Isolated by the Hajar Mountains from the coast and the outside influences brought to the coastal cities through trade and conquest, Nizwa developed as a bastion of conservatism.
A thorn in the side of many who tried to unify and rule the country, the town is dominated by its principal form of defence, the massive Nizwa fort, a circular structure some 35 metres high and with a diameter of 46 metres.
The narrow, winding staircase to the fighting platform is protected at numerous intervals by slots in the roof, through which boiling date syrup could be poured on would-be attackers. All these factors combined to render the fort practically unassailable.
Under the shadow of the fort is Nizwa souq, an ancient market now housed in a modern arcade built exactingly to traditional design. As well as jewellery, muskets and khunjars (traditional curved knives worn by men) there is a wonderful Friday auction.
Locals come to parade their livestock for sale to the highest bidder in a lively swirl of elegant white-clothed men and black-coated women with colourful headdresses - and some anxious cows and goats!
North of Nizwa is Jabreen, arguably the best fort to visit in the country. It has been superbly well restored and stocked with period artefacts to give a good idea what life must have been like for the original inhabitants.
Its prize attractions are the painted ceilings, which are some of the best executed examples of this decorative art in Oman. South of Nizwa is Bahla, a massive fort and defensive complex around a palm plantation.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its vast earthen brick walls tower 50m above the surrounding village, and because it has never undergone major restoration it tells us a lot about ancient building techniques.
Bahla is still famous for the quality of its pottery and there are places to buy some if you wish.
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