Minarets, mosque domes, bleating goats & bustling markets make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time when you visit Oman’s former capital city (6th and 7th Century AD), Nizwa. This city used to be the centre of the country’s religion, trade and education and as a result, has a strong cultural heritage and deep connection to the Islamic faith.
When Expat Polar, Expat Bunny & I arrived in Nizwa, the first thought I had was that I was in Agrabah- the fictional setting for the 1992 Disney film. In my head I could see a bare chested Arab Aladdin hurling himself onto building roofs with his pet monkey in tow as he escaped from palace guards.
While I reined my imagination back in, I also realised that Nizwa was what everyone expects the Middle East to look and feel like. And while most places have since developed above and beyond that, Nizwa still offer visitors an old-town Arabian charm.
If you are in Nizwa, you are probably here to see two main things:
Nizwa Fort & Castle
Visiting Nizwa Fort and Castle
Nizwa Fort dates back to the 17th century and was built in a dozen years by the Ya’arubi tribe and its most relevant Imam, Sultan Bin Saif Al Yarubi. The castle portion of the fort was built on the 9th century by the imam Al Sult bin Malik Al Kharusi.
Without spoiling too much for you, I am just going to say that this was one of Oman’s most well defended structures and has many secret mechanisms to fool enemies who tried to infiltrate (Look up for the narrow slits above doors for pouring boiling water or date juice).
There are exhibits explaining life in the castle and fort and the surrounding areas. They are all explanatory, with maps, images and drawings to support the explanations.
I must also add that the fort and castle (they’re joined) are an Instagrammer’s dream with endless photos opportunities. It really is well worth a morning of your time!
As you leave (or enter) you may be lucky enough to witness the guards singing traditional songs and dancing with their weapons.
Note: Visiting the fort costs 5 Omani Riyals for non- Omani visitors (April 2018). You can pay in Emirati Dirhams and the price is 50AED. Nizwa Fort is open everyday from 9am to 4pm except on Friday when it opens from 8am to 11am only. You can park in the huge parking lot in front of the souk for no fee.
2. Nizwa Souq
As you step outside the fort, you will be standing in the heart of Nizwa and surrounded by the souq. For those who are too shy to ask, a souk is equal to a bazaar or marketplace, and the term souk is used in Arabic-speaking countries.
You can buy a wide array of items in this particular souk including (but not limited to) fish, dates, spices, clothes (ask Expat Polar about his 1 Riyal t shirt and 6 Riyal sandals), livestock (on a Friday) and many other items. But what Nizwa souk is really famous for is pottery, textiles, antiques and souvenirs. The pictures speak for themselves.
Note: The souk is open from 8am until 6pm Saturday to Thursday, and from 8am–11.30am, and 1.30pm–6pm on a Friday. There is a car park in front of it and there is no time limit or fee to park there. If your accommodation is inside the souk, I strongly suggest using the parking lot and walking inside with your belonging. Driving within the souk is NOT for the faint hearted or anxious as roads are narrow and spaces are tight.
I honestly LOVED my time in Nizwa and wished I could’ve stayed longer than 1 night. If you’re wondering whether its visiting (and the photos haven’t convinced you) then DO IT. This trip could be coupled with a stay at Jebel Shams (1.5 hours away) or as a short weekend away from Muscat. I added Nizwa onto an extension of my trip to Wadi Damm. Read about that here.
Watch our video about our time in Nizwa:
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How to get to Oman from the UAE:
-You can drive through the Hili/Khatam Al Shikla/Meyzad border crossings. These are ones I have done myself or my friends have done in the last year. None of us are GCC nationals.
-You can fly with Salam Air for around 600AED round trip leaving Dubai Airport Terminal 2.
-You can take the plush Mwasalat Bus from Abu Hail Metro Station, Dubai Airport Terminal 2 or Rashidiya Metro Station to Muscat. A round trip ticket to Muscat will cost you 90AED.
Visa for Oman:
GCC residents qualify for a 28 day GCC Residents’ Tourist visa (50 AED). Check requirements for your passport and apply through the official site which you can find here.
Where to stay:
We elected to stay in Nizwa at a home- style hotel called Antique Inn. It’s a traditional Omani style home that’s been turned into a hotel. I loved the cosy feel! Its costs around 400AED a night for 2 people. See our virtual tour in the video above.
Have you ever been to Nizwa? Or is it on your list? Let me know in the comments below and feel free to drop me any other questions about visiting this quaint place!
Never heard of Nizwa before but now after reading this, it’s on my list.
Im happy to hear that! Its a little-known gem 🙂
Another interesting tour. I could use a few of those pots, really lovely.
I need some of those pots myself but was too afraid to get one due to the plane journey home! Maybe next time 🙂