Oman: Forts Anywhere You Look
Bahla is another fortress, also featured in UNESCO's world heritage list, worth a visit. When I mentioned to someone that I would travel to Bhala, they would always ask if I had heard anything of the fortress. I nodded and said it is a large fort. There would always be a follow-up question if I knew anything of jins. And I said that I knew them from fairy-tales. One shouldn't ridicule jins. I would get frowned looks and learn that Bhala is a place where they have strong power. They even constructed a large wall there over night. I learned that black magic is practiecd at Bhala including necromancy. So many Omanis avoid this place. I was there even at night and didn't spot anything unusual except for the fortress which is huge and made of stones and clay; still holds together.
Jabrin chateau is situated close to Bahla. This beautiful, three storey building was renovated and it features magnificent decoration. Those of traveling without any specific plan can stay over night on a parking lot by the chateau. Restrooms are opened all night long. Moreover, there is nothing except few palm trees around.
After I had visited couple of fortresses Oman already, I asked myself a question for whom these were built. I guessed that some were built to face the Persians. But I was wrong. Fortresses were built against neighboring village, tribe behind a hill, or other neighbors. This makes Jabrin a luxurious shelter for only several families could live here.
The Hajam mountain range begins behind Nizwa. Jabal Shams (3 009 m) is the highest mountain. If you don't have a car, somebody would surely take you there. There are several trek possibilities you can make and if you want to travel by car anyway, the roads are suited for 4x4 offroads. Well, to find such a car in Oman is not aproblem. There are two hotels in the mountains but don't expect reasonable prices. It is home of wild goats which look like middle-sized dogs if seen from distance. Moreover, you can spot her herds of wild donkeys. Don't worry though. The animals are very friendly.On the other hand, beware of snakes, they come out of their holes especially at night. They usually live near water. So, have a flashlight at night and beware of where you go. Take a close look of the irrigation system called falaj in the mountains. It is hundreds of years old and it perfectly distributes water from mountains springs to Omani gardens.
Nakhl hot springs (120 kms from Mascat) are another place worth your visit. As Oman experiences warm temperatures throughout the year, the local mountain range is rich on hot springs. There is a small swimming pool on one of the springs which makes it sort of natural jaccuzi. However, it is only accessible to men. Women are allowed to only put their legs into the stream flowing out of the jaccuzi. Fish that would bite off your old skin live in the water. You need to be quick, though. The Philippinos who work in Oman, go to this spring to catch the fish, fry them and eat them. Also, people use hot springs to wash their car (as witnessed first hand).
GPS: (Bahla) 22°57'12.6"N 57°17'33.8"E
Text and photos: Eva Marková
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