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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

Nakhal Fort

Nakhal Fort

Nakhal Fort

Archway into Nakhal Fort

Archway into Nakhal Fort

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.

majlis with jewel-colored cushions

majlis with jewel-colored cushions

Nakhal Fort is built on a foundation of solid rock

Nakhal Fort is built on a solid rock foundation

Looking up at Nakhal from inside

Looking up at Nakhal from inside

The view of the Nakhal mosque from the fort

The view of the Nakhal mosque from the fort

watchtower at Nakhal Fort

watchtower at Nakhal Fort

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.

Nakhal Fort

Nakhal Fort

Canon at Nakhal Fort

Canon at Nakhal Fort

Date palm plantations and Jebel Nakhal

Date palm plantations and Jebel Nakhal

the fort

the fort

crenelations

crenelations

the fort

the fort

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.

fort

fort

more of the fort

more of the fort

me in the majlis

me in the majlis

a child's bedroom

a child’s bedroom

ceiling in one of the rooms

ceiling in one of the rooms

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.

the imposing Nakhal Fort

the imposing Nakhal Fort

views from the fort

views from the fort

from the gardens below: Nakhal Fort

from the gardens below: Nakhal Fort

another view

another view

in the gardens below the fort

in the gardens below the fort

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.

a peek through the flowers

a peek through the flowers

pretty blossom

pretty blossom

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.

Ain a'Thawwarah hot springs, full of Omani boys

Ain a’Thawwarah hot springs, full of Omani boys

hamming it up

hamming it up

the Zanzibari-Omanis dance and play drums and music

the Zanzibari-Omanis dance and play drums and music

the stream leading to the hot springs

the stream leading to the hot springs

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.

a restaurant in Nakhal where we have some lunch

a restaurant in Nakhal where we have some lunch

a variety of fruits to make fresh fruit juices

a variety of fruits to make fresh fruit juices

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