Nizwa is the most important market and trade centre in the region and has always played an important role in the history of Oman. Nizwa is ideal as a starting point for day trips to the surrounding area.
Nizwa is located in northern Oman, just under 200 kilometres from the capital Muscat, and is now a modern city surrounded by extensive palm groves. Due to extensive modernisation work in the 1990s, much of the original and oriental atmosphere has unfortunately been lost.
As the water supply has always functioned well here, Nizwa is a centre of fruit and vegetable cultivation and at the same time the most important market and trade centre in the region. The interesting city is one of our top 10 sights in Oman.
Nizwa has always played an important role in the history of Oman. It was the national capital until the 12th century. Even after that, it remained an intellectual and religious centre of the Ibadites in Oman. Nizwa was also the capital of the Imams. Because of its religious and political importance, it was also called the "secret capital".
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Sights of Nizwa
There are several sights in the town that are worth visiting. Apart from that, Nizwa's good infrastructure with hotels, restaurants and shopping facilities makes it an ideal starting point for day trips to the surrounding area.
Souq in Nizwa
"Souq" (also written as suq, soukh, sook or suk) means "market" and in Arab cities refers to the commercial quarter or economic centre. The West Souq of Nizwa has been renovated and offers traditional Omani silversmith products, now primarily for tourists. Prices are relatively high, and it is even more difficult to bargain here than elsewhere in Oman.
The East Souq has been left in its original state. Everything here still seems a little untidy. Mostly spices and simple articles of daily use are sold. In the East Souq, you can still experience some of the flair of the old souqs. The only question is how much longer.
The Nizwa Fortress has been completely renovated and is the tourist attraction in Nizwa. The monumental fort is one of our 10 most beautiful forts in Oman.
Emergence of the fortress of Nizwa
The monumental fort was built in the 1650s by Sultan ibn Saif I, the second Imam of the Yaruba dynasty. Its foundation walls, however, go back much further, to the 12th century. As the capital of Oman at the time, Nizwa and its mighty fortress were the headquarters of the reigning rulers. Its awe-inspiring walls, built over a period of 12 years, still bear witness to Nizwa's importance in those turbulent times.
Tour of the Nizwa Fort
Anyone who enters the mighty fortress can only marvel at the powerful bulwark. Behind the fortress gate, guarded by two cannons, a labyrinth of stairways, corridors, terraces, high rooms and tiny chambers opens up.
Most impressive is the huge round tower of the fortification. With a diameter of 44m and a height of 28m, it is the largest tower in Oman. On the cannon platform of the tower there were originally 24 cannons that could fire on the entire surrounding area without any blind spots. Today, only a few of them remain, one of which still bears the name of the Imam as an engraving.
The stable curves and metre-thick doors were created to withstand heavy fire from cannons and mortars. Not visible, but no less formidable for that, is the fact that the foundations of the fortress protrude up to 30 metres into the ground.
The wall surrounding the fort was once patrolled by 120 guards to prevent a surprise attack from any direction. Thus anchored and guarded, the fort was considered impregnable for centuries. By the way, the best view of the city of Nizwa is from the battlements at the top of the tower, which can be reached via a stone staircase from the inner courtyard.
PICTURES: Nizwa - Fortress
Sultan Qaboos Mosque
The Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Nizwa is the second largest mosque in Oman after the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mos que in the capital Muscat. Opened in 2015, it has an impressive blue and gold dome and a tall minaret that dominates the city centre from afar.
Covering an area of around 80,000 square metres, the Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Nizwa can accommodate around 5,300 worshippers. At night, several spotlights bathe it in magical light.
Animal market - Fridays only
Every Friday, a large animal market takes place in Nizwa from around 7:00 a.m. right next to the highly visible round tower of the Nizwa fortress. Omanis from near and far gather to haggle loudly for goats, sheep, cattle, rabbits and poultry.
At the same time, the "Goat Market" is one of the biggest spectacles in Oman where tourists can be present live. The crowds are correspondingly large and the authentic image of bearded men with turbans and scimitars discussing the animal goods is marred by the snapping and whirring of mobile phones and cameras.
As a visitor, you feel transported to another time at the animal market in Nizwa. If it weren't for the mobile phones of the Omanis, on which people are talking just as loudly, you would think you were in the Middle Ages. Loud, dusty, smelly and increasingly hot, the rustic sales negotiations present themselves. It can also happen that you have to run to safety from a runaway cow or suddenly find yourself in a sheep jam.
Cattle sale in Nizwa
The cattle sale follows a strict ritual. The animals are paraded in a circle of interested parties and the seller shouts prices to the crowd. The potential buyers examine the animals and in turn call back asking prices. If the "sales talk" lasts too long without reaching an agreement, the seller has to lower the price further or try again the next week.
Once a buyer is found, money and livestock change hands. 90 Omani rial for a goat is considered a really good price, that's 175 euros. Young boys stand around the men to learn and soon get into the business themselves.
Women are allowed to have a say
The negotiations at the animal market in Nizwa are conducted exclusively by men. But at second glance, the women are also visible. They are standing in the shady distance, dressed in splendid robes and precious adornments, watching the action with interest.
If an animal belongs to his wife (many goats have female owners), the man often quickly agrees with her in private until she either nods in agreement or gesticulates wildly in refusal. Some purchases are also confirmed by mobile phone, or the minimum price has already been decided at home.
Unique photo motifs in abundance
Not only the negotiations are interesting for visitors, but also the unforgettable impressions, which can hardly be seen anywhere else in the world in such an authentic way.
The men with their status symbols - scimitars, cartridge belts and muzzle-loading rifles - present themselves just as proudly as the women, who are somewhat off to the side but no less dressed up for it. All are popular "photo prey" for the tourists. By 11 a.m. at the latest - usually earlier because of the heat - everything is over.
The dark side of the animal market
Animal rights activists would probably be struck by the livestock market in Nizwa, because the treatment of the dear livestock here is anything but squeamish. Goats and cattle that refuse to follow their new owners are brutally dragged by the leash, rabbits sit in wire cages crammed into a very small space and chickens disappear after purchase into boxes without light or air holes.
Some "goods" do not survive the heat and stress of the animal market, but only their owners who have lost out on a deal are met with pitying (or gloating) looks. Visitors should be prepared for the fact that animal rights are not given too much importance here, or it is best to stay away from the market.
Day trips from Nizwa
- Jabrin Palace, one of the most beautiful and picturesque buildings in Oman
- Bait Na'aman Fortress near Bahla, which is a museum telling of the life of the Omani rulers in the 18th century
- Jebel Akhdar, on whose Saiq Plateau you can enjoy pleasant coolness and fresh fruit with spectacular views even in high summer
- Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Oman with sensational views into the "Grand Canyon".
- Al Hoota Dripstone Cave, the second largest cave system in Oman
- Beehive tombs Al Ayn and Bat, which are 5,000 years old and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Wadi Nakhar, a 1,000m deep gorge, also known as the "Grand Canyon of Oman".