My 2nd stop in Oman, and from the boat it looks gorgeous. We’re here for 2 days so I booked a tour for Day One, and Day Two I’ll spend wandering. I’m lead to believe it’s slightly walkable here, with a lovely corniche that goes for miles along the harbor so I’ll check that out tomorrow.
This morning I boarded the big tour bus for the “Fascinating Forts: Nizwa & Jabrin Castle” and we head inland, 1hr 35m via the highway to Nizwa, the old capital of Oman during medieval times. We’re here to see the little souks, the fort and the castle – the latter two dating back to the 17th C.
Well, the first castle was originally constructed in the 9thC, but this dates to 1624. Nizwa’s famous for its huge round battlement tower in the center of the fort. There’s 5 hidden spots where the locals could drop boiling date juice (!) on their enemies’ heads, and many cannon turrets to fire on those left below. The castle behind it has been restored to display how it was like when it housed the Imam and his family, and the accompanying scholars, guards and other royal retainers that go along with court life. There wasn’t any furniture beyond the odd trunk or two, and no art but that’s really the Islamic way. Of course being Muslim, there’s no representation of humans or animals in their art anyway, but paintings of calligraphy or shapes instead. In their culture it’s all about concern for the here and now, things aren’t saved or preserved for the future; apparently the rug we were walking on was original 17thC(!), for them it doesn’t really have any historic value attached to it the way it would in the Western world.
After we found the one lost tourist, we proceeded to a local hotel for lunch. The group descended on the buffet like starving locusts. Lady beside me went 5x! I didn’t want to tell her where the larger plates were, thinking she could use the exercise. At the end a waiter came around and served a thimble full of Arabic coffee. It was kind of a fragrant blend of coffee and tea; I quite liked it and had 2. My gluttony for the day.
Back on the bus, back on the highway, heading to another fort: Jabrin Castle. This was owned by the brother of the Nizwa Imam; this guy was peaceful, interested in prayer and poetry, the other in war and defense, ergo the big turret.
In Jabrin, one part of the building was used for family, the other for the military/royal guards. About 200 lived here at one time. Now it’s all restored except for the date squeezing room, but again without furniture. At most a few carpets, pillows, & books. The rooms are labeled Conference Room, Dining Room, etc. but really are indistinguishable. The castle is a huge warren of rooms and stairways, luckily our guide knew her way around!
Then we had a long 2-hour bus ride back to the ship. Most people nodded off as soon as we hit the highway – a day of touring in the hot sun plus the gentle swaying of the vehicle was just too soporific to ignore, so the tour guide kept quiet and we drove in silence. Well, almost. The Spanish man behind me chatted nonstop to his daughter the whole 4+ hours we were in the bus. I finally had to pop on my headphones and listen to music to save my sanity. This added the benefit of keeping me awake so I just enjoyed the scenery in peace. For those familiar with the Coachella Valley, the landscape here is very much like an amped up Mecca – huge hills of sandy rubble interspersed with mountains of rainbow-colored rock. And the occasional date farm too!
We finally boarded the ship at 6:25pm, a 9 hour tour! I scrambled to change for dinner, (white on white was the theme tonight), and was just a few minutes late for my 6:30p seating. I’m down to only 6 chairs at my table! I think the waitstaff is giving up on my no-show table mates. I do end up receiving a lot of personal attention, fine by me!