The AC filled the car with a cool silky gust. I only occasionally opened to window to take a snap of the Hajar mountains, during which a huge roar of heat filled the car. My guide, Momo, was well used to this sort of annoying tourist behaviour so I didn't feel like I was imposing too much!
We sped down the desert highway to Nizwa, an ancient city in Oman that radiates out from a drum-shaped fort which has taken a battering over the centuries.
As we got closer to the city, we were overlooked by a few lonely watchtowers which stood on the mountain-tops. Do they know we're coming?...Probably not. I imagine they're no longer occupied.
We hit a dense patch of date palms, and that is when we knew we had entered the ancient kingdom - a lush oasis in the desert.
We arrived just as the Nizwa market was closing up. The Nizwa market flog ceramics, glassware, gold, wood, and livestock. I would have loved to have bought a goat but sadly I was too late! I got to finger the many ceramic crafts that were still on display to the market-goers.
These hanging vases were traditionally used to contain water. They had more decorative versions which had patterns cut into them. They'd be completely useless for holding water obviously, but they'd make brilliant plant pots don't you reckon? Strawberry runners? Fabulous.
I'm not sure what these glittery, colourful little things are. I initially thought they were cups but they're far too shallow. I then thought that they were perhaps oil burners but there was no cavity underneath to place a candle. Mystery. If you can solve this mystery, let me know!
Half-way through the process of scoring the jugs it seems.
This is a traditional Arabic 'dallah' coffee pot. Their design varies between different countries in the Middle-East, but this Omani-style 'dallah' is a bit more exaggerated with it's elegant, swan-like spout. It seems like they're just showing off a bit really...
And the lanterns! I went through a phase in my second year of uni where I was obsessed with Moroccan stuff; I had lanterns and burners in my room and I was making beef & apricot tagine at least twice a week! This was a great second-rate substitute for Marrakech.
Momo told me a story of despair when it came to these studded chests. Traditionally, a studded chest was given to a woman as a wedding present. The woman would then give the chest to her husband and get him to fill it full of gold ornaments at the market. He would then have the sweat-teasing task of carrying the trunk full of gold back to their marital home on his back. Hoes be lucky in Oman.
Suddenly the call to prayer echoed over the rooftops.
Everybody dropped what they were doing. Merchants abandoned their stalls and market-goers fled. It was like a scene from Silent Hill. Momo, who wasn't a strict muslim, fed me through the quiet back alleys to escape the hoards.
The walls of the fort then creeped into view. The streets were still barren, so I had a perfect opportunity to look around in peace and quiet.
The drum-shaped Nizwa fort towered above the complex. On the roof, the Omani flag slapped and flapped in the wind, while canons pointed in every direction. This place was ready for siege.
And indeed, it always has been. Many armies tried desperately to conquer Nizwa over the centuries.
Nizwa fort is cleverly designed and is littered with booby traps. The fort contained 'dummy corridors'. When invaders entered these corridors, the floors would collapse and would drop them into a pit of iron spears!
They also had 'dummy doors'. When invaders tried to open these doors, they were crushed by a solid iron block dropped from above.
And then there are the 'murder holes'. Corridors are peppered with ducts in the ceiling. When attackers would pass underneath, they would be scalded alive by boiling date syrup. The high concentration of glucose in date syrup means it sticks to the skin and is impossible to wipe off. They were literally turned into dead, human candies!
Dates are a big deal in Nizwa. Date palm trees grow absolutely everywhere and forests of them extend for miles around the city.
Branches of dates left drying in the sun were a common sight.
On our way back from Nizwa, we stopped by a derelict village in the foot of the mountains.
Momo told me how the villagers suddenly disappeared for no reason - even more puzzling because they had a excellent supply of water with their 'falaj' channel system. Many people in Oman will literally kill for a good water supply, so it isn't something you just leave.
Some believe the villagers were abducted or massacred. Local people have reported hearing screaming and crying from the hollowed buildings.
I got a chance to explore the muddy ruins. Some houses were in superb condition and had staircases and furniture intact. What I loved was how there was no 'tourist tape'. I could explore completely as I wished, and so I rummaged through people's belongings and climbed onto the roofs of their homes.
Would you go down there?
The darkness lifted however, as we drove back towards Muscat with the setting sun.
I arrived into a golden-tinted Muscat and bid my last farewell to Momo. I wandered off into the city while he turned around and sped off into the sunset.
You can read about my time in Muscat over HERE.
Hope you enjoyed the adventure!