Oman is a land of forts, perfect sandcastle forts; pale honey-colored and smooth-sided, with round towers, square keeps, machiolated parapets, arrow slits, cannon and massive wooden iron-studded doors, they are a veritable medieval desert fantasy sprung to life. Nizwa’s fort is no exception although Ibn Battuta would not have seen it - the 17th century fort which has the largest circular tower in the country, took 12 years to build. From its corner towers one has a panoramic view over the whole oasis of Nizwa framed and hemmed in by a ridge of ancient, coal-black serrated crags.
Nizwa’s souk has been renovated to resemble an old souk with little shops clustered together in a central square, half the goods stacked outside; typical Omani products are the wooden, studded chests which were used for storage – the more elegant being used to store the most prized possessions such as special occasion clothing and jewelry - pottery frankincense burners, ewers and water holders, and woven palm and leather baskets. The walled and gated souk lies at the foot of the castle and with impeccable timing I arrived at lunchtime when everything was closed and everyone had gone home…. nonetheless all the merchandise which was outside had been left there unattended. I can’t imagine many places in other parts of the world where there would be anything left. Oman’s 2.5 million denizens are apparently a very law-abiding people – Omanis routinely park their cars, leave the engine running and go into a shop. It never occurs to them that their vehicle will not be there when they come out.