The further we got on our road trip around Oman, the more authentic the places we visited felt. By the time we reached Nizwa, a small city of 50 000 people 1,5hours drive south from Muscat, it finally started to feel like we had found a more traditional place than before. Sure, Muscat was a huge surprise and I absolutely loved it, but somehow the capital did not manage to feel authentic and traditional, only pretty and interesting. But in Nizwa, the atmosphere was something totally different.
Nizwa might not be the best known city in Oman for most tourists, nor a place that will be included in most tourist’s itinerary, but the city has one great asset, besides the beautiful fort and lovely souq. That is, the location. Only 90minutes from Muscat, close to places like Jebel Shams and the Bahla fort, the city is an ideal place to set camp while exploring the southern side of the Hajar mountains. There are lots of little interesting places near by.
The city itself is quickly seen though. Although having that lovely atmosphere and the traditional feeling to it, all the life and interesting sights are within short distance from each other. Here, the main attractions are the old fort and the souq next to it. The light brown walls circle the city center, groups of men sit by the gates and chat, cars drive by, here and there you can see an occasional tourist or two. On the narrow little streets inside the walls, the time seems to stand still and you can walk in peace, just wandering around, browsing through the interesting little shops full of pots and pans, clothes and mats.
Inside the gates you can find countless of little shops and stores, selling all sorts of things. There are also separate meat, fish, fruit and date markets to name a few, not to forget about the goat market! And the best thing is that here, you can walk in peace and no-one is trying to force you to buy something from their shop with those “special discounts”. No, here you can take your time, wander around and the only attention you get is some friendly smiles. Must say, after the souqs in Dubai and Muscat, this place was a whole different world – the traditional, authentic kind of souq I was hoping to find. Based on what we were told, the souq is best visited on a Friday morning – that is when the action starts when people flock to the market. However, as we were around only on Wednesday and Thursday, we had to settle for a more relaxed, peaceful setting.
Next to the souq there is the old, but beautifully restored fort, the most famous landmark of Nizwa. Here, you can climb up the tower and get good views across the city and to the mountains, or just walk inside the fort and admire the interesting building from the inside and outside, as well as the beautiful inner ward. Progressing slowly, you can easily spend here an hour or so, reading through the information boards in and around the fort.
But then, once you step outside the walls, the feeling changes. Outside, there is just an ordinary town with busy streets and hectic traffic. There are gold stores and similar looking buildings one after an other, no matter which direction you go. Quickly after exiting, you get the feeling that there is not much more the city can offer and you are tempted to continue the trip to the nearby areas where more interesting things can be seen. Nizwa is a little town with a few well worth seeing, but if you happen to be around, make sure you do not just stick to the city center, but explore also the nearby areas with some beautiful landmarks and interesting places.