Since arriving in Oman nearly 18 months ago, I’d heard many a story about Bahla and its connection with witchcraft and jinns, or spirits. And when I spotted a newspaper ad announcing a variety of Eid Al Adha celebrations taking place around the Sultanate over the four-day weekend, the one place that stood out was, you guessed it, Bahla.
Determined to see the celebrations and explore the town, I rounded up Kate, Y’s Deputy Editor, and my tween daughter, Cia – who was keen to spot a jinn or two, even though I thought this would be highly unlikely.
The plan was to leave a little after lunch, but by the time we’d organised ourselves and packed what appeared to be a week’s worth of snacks and drinks for the trip, it was just after 3pm before we set out. I was hoping that it wasn’t too late and we’d get there before sunset.
Taking the road to Nizwa from the clock tower roundabout just past City Centre Muscat, the sun was still high in the sky. It was a beautiful day, a few clouds were about and the driving was smooth, more so as there weren’t many cars about. I am guessing that’s because everybody left a lot earlier than we did!
Not long after, we started to see the Hajar Mountains, so we stopped for a breather and I took the opportunity to take a few snaps with my iPhone 6 – in fact, all the pictures that have been used for this week’s Destination were taken on my smartphone. I caught the sun peeking out of some clouds, the rays streaking across the sky and putting the mountains into a deep shadow.
But there wasn’t much time to waste as it was just past 4pm and we still had to reach Nizwa and drive on for another 40 or so kilometres.
Not far from Bahla, we took a wrong turn despite the GPS and wound our way through an ancient-looking stone arch and onto a twisting road that took us into a village with an impressive falaj system. A friendly local helped to guide us out and set us on the right road to Bahla, which is also known as Madinat Al Sehr, or the City of Magic.
It wasn’t long before we could see the impressive towers of Bahla Fort and we knew we were headed in the right direction. It was already 5pm and we still had to find the place where the Eid celebrations were being held. It was further out of town, but it turned out to be a fun fair. While it looked like fun, we decided to head back and explore the 14th-century fort, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site, before the sun went down.
It wasn’t until we started clambouring up the incline towards the fort that we realised just how big it was. In fact, it’s the biggest fort in Oman, while its towers rise an impressive 50 metres above the foundations.
We got to the top just in time. The golden and pink hues of the sky meant the sun was going down and it was time to start taking pictures. Ignoring the Nikon I’d also brought along, I wanted to see how creative I could be with my iPhone and started to experiment with some of the filters. I caught a few shots with the chrome filter, which highlighted and intensified the colours of the sunset.
Just below the fort are some centuries-old crumbling village houses, but with all the doors firmly shut despite their condition, I imagined that that might have been for a purpose. Were there any jinns in there? I have no idea, but Cia was excited about the thought, but was disappointed not to spot a ghostly figure.
It was dark by now and we decided to see if the souq was open. Unfortunately, we got lost in the dimly lit labyrinthine streets and it was a good 20 minutes of dozens of twists and turns before we finally made our way out and started on our way home. I’d love to explore Bahla some more – but next time, during the day.
From Muscat, take Route 15 for 163km until you reach the turning for Bahla on the right. The old part of the city is located close to the fort, so use this as your base for exploring.
GPS location of Bahla Fort: N22º 57’ 52.141 E57º 18’ 2.236