Oman has a great history with ancient cultural preserves, forts, fortress, castles and souqs/souks. In your Oman Sightseeing tours, this historical Oman forts trip is must and highly recommended. All these forts which I will be talking about are approximately two hours drive from Muscat. Therefore let’s explore historical Oman with some wonderful castles, forts, ethnic marketplaces which are considered as the best sightseeing attractions of Oman. Read this post for Historical Day Trips from Muscat or one of the most famous Oman Day Tours.
Historical Day Trips from Muscat | Oman Sightseeing Tours | Oman Day Tours
As you must have read in my Muscat City Tour article, that Oman has been blessed with rugged mountain terrains, the drive is mostly through beautiful mountains. As we planned to cover three forts, one cave, some viewpoints on mountains, in the whole day, we started early in the morning.
First Stop – NIZWA FORT, NIZWA SOUK/SOUQ |HISTORICAL DAY TOURS FROM MUSCAT
Your visit to Oman is incomplete if you skip Nizwa Fort tour as it is the biggest and most beautiful fort of Oman which has a history dating back to 9th century. It is also known as Pearl of Islam. Located in Nizwa the oldest city of Oman is 140 km from Muscat. It was once important learning, defense center and also a former capital of ancient Oman. The oldest part of the fort has the historical significance of the 9th century and later restored in the 17th century by Sultan bin Saif Al Yarubi. This fort is believed to keep away many foreign invaders and even expelling Portuguese from Oman. This fort has a big cylindrical and circular tower which is largest in all forts of Oman, with seven wells, two mosques, prisons, traps, pits underground tunnels, cannon shooting area, learning areas, exhibits of handicrafts and demonstrations of old-style living articles. The foundation of this fort is around 98 feet under the ground. Earlier Oman was ruled by Imams in Oman and this place was center of learning & enlightenment, this place has generated many great poets, scientists, and religious personalities.
Uniquely built to protect from invaders you can see many traps for invaders like stairs were made with sudden gaps in between which were left open when there was an invasion.
Also, there are many original exhibits of ancient items like study materials, silver articles with silver making workshop, rooms of scholars with bathing areas, kitchen and kitchen articles, ancient coins, rupees(even Indian rupees), Omani Khanjar (dagger) and much interesting ethnic stuff. You can also see the evolution of Omani currency from barter trade times to present date. There was significant use of Gulf Rupee issued by Indian Government or Reserve Bank of India between 1959 to 1956. This shows that Oman played a major role in ancient trade between India and Arabic countries. In 1960s Oman developed its own currency system named Omani Rial(OMR).
On the ground floor, there are many handicrafts workshops going on which are run by rural women. The main handicrafts are basket weaving, a mask(niqab) making, embroidery on textiles and jewelry making.
The huge sandstone colored, silent walls of Nizwa fort leads to an exciting historical journey of Oman.
OPENING TIMINGS – Saturday to Thursday (8:00 A.M. TO 6:00 P.M.)
Friday ( 8:00 A.M. TO 11.30 A.M. & 1:30 P.M. TO 6:00 P.M.)
ENTRANCE TICKET COST – OMR 5 (approx.. 13 USD) per person – With this you get guided tour and the guide will explain all the important history of this fort and also takes you to all sections.
While you enter or you exit of Nizwa fort, there is Nizwa souq where you will get lost into many interesting Omani handicrafts and local stuff. Claywork and pottery is the main product which you can buy from here. Also, you can buy Omani silver handicraft jewelry, embroidered caps, Khanjar(dagger), dates and date products.
After this detailed two hours Nizwa fort tour, we proceeded to Al Hoota caves.
Second Stop – AL HOOTA CAVE | HISTORICAL DAY TOURS FROM MUSCAT
The two million years old cave – The Al Hoota cave in the Arabian peninsula which is 4.5kilometers long with only 500-meter access to visitors. It is located on the foot of Jabal Shams hills which is Oman’s highest mountain range. Jabal Shams is also known as Grand Canyon of Middle East. So let’s explore some natural wonders under the ground.
This cave system is formed by dissolution of limestone by acidic water and after every 100 years, the water dissolves 10mm of rock which forms stunning stalagmite and stalactites. You can see huge formations with some interesting shapes and even you can figure out one massive lion type of face formed by stalagmite and stalactites. There are four lakes beneath with a rich eco-system and also you can spot some rarest of fish species like Blind fish.
The electric train takes you the entrance of the cave from the ticket window and then guide accompanies you through the whole cave while explaining all the things in detail. Photography is not allowed inside the cave and lights are only switched on by the guide for viewing as they are switched off to not create hindrance to cave dwellings. It takes around 45minutes to 1 hour to take the tour of this cave.
Click here to book your own time slot as they allow a specific number of people to enter the cave, before reaching here to avoid huge queues on weekends and special holiday days.
TICKET COST – ADULTS CHILDREN
3.5 OMR 1.0 OMR OMANI NATIONALS
7.0 OMR 3.5 OMR OTHER NATIONALITIES
They conduct special University & school tours at special discounted prices.
