Home Gulf Tour 2009 Oman's spectacular forts
Oman's spectacular forts
Written by Sarah Clarke   
Wednesday, 01 April 2009 00:00
Rustaq Fort is a labyrinth of stairs and rooms, and it's easy to lose one's way


After rounding off the day yesterday in the excellent company of friends Brid Beleer and her husband Richard, we were relaxed and recharged ready for a full day of touring today.

Before I came to Oman I naively thought that once you’ve seen one fort you’ve seen them all; how wrong could I be. Oman is a land replete with forts seemingly perched on every mountainous outcrop; they come in all shapes and sizes and we were fortunate to see three superb examples today. 

The first, located in Nakhl (meaning palm trees), an hour and a half’s drive out of Muscat, is nestled atop a rocky out crop, surrounded by palm groves, with majestic mountains as its backdrop. After yesterday’s downpours kept us largely indoors, it was wonderful to be able to explore the well restored rooms and ramparts of the fort. And the reward for my climb to the highest point in the fort was a stunning view.

Before leaving the village, we took a short drive to a spring Ain A’Thawarah, where children played in the wadi and car owners were taking advantage of the high water after the wet weather to wash their vehicles. 

Our next stop was the fort in the town of Rustaq. At first sight this appeared to be a less dramatic building than that of Nakhl, until we walked through the outer wall into the inner courtyard and gazed on an enormous fortification. Once again set against a mountainous backdrop with palm groves all around, this fort is a labyrinth of stairs and rooms that it is easy to lose one’s way in. After a few wrong turns I found myself at the highest point of the fort where I was surprised to find that it was incredibly peaceful perched high atop the battlements with only the sound of the occasional crowing cock to disturb the peace. It was tough to tear myself away at the call of the Land Rover's horn; I was late again! 

Rustaq is also home to Ayn Al Khasfa, a hot spring which bubbles up into a large pool. None of the team fancied a dip in the restorative waters, which turned out to be rather hot, so before long we were once again on the road heading for our next fort at Ibri. 

Before reaching Ibri we took a short detour to view a 5,000 year old archaeological site at Bat. Here a small selection of over 1,000 tombs has been partially excavated to give a fascinating insight into burial customs during the Hafit and Umm an Nar periods. 

The 5,000 year old archaeological site at Bat offers a fascinating insight into ancient burial customs


First excavated by an expedition led by Danish expert Karen Frifelt, the far reaches of the site contain the most complete tombs. Walking out the 1km to the end of the excavation I was soon lost in the peace and tranquility of the location and was once again last back to the Land Rover! 

By now I was thinking that I was sure to be disappointed by the third fort given the magnificence of the first two. And, you guessed it, I was wrong. Turning the corner off the highway down a dirt road, I was stunned to see an even bigger fort looming into view. Though yet to be fully restored and not open to the casual tourist, the outer walls of the fort seeming growing out of the rock face suggests that once it is fully restored, the fort at Ibri will be equal to if not better than those of Nakhl and Rustaq.

Finally we reached the Traditional Tourist village in the outskirts of Bahla where we were to be the guests of Hamad Nasser Al Hashimi. 

The team dines with Brid and Richard


Dinner at a traditional tourism village