Thursday, November 17: I decide it’s time to take my new GMC Terrain out for a spin to Bahla Fort and Jabrin Castle. Before I go, I have to wait for my long-overdue furniture to be delivered by the university. I’ve been without a coffee table, end tables, a desk and a chair for two months now, and I’m not about to rush off and miss this delivery. However, by the time it all arrives and is assembled, it’s near noon, much too late to get started doing anything in Oman. Usually the afternoons are too hot for anyone to do anything, and businesses and attractions often close around 1:00 so everyone can go home for a rest.
Despite this I think that maybe, because it’s a Thursday, the things I want to see will be open. I’ve driven through Bahla before, and I’ve seen the big fort there from the road, but I want to see the inside. So I drive to the town and when I come to the imposing 12th century fort, built by the Bani Nebhan tribe, I look all around for a place to park. I can’t even find an entrance to the fort. Sadly the fort doesn’t appear to be open at all. Belatedly, I check my Lonely Planet Oman, UAE and Arabian Peninsula, and find that it has been under restoration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Twenty-four years on, and it’s still not open to the public. Considering we’re in Oman, that doesn’t surprise me at all. No one in Oman is in any rush to do anything.
So, I drive on to Jabrin Castle, which is right on the edge of the town of Bahla. Jabrin Castle sits isolated on a flat plain, so it is an impressive sight even from a distance. Imam Bil-arab bin Sultan built the castle in 1675, and it was a center of learning for astrology, medicine and Islamic law. The castle is simple, void of fancy furnishings or elaborate decor, yet tasteful. It has numerous levels of cozy rooms with high ceilings, carpeted floors and silk pillows around the perimeters. The view from the top of the Castle to the plains dotted with date palms is lovely set against the backdrop of Oman’s brown wrinkled mountains.
It’s really warm as I wander leisurely around the castle. I like the rooms with their inviting carpets and cushions and am really tempted to curl up on the carpet with my head on the pillows. Maybe I’m becoming part Omani, craving these naps in the afternoons.
I finish my little tour and hop back in my car and drive back to Nizwa, where I do what everyone else in Oman is doing on any particular afternoon. I take a nap.