The Nizwa Fort is the biggest fort in Oman and was used as a vantage point to defend the town during times of war. It is best known for its extraordinary architectural style that stands out from the other forts in Oman and is well worth a visit.
Walk into this vast area in Nizwa Oman, and take a trip into the past. Complete with a green oasis and a blue-domed mosque nearby, the fort encloses the Nizwa Souq, a local market for everything handy from tiny knick-knacks to the butcher’s shop.
Long winding alleys within the fort and souq area can be confusing if you don’t pay good attention. This is the most visited fort in Oman on account of its unsurpassable beauty and structure. Here are some fascinating facts that make Fort Nizwa Oman unique.
The Nizwa Fort, also called Husn Al Heem, is the oldest castle in Oman. It is located at the entrance of Wilayat Nakhal in Wadi Ar Raqeem. The best way to get from Muscat to Nizwa Fort is by taxi. The distance between Muscat and Nizwa Fort is 158 km and there is no need to book in advance to visit the fort.
The fort is designed on two floors. The ground floor consists of an inner courtyard, a date storage room, an ablution room, exhibition halls, an armory room, and a prayer room. There are 25 traditional rooms on the first floor and five on the third floor. Presently, you can also find a coffee shop, a gift shop and a palm house on the ground floor.
Once you reach there, you can find an information and ticket center where you can buy tickets and find brochures. The fort entrance fees for non-Omanis are OMR 5 for adults and 3 for children (below 12 years) while the Omanis have to pay OMR 2 and OMR 1, respectively. The Nizwa Castle opening times are 8 am to 8 pm from Saturday to Thursday. On Fridays, you can visit from 8 am to 11:30 am and from 1:30 pm to 6 pm.
The city of Nizwa played a major role in the interior of Oman. Thus, Assalt Bin Malik Al Kharousi constructed it in the 9th century and Imam Nasser Bin Murshid Al Ya’rubi renewed it later in the 17th century. It took almost 12 years to complete the massive fort.
The Imams and Walis administered from here, and the fort was designed as a stronghold during chaotic times of conflict. The castle accommodated the Imam, his family, guests, religious scholars, guards, and other royal servants. Besides, it also had a school, a mosque, and a prison.
Wander in this incredible maze of rooms and you will be astonished how people lived here in the scorching weather. And as you roam around, help yourself to a cup of hot kahwa and sweet dates set ready for Nizwa Fort visitors.
The fort replicates the ancient Omani architectural skill and design. It is noted for its drum-like tower designed around an unevenly shaped rock. The arches, crenulated roofs, and entrances reveal the traditional architecture of Oman. Built with stones and cemented with lime mortar, the tower has a 45-meter width and a height of 34 meters.
Look at the wooden doors at the entrance and you can see intricate craftsmanship on it. Two cannons greet you at the entrance to the fort while four cannons are set on the top of the tower. The fort is built above an underground stream to make sure that the water supply remained stable even during times of war.
The fort has seven staircases and seven interior wells. You can see the old pulley and rope still hung in the well. The subterranean cellars within the fort were used to store food and weapons. The enemies found its huge gates, made in wood, difficult to break in. The walls are made strong enough to withstand mortar fire and there are 24 windows to open fire.
The Nizwa Fort Oman structure shows how the rulers upheld its secrecy for security reasons. Climb a winding narrow dark staircase and you are inside one of the perfectly planned forts against invaders. The winding stairs made sure that the attackers found it difficult to climb up quickly. It also restricted the number of people mounting the steps at the same time.
Some of the stairs have wooden planks that could be removed to expose deep open pits to catch foes unawares in the dark passageway. These death traps were later on shut down during the restoration work to safeguard visitors. If you keep a lookout on your way up the stairs, you can notice these pitfalls which awaited the invaders.
To breach the doorway, the attackers will have to break down seven tough doors at every turn. Tiny watch holes up in the fort walls served as observation points as well as an opening to dump scalding date syrup on the raiders’ heads or throw hefty objects on them. These holes were famously known as murder holes.
Large quantities of dates used to be stored as a defensive measure in case of a long siege. There are two date stores located inside the castle. About 2.5 tons of dates were stored in a small room. A single date sack used to weigh 70 kilograms! It was packed tightly in palm sacks and pressed to cut air space using an iron or wooden truncheon.
The dates sacks when stacked together ooze out date juice which was diverted into the stone jars fixed on the floors. The kitchen cooks used this date honey for cooking, but during war times it was boiled in large copper vessels to pour out on the marauders.
You can also find here the large earthenware jars that were used to store the fluid. These containers have narrow necks to reduce their exposure to sunlight and pests. These pitchers were also used to store drinking water.
The museum exhibits showcase the splendor of the bygone era. They display the materials from the Stone Age, weapons used, a variety of shotguns and rifles from the 18th and 19th centuries, swords, and diverse jewelry of the time.
Other items include the airmails, stamps, the correspondence between the yesteryear British empire, old currency notes, coins, and photographs from the past. You will also see a 3D miniature plan of the whole town of Nizwa, which details the fort, souq, mosque and the neighborhood nearby.
The Exhibition Halls include the place where dates were stored, a collection of armory, a library, an ablution room, and a courtyard. You can see the kitchens and coffee-making rooms with its old-fashioned copper vessels and ceramic bowls set there. The meeting room of the administrative staff is set with carpets and pillows in an oriental way.
And best of all: You will love climbing the stairs to the top of the tower, which is set in a very attractive pattern forming an inverted V shape and has 60 steps. Another 40 steps up will lead you to the observation posts on the terrace. The top tower gives a complete view of the entire terrain and tells tales of how the soldiers were ready for any surprise attacks.
The climb to the top takes you to a breathtaking view of the green hills dotted with palms and the blue Al Hajar Mountains peeping from afar. The terrace gives a viewpoint of the entire town. You can also find remnants of dilapidated old stone houses that are abandoned now.
The oasis around is stunning with its beautiful view and fresh air. It gives us an idea of how hard life must have been for the fighters at the fort. The tower top provided a superb position to watch out for intruders.
The Nizwa Souq recreates the charm of the exotic oriental era. Designed as a place where all townsmen met together, the souq provided them with their day-to-day essentialities. The old men used to fill the labyrinth of shops to bargain, chat, eat dates, and drink hot cups of Kahwa. The souq in Nizwa is also well-known for its Friday cattle market auction.
You can pick up some ornate silver jewelry or hand-carved khanjars, small traditional daggers, for a souvenir at a bargain price here. Or you can stop at the shopping tent within the fort area, which sells souvenirs, and pick up lovely pottery in distinct designs, wooden panels with craftwork, tiny models of khanjars, treasure chests, palm baskets, or clay incense holders.
Before you leave, stop at the Coffee Shop for refreshments and pose at the Palm House for a gorgeous photograph. The Palm House near the Coffee Shop is a splendid hut made of bamboo and coir. It houses a palm, shrubs, and creepers that provide a delightful shade and green foliage. You can see tiny clay pots hung out at the windows in the traditional style.
Visit Nizwa Oman and take a journey in time. Imagine the battle cry and the deafening shots of mortar fire that exploded into the enemy.
So, have you visited any other fort in Oman? Let us know what you liked about it.
Also, visit Nakhal Fort, Al Hoota Cave, Bahla Castle, Jebel Akhdar, Jebel Shams, Wadi Ghul, and Birkat Al Mawz during your visit to Nizwa.
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