizwa
Nizwa was the captial of Oman in the 6th and 7th century. In the 17th century an imposing fort was built by Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya'ribi. In the early 1950s the large round tower of the fort was bombed and the British Royal Air Force was requested to assist in the supression of the revolt. Since the 1970s, Nizwa has become a more modern city although maintaining strong traditional architecture. The tower was later restored and the Nizwa fort is now open for tourists.
The highway from Muscat to Nizwa is excellent and will take around 2 hours by car.
Nizwa is located along the sides of a dry riverbed. On the main road along the dry riverbed there are plenty of private and shared taxis going north and south. It is very easy to catch a taxi; just put your hand out to signal for the driver to stop and if there is room he will.
To get from Nizwa Mall (just beyond the South gate of the city) to the Souq area, it should cost around 700 Baisa in a shared taxi.
The two main areas that taxis congregate are just before Nizwa Mall (across the road from the Safari Hotel), and at the Eastern gate of the Nizwa Souq.
The fort in Nizwa is in good condition and worth a visit. The Fort openin hours are Sat to Thu 8am to 4pm and Friday 8am to 11am only.
Don't miss the Thursday and Friday morning goat market next to the souq. Be there at around 7:30 and you can enjoy the last hour of the goat market. It happens around a round structure where business is brisk with a lot of shouting, haggling and handslaps. Truly Arabian and wonderful.
The castle close by is also worth a visit, especially for the view of the town.
A stroll in the souq is always worth an hour or two. The old part of the souq houses the spices. Vanilla, saffron, dried lemons and nuts of all types. One can also find coffee, tea and several kinds of dates. Typically a bag of spices or a packet of dates will cost around 1 OMR (more for some varieties such as saffron).
Nizwa is a good place to pick up a famed Omani Khanjar (dagger). These range from new artificial ones to antiques. There are some shops that sell them around the pottery market with a large range, but with inflated prices due to their location. Here a decent quality khanjar goes for around 700 OMR with newer replicas for 100-200 OMR. However, in the long semi-deserted building between the juice shop at the entrance and the Fort there are cheaper shops. I bought a khanjar with an antique blade but new restored handle for OMR 120. Just note that there is very little range here, but less sales pressure and lower prices than the other shops.
In the pottery Souq you can buy some pottery from the nearby town of Bahla. Products range from water pots to frankincense burners to pots. There is also pottery in a Salalah cooperative in a shop next to Nizwa Fort.
For Fast foods visit LULU hypermarket. it has PizzaHut , KFC and other outlets.
On the street next to the Nizwa Fort (behind the Souk) there is a tourist cafe with some good choices of international foods, pastas, NZ Beef burgers, Illy Coffee etc.
Around the souq there are a few good options for local Omani food:
There seems to be not a single hotel in the actual town of Nizwa. Hotels are dotted a few kilometers from the town center along the main road leading south to Firq, and tend to fill up to capacity. Call and make a reservation a few days ahead!
Wahiba Sands is a desert located relatively close to Nizwa. It consists of sand dunes, up to 100 metres high and 170 km long, stretching south. There are several camps in Wahiba Sands where it is possible to camp and experience the desert, do some camel riding, dune bashing and relaxation. Seeing the sun setting in Wahiba Sands is truly wonderful!
Driving up to Jebel Shams is a worthwhile day trip from Nizwa - this spectacular mountain and massive canyon is quite spectacular.
Around 1.5+ hours from Nizwa by 4WD only up the partially sealed road - follow the signs to Jebel Shams Resort which sits atop the plateau. Lots of photo opportunities for car travelers along the plateau, but if you want to do some exhilarating hiking, continue past the resort to the tiny town (a few houses really) of Khateem.
This is where the famous Balcony Walk begins. The return walk is around 3 hours and snakes along the rim of massive cliffs over 1km high, with extraordinary views across the canyon. The route is clearly marked but you should be prepared for rock scrambling and good shoes are necessary. Definitely not a walk for the faint hearted or those with fear of heights.
There is a longer hiking route up to the southern summit of Jebel Shams which is a full day walk (9-12 hours).
Bahla is known for two things: its pottery and its enormous fort. Bahla Fort is more like a walled city than a fort due to its size. It is a UNESCO World heritage site and Oman's largest fort. Despite its beauty and high quality restoration, most of the time you have the entire place to yourself. Nearby the fort is the ancient Mosque and dilapidated Old Town. Across the road is the Pottery Souq (closed on Friday). Nearby to Bahla Fort is Jabreen Fort but it is not walking distance.. Bahla is 30 mins from Nizwa by taxi. You can catch a private taxi from anywhere in Nizwa or you can get a shared taxi on the block next the Nizwa Souq.
Before Jebel Akhdar there is the town of Al Hamra, known for its old town, sadly almost completely abandoned. Make sure to visit Beit al Safah in Al Hamra, a restored mudstone house where you can get to see Omani culture. This is easily visited by taxi from Nizwa (and is good combined with Misfat al Abryeen).
Misfat al Abryeen
Nearby to Al Hamra is the village of Misfat al Abryeen on the lower slopes of Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain). It is like a paradise with green terraces and Falaj (Omani irrigation channels used to irrigate crops - a UNESCO World Heritage Site). It is very pleasant and photogenic to walk around the village for an hour or two, and not something one would expect to see on the Arabian Peninsula. You can even extend your stay overnight at the Misfat Old House. Can be visited by taxi. The taxi can't go into the village itself but can wait outside while you walk in. Ask for the taxi driver to wait for 1-2 hours minimum.
If you have your own car, you can visit the villages higher up on Jebel Akhdar. The W18B Tourism walk from the Ministry of Tourism (maps found here) is a nice 2 hour walk along a marked trail between the villages on Al-Aqur and Sayq, passing through Al-Ain and Ash-Shirayjah. You will pass terraced farms, mountain views and picturesque villages. If you go at the right time of year, you may be able to see the rose harvest. Please do not pick any fruit as this is the villagers' livelihood.
To get to the capital, the most convenient way is via shared taxi. This should cost around OMR 20 per person and takes around 2 hours. Just go to the group of taxis across from the Safari Hotel (just South of the City Gate) and wait for the taxi to fill up, which should only be around 10 minutes. The taxi arrives in Muscat at the Rusayl Roundabout, where you can switch taxis to one going to a specific area (e.g. Mutrah, Ruwi etc). Alternatively, you can get a nice MWASALAT bus from the MWASALAT office opposite the Nizwa Grand Mall. Costs OMR 1.4 each way.