Having spent a few weeks appreciating Oman’s natural wonders, Shaquel al Balushi decides to investigate some of the manmade ones and first on his list is Nakhal Fort
I was supposed to visit Nakhal Fort after my trip to Wadi Abyad last week [Issue 368], but for those of you who have read about the trials and tribulations of my last adventure, I’m sure you’ll understand why I didn’t have the time or the energy. Nevertheless, I promised myself that I would visit the following weekend and that is exactly what I did.
I’ve never actually been to the fort before and having lived my entire life in Oman, I suppose this is a bit remiss of me. My first impressions of Nakhal were that it was massive. Truly huge. It dwarfed Bayt Al Naman Castle which I visted a few months back [Issue 359]; to the extent that I was slightly concerned whether I could cover the whole place in the time I had and was worried that I would struggle to do the magnificent fort justice in my photographs.
The imposing fortification is built into the rock that surrounds it, but what you see as you approach is just a fraction, inside it is even bigger.
There is a small fee of 500 baisa to enter, but having paid this, the slightly disinterested attendant let me pass and left me to explore this fascinating piece of history at my own pace.
I went on Friday in the early afternoon and was surprised to have the fort pretty much to myself. While I know Friday is a family day for many people in Oman, I expected to see a few more tourists, but admittedly it was very hot.
Nakhal has been beautifully restored, both inside and out, with many of the original features brought back to life. Inside I stumbled across a very colourful majlis seating area, with vibrant coloured cushions and carpets and some antique coffee pots and cups dotted around. There were also several cannons visible, along with rifles strung up on the walls inside.
There was a lot of walking involved as I headed up and down the many different staircases, so if you visit, make sure you pack your walking shoes; you’ll certainly need a good few hours to see everything. Every time I thought I had reached the top, I would glimpse another staircase, allowing me to climb even higher. There are many different passages and I imagine that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get lost in this maze-like structure.
When I finally did emerge at the fort’s highest point, the view was nothing short of breathtaking. As I mentioned, the fort is built around a mountain, to the extent that the rock is part of the structure and protrudes out of the courtyard at the top, along with a few trees. Looking out across to the city beyond you could see for miles, with a view supplemented by green palm trees and dark mountains beyond.
The thing that never ceases to amaze me when I visit the forts of Oman is the work that went into constructing them. These commanding buildings are impressive by modern standards, let alone all those hundreds of years ago when they didn’t have half of the building equipment we have today.
One of the places that stood out to me was the fort’s jail area. A dark passage led to a small and even darker room, and whilst the chains and whatever else may have once been down there have been removed, my mind couldn’t help but wonder as I tried to imagine how unpleasant it would’ve been to be imprisoned there.
Whether you’re relatively new to Oman, or have lived here your whole life like me, I would heartily recommend that you visit this superb fort if you haven’t already, it really is a fascinating piece of our history given a new lease of life.
How to get there:
Nakhal Fort is a little over an hour away from Muscat and is very easy to locate. Simply take the highway towards Barka and come off at the exit for road 13. After 30km there will be an exit for Nakhal Fort on the left.
GPS location of Nakhal Fort: N23˚ 23’ 41” E57˚ 49’ 46”