Thursday, February 28: Today, Mario and I embark on another road trip, this time to Al Batinah. Since we pass the outskirts of Muscat, we make a stop to stock up on some wine, and then head west along the north coast to Barka. Driving inland from Barka, on the Rustaq Loop, we end up at Nakhal Fort by about 10:30 a.m.
Nakhal Fort is by far my favorite fort in Oman. This is the third time I’ve been here, and each time I love it as much as I did on my previous visits. Nakhal means palm, and once you climb to the top of the fort, you can see date palms stretching out in every direction. The fort sits atop a small natural rock outcrop, surrounded by these date palm plantations, with Jebel Nakhal, a spur of the Western Hajar Mountains, as a backdrop (Rough Guide Oman). It’s picture-perfect.
According to Rough Guide Oman, the fort probably dates back to pre-Islamic times. It has been remodeled throughout the centuries, including a substantial rebuilding in the 17th century. During the reign of imam Said bin Sultan, in 1834, the present gateway and towers were added, and in 1990, the fort was totally restored.
I like this fort because of its crazy angles and because the rock outcrop is incorporated into the fort’s foundation. There are multiple sitting rooms, or majlis, throughout, decked out with colorful pottery, beautiful carpets, and jewel-colored cushions. A couple of the children’s rooms have beds in them. Mario thinks he wants to lie down on one because his back has been giving him trouble, but he doesn’t, of course.
Some of the small watchtowers have small loopholes just big enough for a rifle barrel, plus wider openings where, in typical Omani fashion, boiling date juice or honey could be poured over attackers below.
We walk into the jail, where the smells are not pleasant and we can only imagine the horrible conditions the prisoners endured. After making the rounds, we go outside to the gardens below the fort and take some pictures from there.
After we leave the fort, we venture further into the town of Nakhal to Ain a’Thawwarah hot springs. This place reminds me of Wadi Bani Khalid; it’s crammed with locals. It’s a popular spot for practically everyone, including groups of Omanis of Zanzibar origin pounding on drums, chanting and dancing. The sounds are quite cacophonous, as two groups are playing their own brand of loud music right across the stream from each other. The hot spring itself is just a small rectangular concrete pool fed by warm natural spring water and filled with local Omani boys. Not my kind of place at all.
After leaving this spot, we have a nice little lunch in a restaurant in Nakhal before we head to Wadi Bani Awf to visit Little Snake Canyon.