Nizwa – Oman

A Microcosm of Oman’s Early Days

While coastal Oman was involved in lucrative sea trade with Zanzibar, India, and China in medieval times, inland Nizwa was the seat of the imams who ruled much of the interior for centuries.

Renowned as a center of learning and famous for its ancient poets (and as the birthplace of Sinbad the Sailor), the city is also blessed with an imposing circular 17th-century fort. A recent restoration of the fort and neighboring histor­ical dwellings has garnered international awards. Nizwa sits on a scenic road from Muscat that skirts two of the country’s major mountain ranges, affording visitors views of some of the most diverse and beautiful countryside in the Gulf nations.

As the center for Oman’s jewelry and crafts industries, Nizwa draws shopping-minded visitors here on whirlwind day trips from Muscat. The curved kanjar daggers are manufactured here – prized symbols of Omani masculinity, they are now worn mainly in ceremonies. The city’s large blue-domed mosque marks the site of a souk whose silver merchants by now are accustomed to today’s souvenir-hunting Westerners.

A more genuine air is found in the tourist-free byways, where the haggling and touting con­tinue with an area reserved just for dates, another only for goats.

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