After this, we hurriedly proceeded to Al Bahla Fort with few short stopovers at Jabal Sham mountains. Many of them divert from here and stay in luxury mountain resorts of Jabal Shams and try to indulge in some mountain adventures like hike, trails, mountain camps, etc. You can also consider staying at Anantara Jabal Akhdar Mountain retreat resort. But we decided to continue further and explore some ancient forts and castles in Oman.
Third Stop – BAHLA FORT | HISTORICAL DAY TOURS FROM MUSCAT
One of the oldest fort with a history dating back to 500B.C. with many restorations in 13th, 17th and 19th centuries. It is located in Bahla town which is also a potter’s town famous for clay work and pottery. Bahla is 24 kilometers away from Nizwa town and this fort is UNESCO listed fort in Oman. After many restorations, this fort had always severe damages but finally reconstructed in 2012 and open to the public. It has a massive structure with huge walls, wells, mosques and many rooms with special arched doors. Though the fort looks massive interiors are empty without any exhibits and furnishings.
You can also see ancient mud settlement adjoining the fort which is a very interesting tour. You can explore through this little mud town to discover some beautiful doors, windows, zigzag roofs, and walls. It is believed that fort is made up of bricks of mud & straw and therefore many parts of this fort are eroded with time. Locals believe that this fort could not survive restoration due to some superstitions. Once Bahla was center of Ibadism( a branch of Islam) and was a perfect example of ancient Islamic settlements.
This unique ancient styled mud settlement and Falaj system(special Middle-Eastern Irrigation system) add unique features to this place.
CLOSING TIMINGS – Fort closes 4:00 P.M. every day and 11:00 P.M. on Friday.
Now after this we proceeded to Jabreen Castle.
Fourth Stop – JABREEN CASTLE | HISTORICAL DAY TOURS FROM MUSCAT
A lovely 17th-century castle located at 10 to 11 kilometers from Bahla fort which was built by Yaruba dynasty. This castle is different from forts as it was not built during the war but was made during peace & prosperity time. The ruler was fond of science & art and therefore this castle has lovely interiors.
OPENING TIME – SATURDAY TO THURSDAY – 9:00 A.M. TO 4:00 P.M.
FRIDAY – 8:00 A.M. TO 11:00 A.M.
We reached after 4:00 P.M. so could not view it from inside but enjoyed the exteriors.
After this, we proceeded to Muscat for a night stay and had dinner in Muscat. I stayed in Fraser Suites for one night and in Levatio Hotel Muscat for two nights. Read more about where to stay in Muscat.
THING TO TAKE CARE FOR HISTORICAL DAY TRIP FROM MUSCAT
- Respect local customs and traditions.
- Wear respectful clothing(with knees and shoulders covered) with not much skin show for both boys and girls.
- There can be hilly drive many times.
- During monsoon, if there is mist or fog, drive carefully and slowly.
- Refer to the closing times of forts.
- A lot of walk and climbing is required, so wearing comfortable footwear.
- Carry loads of water and take light meals in between as heavy meals can create upset stomach due to mountainous drive.
- Hire guides, tour operators or drive your own vehicle to reach here. You can book all these three forts tours by clicking here. Also, Click here to book your full day tour to Nizwa.
- Google Maps works perfectly fine and you will reach accordingly by following them.
- These towns are conservative towns so don’t expect big hotels or international branded food chains. You can try some local food in between.
- There is no language problem as all understand English and even signboards of forts are in English and Islamic.
- Very safe and well maintained
- Start early as much as possible as the closing time of forts is nearly 4 to 5 P.M. And most of the activities at least need 2 hours time to see thoroughly.
- There are designated parking spaces near the fort and therefore parking should be a problem.
- Roads are toll-free and you will find many fuel/gas refilling stations in between.
- Don’t try to overdo the things as this excursion is slightly hectic. Do as much as you can or whatever time allows.
- Enjoy in between paths as you will see many different natural rock styles and rock colors.
- Souks/Souqs and weekly market fairs are interesting, so try to reserve some time for them. Weekly market fairs are generally held on Fridays but there are some souks which are open forever.
- You can stay in these towns but as you cannot find big hotels to stay here, I would recommend staying at Muscat.
BEST TIME TO VISIT – OCTOBER TO APRIL
NEAREST INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – Muscat or you can drive from Dubai
HOW TO REACH MUSCAT FROM DUBAI
From Dubai, you can reach Muscat by SELF-DRIVE or there are many buses which run between these two cities. Mwasalat air-conditioned buses with toilets run between Dubai and Muscat. From Dubai, bus 201 leaves at 7.30am, 3.30pm and 11 pm from 800m north of Deira City Centre and arrive roughly six hours with a stop at the border and later at Azaiba station in Muscat. The cost of a ticket is around 55AED.
From Muscat bus leaves at 6.20am, 3.20pm and 11.20pm and take around 40 minutes longer. Buses make a small stop in Sohar (Oman). Women traveling alone usually sit at the front of the bus. The cost of a ticket is around 5.5OMR.
USEFUL READS FOR OMAN TRIP
- Weekend trip to Musandam from Muscat or Dubai.
- Muscat City Tour
- Interesting Dubai Travel Guide
- Abu Dhabi City Tour Itinerary
So, till then KEEP TRAVELING……………… KEEP EXPLORING……………………………………………………
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