Goat Rodeos and Beehive Tombs --- Nizwa

Nizwa Travel Blog

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Jammed parking lot at Nizwa Souk. Nizwa Fort is on far left (beneath flagpole)

Buffet breakfast at the Golden Tulip was almost elegant, except John was with us.

The three Omigo's.....
  For his morning cup of joe, John grabbed a cereal bowl and practically emptied an entire urn of Arabic coffee into it, lol.  I think he just invented Arabic Super Sizing.....

We checked out and headed into Nizwa, bound for the Friday Market at the famous souk here.  The Nizwa Market is a glorious collection of souks:  a fruit and vegetables souk, a meat souk, a date souk, a fish souk and others all adjoining.  Firday morning they hold a goat market and things get rather chaotic.  We pulled up around 10AM, just as the goat market was closing down.

Talk about a goat rodeo!  Cars attempted to stream into the parking area from all directions, but merely stacked up because of all the folks attempting to load the morning’s livestock purchases onto vehicles.  Goats and cattle milled about everywhere, very similar to all the cars paralyzed in the gridlock.

John in front of the Jeweler where we all made some purchases for our wives.
  Mark dropped John and I off and we all met up later inside the sprawling marketplace.

The Nizwa souk is a magical place, countless alleyways and aisles crammed with merchants and their piles of wares.  It is very old and you feel as though you’ve stepped back into time as you stride past bags of spice and counters of silver and gold.  Deep within the bowels of the souk we actually came across a guy raising a bucket out of working water well.

There was a jewelry merchant we struck up a conversation with and everyone made several purchases.  The cutest piece was a necklace with a tiny jewel box on it that Mark bought for his daughter.  Our jeweler embodied the honesty of all the other merchants we had bargained with, always letting you know which silver pieces were pure by saying “92.5” (for 92.5% silver) or “not 92.5”.

We emerged from the souk at the Nizwa Fort, which was closed (Friday being the holy day), but took a few pictures and then everyone purchased a mussar at a shop near the fort.

Nizwa Souk
The merchant tied the head scarves on us, so at least for today we somewhat resembled the locals and I snapped a photo of the three Omigo’s, lol.  By then it was one o’clock and things were rapidly shutting down so we returned to the car, grateful that the parking lot was practically deserted now.

Mark spotted a lunch spot with outdoor seating that was serving shi sha, and we ducked in to afford John the opportunity of smoking a water pipe.  Our waitress spoke zero English and there were no menus, so it was a bit of a challenge getting everything ordered, but persistence paid and it was another positive experience.  The restaurant was packed with locals, almost everyone smoking shi sha and playing dominos, a handful playing backgammon.  John got right into the groove of shi sha, a broad grin revealing his delight.

Bahla Castle was next on the list.

John gets to sample some shi sha
  Bahla is the next town down the road from Nizwa, and even though it is not open to the public, Bahla Fort is the only Omani fort on the UNESCO World heritage List.  This expansive structure was begun around 1000 B.C., easily the oldest fort in the country.  Despite there being no chance at seeing the interior, the exterior of Bahla Fort is breath taking.  We were taking the fort in but wound up getting sucked into the adjacent area, another abandoned old town.  These section of run down mud brick structures weren’t completely deserted, as the occasional clothes line or satellite dish attested, but for the most part it would be several blocks of abandoned buildings.  The unfamiliar and exotic architecture was very appealing and quite fun to explore.

Another ten minutes down the road we stopped at Jabreen Castle, yet another enticing fort.  Jabreen was the very first fort to be restored by the Omani government and the inside is reputed to be spectacular.

Bahla Fort in the sun
  Friday wasn’t shaping up to be the best day to tour forts, but once again the exterior was worth the time investment.

We were heading towards Ibri, where we had reservations for the night, and our final target on the way there was another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the beehive tombs of Bat.  These diminutive stone huts which shelter group burial sites are exceedingly old.  Research dates the earliest tombs back to 3000 B.C. and their resting spot in the Hajar mountain range has allowed them to withstand the ages remarkably well.

Unfortunately we got a bit lost in our search for Bat --- none of the roads are signposted in Oman so it is difficult to be certain which road you are on.  John had taken over driving duties in Jabreen, however, and espied some tombs on a ridge beside the road we were on.

Bahla Fort - a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  We pulled off the road and sized up how to get back there when an Omani working in the field noticed us and gestured how to zig zag through the wadi separating us from the tombs.  A magnificent setting, the tombs were highlighted by a backdrop of stark mountains and deep blue skies.  We spent about a half hour investigating this splendid area and even though it wasn’t the “official” UNESCO site, I doubt there is much difference.  Oman is basically a galaxy of cool things to explore.

There was still a bit of a drive to Ibri, but we eventually arrived at the Ibri Oasis Hotel, next to the local camel racetrack.  In all the restaurants and hotels the attendants seemed to be completely comprised of Omanis, but here the staff was mostly Indian.  We had a hunch that might impact the menu in the restaurant, and it certainly did.  In addition to a nice complement of Indian dishes, the menu had several Chinese and Thai options.

Jabreen Castle

It was our last night in Oman and we were tired, but Mark and I had one last town to fight over and I won another Spite & Malice duel.  Mark may have kicked my butt up and down Jordan, but I owned Oman!

Sweetski says:
You desert fox! :D
Posted on: Apr 25, 2010
johnnyk says:
I understand the whole Bedu tradition, scarce water, tiny coffee thing. I respect and admire the traditional ways. But one has to draw the line somewhere, and cultural emersion takes a pause while I partake in the morning java. LOL. I am just glad Vances didn't get a pic!
Posted on: Mar 10, 2010
sylviandavid says:
Wonderful.... thanks for this amusing and enlightening read....
Posted on: Mar 07, 2010
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Jammed parking lot at Nizwa Souk. …
Jammed parking lot at Nizwa Souk.…
The three Omigos.....
The three Omigo's.....
John in front of the Jeweler where…
John in front of the Jeweler wher…
Nizwa Souk
Nizwa Souk
John gets to sample some shi sha
John gets to sample some shi sha
Bahla Fort in the sun
Bahla Fort in the sun
Bahla Fort - a UNESCO World Herita…
Bahla Fort - a UNESCO World Herit…
Jabreen Castle
Jabreen Castle
Jabreen Castle entrance
Jabreen Castle entrance
Nizwa Souk
Nizwa Souk
Nizwa Fort
Nizwa Fort
Old town beside Bahla Fort
Old town beside Bahla Fort
Views in the old town next to Bahl…
Views in the old town next to Bah…
Old town beside Bahla Fort
Old town beside Bahla Fort
Bahla Old Town
Bahla Old Town
Nizwa
photo by: vances