Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Oman - Mountains

As I mentioned in the Muscat post, we decided to use Lifetime Tours to see Oman. When looking at costs and deciding on an itinerary, it wasn't much more to go with a company. That also did away with the need for us to find lodging, places for meals, and worrying about driving in the mountains/sand dunes. We did the tour 'Farah' which was a sampling of the different areas of Oman. Once picked up, we headed to our first stop - the Nakhl Fortress.

I think one of the greatest things about having a tour guide....we had someone available to take pictures of all of us together.....so Richard and I finally both end up in the same pictures! Nakhl Fortress is about 350 years old and was built into the side of a mountain overlooking/protecting a village full of date plantations.

Nasser (our tour guide) told us about all kinds of adaptations built into the fort for protection/defense. I think the purpose of these smaller doors were the difficulty to get through wearing armor and carrying weapons.

At the top of the doorway was a small gap. This gap was used to pour hot date oil into. The oil would scald/burn the intruders.

All the date palms growing in pretty little rows.

The ancient village of Nakhal, Oman.

The mountains behind the fortress.

Enjoying the views atop the fortress (some was thirsty and didn't want her photo taken).

The fortress has hidden escape routes and secret passages. We didn't crawl through any of those. We did check out the different rooms showcasing what furniture, toys, etc of the time would look like.

Some of the carved woodwork was so beautiful and intricate you almost forgot about the likely bloodshed that occurred over the years during invasions.

There were many sections you could see how the builders use the natural rocks and just continued building upon them.

Nasser is a photographer as well as a tour guide. He was kind enough to send us some of the great shots he took. Here is one of them!

After leaving the fortress, we drove just a few minutes to a mountain stream in Nakhal.

What mountain stream would be complete without a spring fed waterfall?!?!

The waterfall was cropped a bit oddly as two men were relaxing in a small pool above the fall. There were a number of different-to-us species of dragonflies.

The main highlight of this little stream was the toe nibbling fish (ie the ones you pay $$$ to have nibble your toes during pedicures at fancy spas....here - free to any toes stuck in the water!).

So naturally, most of us partook! It is quite possible that it tickles a good bit as well.

We saw a colorful butterfly...sadly it flew away before I got a better shot of it.

In addition to pedicures, some of the locals would use the spring water to fill up bottles for home use (obviously filled at the source).

As we left Nakhl fortress, we began to head into the Hajar Mountains. Richard and I were both thankful not to be driving as the mountain road was quite curvy (with many one-lane sections). We probably would have avoided the mountain road for the bigger highways and missed out on the views of the canyons. As we went through one village, we happened upon one family's camel. So we had to stop and feed it some leaves from the nearby trees.

It was quite the photogenic camel!

Being the science dork I am, I was quite interested in the formation of the Hajar Mountains. It appeared the mountains were formed by the collision of tectonic plates as there were layers of sedimentation but the interesting part was the angles seen in these layers...almost diagonal. The googles tell me the mountains are formed where the Arabian Plate collides with the Eurasian Plate.

 Amongst the tall mountains were some deep valleys!

In the middle of the mountains, there is a small farming village. Nasser said this is where the best garlic in the country comes from!

The small village overlooked the farming terraces, sadly I do not recall the name.

When we got to the top of the mountains, we stopped at a lookout point. Richard and I got out for a some pictures/stretch our legs.

The temperature was a good 10 degrees cooler and a bit breezy! Clarissa opted to stay in the car!

That small white line winding around the mountains is the road we had driven in on!

The mountains/landscape reminded us a bit of Southwest US/California mountains.

We had lunch at little cafe in a small mountain village. The kids were both still feeling a bit queasy from the mountain drive. So we opted to skip the more curvy roads trip to a wadi and went to an old ancient village built into terraces in the mountain side (I think it might be the village of Ash Shirayjah).

There were narrow pathways between buildings. The hanging pottery holds water which by swinging in the air keeps it cooler.

