The capital of Oman in the 6th and 7th Century, and most famous for its towering fort. Nizwa Fort has been painstakingly restored to its former glory, with its interior now serving as a museum to showcase traditional Omani life. Its imposing central tower rises over 35m above the rest of the structure, and is almost 30m in diameter. From the top, visitors have a commanding view over the surrounding countryside.
Below, the Nizwa souk operates each day and features general Omani fare such as dates, fragrances, and spices. On Fridays, Nizwa Souk hosts a weekly cattle market where farmers come to trade livestock in a time-honoured tradition. However, Nizwa souk's most unique offering is its handmade local pottery from nearby Bahla.
Bahla is an ancient town famed for its ceramics. Locals are expert potters, using a clay unique to the region and working it in traditional fashion to produce one off pieces for sale in the Nizwa markets. Legend has it that these potters have 'magic in their fingers', a reputation earned over the centuries as they supplied Oman with most of its khors (water jugs) and other ceramic pieces.
Also in Bahla is the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Bahla Fort, whose impressive towers reach up to 50m in height. Originally built around eight hundred years ago at the peak of Bahla's prosperity, the fort had slowly deteriorated over the ensuing centuries before being gradually restored to its former splendour over the last twenty years.
Only five kilometres from Bahla is Jabrin Castle, known as the home of the Imams. It is ornately decorated and is arguably one of the most picturesque castles in the country. In fact, one of the most alluring aspects of visiting Oman is seeing the variations in architectural styles between the forts and castles which dominate the skyline in each settlement.
Further north, Al Hamra is an old Omani village with a mix of ancient ruins and more modern housing. Date palms surround the township and are still fed by the traditional aflaj, or canals. Al Hamra sits surrounded by desert, the green foliage of the palms standing out against the barren peaks of the mountains beyond.
The Jebel Akhdar or 'Green Mountain' lies in stark contrast contrast to the barren desert sands of Wahiba located only a few hundred kilometres away. This region of Al Dakhiliah is known for the rock rose which grows wild on its slopes and is used in many traditional Omani fragrances. In fact, the climatic conditions of Jebel Akhdar have made them an important location for the cultivation of a wide variety of different crops, subsequently leading to the development of terrace farming techniques to capitalise on the precious water supply. Bee farms are another traditional activity of the region as the bees collect pollen from the native flowers blooming on the mountainside.
FWithout a doubt, the most spectacular part of the Jebel Akhdars is Jebel Shams, 'the Mountain of the Sun'. At 3300m, it is the highest point on the Arabian Peninsula. Beneath it lies the breathtakingly beautiful Grand Canyon of Arabia, a series of jagged valleys and rugged escarpments disappearing into the distance. The famous Balcony Walk takes visitors along a narrow track just beneath the cliff top, providing stunning views into the canyon and across to ancient ruins clinging to the rock face.