Barka lies to the west of the Omani capital Muscat. The once important port city was defended by a mighty fort, which today shines in its old splendour, freshly renovated.
Barka is located on the coast of the Gulf of Oman, about 80km from the capital Muscat. The history of Barka can be traced back to the al-Said dynasty in the 17th century. Under the reign of Ahmed bin Said, Barka was even the capital for six years. The once important port, from which mainly dates and limes were shipped to East Africa and India, brought Barka great prosperity, but no longer exists today.
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The mighty Barka fortress from 1747 makes it clear how important the harbour town was at that time. It lies just off the coast and still commands respect today with its three massive round towers and rectangular gun platform.
The Barka fortress was renovated in the 1980s and can be visited free of charge (if it is open, which is difficult to say in advance). Within its walls is a square residential tower that towers above the fortified towers of the bulwark. The intricate rooms, secret chambers and narrow winding passages represent the typical construction of an Omani fortification. The labyrinthine interior left no chance for uninvited intruders to find their way through the jumble of alleyways and stairways.
Tip: Even more interesting than the Barka Fortress is the Bait Na'aman residential tower, only 5km away. The rooms behind the fortified walls are furnished as a museum and give a good impression of the life of the former Omani rulers.
Souq of Barka
The local market is right next to the Barka fortress, here a lively fish and vegetable market takes place every morning on the beach. In the early morning, the fishermen can be seen bringing their catch ashore. The souq of Barka is famous for its traditional halwa, a sweet, sticky speciality made of sugar, spices, almonds and sesame seeds, which harmonises perfectly with Arabic coffee.
Bullfight in Barka
In winter between November and March, bullfights are held in the Batinah region in northern Oman, which for many is the only reason to visit Barka. The powerful Brahmin bulls are bred locally and compete in the country's only bullring.
The bullfight is not like in Spain with a torero, but the bulls are let loose nose to nose and try to push each other out of the way - without the animals sustaining any injuries. The fights take place in various villages in Batinah, but mostly (except in Barka) on a simple sand field. Watching is free of charge.