You might not think it’s possible to lose a fort but that’s exactly what happened to my friend and me. We were exploring the verdant gem that is Al Rawdha, a village off the beaten track on the way to Nizwa, and had followed the sign to the small castle that dominates the skyline here. One moment we had the fortress in our sights and the next, it had disappeared from view. I glanced in the car’s rear-view mirror and saw our destination was now behind us.
That’s my first piece of advice when you visit here. When you follow the signs for Al Rawdah Fort, just be sure to keep an eye out, as the way is not as straightforward as you might think.
Once we’d finally figured this out, we parked up below the fort and stood at the bottom of the stone stairs that lead you invitingly up to the building. Here, we paused so that I could take a photograph. It turned out to be my favourite shot of the day and I call this image Steps to Glory.
It’s quite a climb up to the fort and the steep steps had my friend panting for breath as I bounded up eager to see what awaited us. It’s well worth the climb. From the top, you get amazing views of the village, the ruins that are scattered all around and the abundant greenery, with date plantations and assorted trees all within view.
Unfortunately, the actual fort was shut. So that’s my top tip number two. Don’t visit early on a Friday, as we did. Go on another day or time and you could well be treated to a personal tour of the fort by the curator, who doesn’t speak much English but will nonetheless take you around with a gentle manner and shy smile.
In comparison to other forts and castles in Oman, Al Rawdah Fort is small but perfectly formed, having been beautifully restored. I wandered around and captured details of the smooth brown stone, which was cool to the touch, and found a small gekko scuttling across a wall. I also tried to get different angles of the fort, kneeling down at one point to photograph one of the towers soaring above.
We took a breather on a stone bench and enjoyed the vista spread out before us. From up high, you can see the sea of greenery that encircles the village like a protective cloak. One of my colleagues is from Al Rawdah and told me that during the rains, the village floods as the wadis around it fill up. I guess that explains the burst of green here. It contrasts nicely with the brown mountains and rocky outcrop that the fort sits on.
It struck me that the village and area would be great for trekking in the cooler winter months, when you could explore farther.
I must confess that despite living in Oman for much of my life, I had never been to this particular area. Everything was new and has inspired me. Scattered around the village are old ruins; some at the bottom of the fort. I also noticed several ruined watchtowers on hills around Al Rawdah, suggesting that the village was heavily guarded in the past and clearly wanted to keep its enemies at bay.
I liked the juxtaposition of the old ruins with the newer houses that are all inhabited.
The date trees were heavy with fruit and I spent some time taking photos in the plantation.
Al Rawdah’s locals are very hospitable and helpful; I think they’re well used to tourists and even offered to take us back to the main road when we left. Which brings me to another piece of advice: be patient on the road (Route 27) to the village and when you turn off. There are trucks on the road and lots of cars overtaking so drive carefully, take your time and keep your cool. And speaking of keeping cool, Al Rawdah was far less humid than Muscat, although it’s only 140km away, a welcome relief from the stifling city.
So if you’re looking for a city break or simply want to unearth a hidden gem of Oman, I can thoroughly recommend the charms of Al Rawdah.
Take the road to Nizwa as far as Bidbid. Exit here onto Route 23 and follow until you see the exit for Route 27 on the right. Al Rawdah will be a few kilometres down this road on your right.
GPS location of Al Rawdah: N22° 52’ 57” E58° 13’ 36”