The illustrious capital of Oman during the 6th and 7th centuries, Nizwa is today a small but prosperous city situated at the western base of the rugged Hajar Mountains in the region of Ad Dakhiliyah. It enjoys a strategic location on former trade routes linking Muscat, the interior and Dhofar, and the city’s traditional mercantile zeal can still be glimpsed in the bustling Nizwa souq – a teeming public market where meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and spices are sold along with hand-crafted goods like pottery, leather and copperware. Livestock, too, is peddled by itinerant herdsmen and shepherds.
As a former centre of trade, education, art and religion, Nizwa is home to a slew of fine architecture, including the most important historic monument in Oman – the Nizwa fort. Formerly the administrative seat for local Imams, the fortress – whose foundations reach a solid 30 metres into the ground - is a truly behemoth structure of sand-stone turrets, battlements and impenetrable walls. Built in the mid-17th century by Imam Sultan Bin Said Al Ya’rubi, it took 12 years to complete and withstood a number of attacks throughout the centuries. As late as the 1950s, the structure was bombed by the British on behalf Sultan Said bin Taymour, who sought to quell a local uprising. The fortification’s interior is an intriguing maze of halls, rooms, terraces and corridors.