Lots of beautiful decorated doors into homes. We happened upon someone's peacock walking around.

The village remind of us Georgia with its old rocky homes and Fiji with the bananas, papayas and palm dates growing everywhere!

There were, of course, protection walls/fortress look outs.

Quite possible the most interesting thing were the rock formations along the ridge of the mountain. These were used in ancient times for celestial timing for crop watering. When a certain star lined up with the rock it was your farm's turn to divert the spring water flow to water your crops. When the star lined up with the next marker it was someone else's turn to water their crops.

We stopped at the village hotel for some coffee and dates.

I loved the date holding covered bowl!

On our way out, we happened upon two villagers using their donkeys to move things around/up the hill.

We walked out a different route than we had come in. A lot more date palms as well as a cool lizard!

The ancient village being overlooked by a modern day town.

We then headed on for the last of the drive to Nizwa in the Hajar Mountains. After the long hot hike through the village, someone started snoring on the drive...lol. We may of had a little fun at his expense!

Once in Nizwa, Clarissa tested the pool (I stuck my toes in and that was about it....the water was cold!). At dusk, we saw a goat keeper herding his goats home.

We then saw a colorful sun setting into the mountains.

The next morning, we wandered around the Nizwa Souq and Nizwa Fortress. Our first stop in the souq was a shop specializing in dates....every type you could imagine.

And what trip to a date shop is complete without some coffee and dates for the sampling?!?!

Mason, Nasser, and Richard.

We headed back outside. There were some gentlemen sitting around having some coffee and watermelon. Richard and Nasser joined them. I always feel uncomfortable photographing people, but Nasser had asked and encouraged me to....so I did.

The coolest thing they had in the vegetable souq was the bundled garlic bulbs. Omani garlic is very flavorful and delicious, yet quite expensive.

Clarissa took the little camera and took a ton of photos. Here are some of my favorites (she did great at getting down at different levels).

The Nizwa area is where most of Oman's pottery comes from. So naturally the souq had a lot of the the clay pots used for holding water, as well as decorative pots used with lights or as wall sconces.

We were quite tempted to get some as it was so beautiful but the transporting it back part deterred us.

There were also some colorful lanterns for candles.

The fortress is located past the souq and we finally made our way there.

Near the main entrance was a wall covered in solider doodles from days gone by.

The fortress had all the usual security features...gaps for hot oil pouring, spots to dump water to put our intruder fires on wooden doors, gaping pits going up the stairs (covered with boards that could be moved once breached and causing them fall down into the deep pits), height for spotting and firing cannons from intruders coming from outside the fortress.

Lots of stairs, we couldn't imagine running up them with armor and weapons. There was also a lot of rooms within the citadel and castle in the fortress - the map labels 64 rooms!

There was beautiful views of Nizwa. Nizwa was the capital of Oman multiple times from the mid 8th to mid 12th centuries, so the protection of the city was important.

Platform with ports for cannons (23 cannons could be shot from a 360° radius!). Above the platform was another platform for sentry to walk and fire shots hidden in the shadows.

The only thing we found along the platform was a bird!

Part of the fortress was a museum. There were some really old relics! If you can read the sign...these are everyday items from the Stone Age (7000-1000BC)!

In a courtyard of the fortress there were a couple Omani women preparing a traditional bread called khubz ragag. It is very thin and she topped Richard's with honey before folding it and Nasser had an egg cracked and cooked in it before folding his up.

The Nizwa fortress was really beautiful and massive. Between walking around the fortress and on the car rides, Nasser gave us a lot of information about Oman. We found out about the major invasions from Portugal and Persia and how the empire once spanned across modern day UAE, part of Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique!! Check out the map here!

After visiting Nizwa we headed through more mountains to the desert....so we have come to the conclusion of this part of our trip....stayed tuned for the next post on our adventures in the desert of Oman.

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