So our next excursion was to Nizwa. Our hosts were emphatic that we should go early Friday morning and see the goat auctions at the Suq. There was a plan amongst the group to try to buy a goat ourselves for a house pet, but that fell through pretty quickly. I’m sure it provided valuable haggling experience for group members looking for it, but I think it might have been for the best. Besides limiting exposure to livestock, I don’t know how long responsibility for the goat would have been shared. I definitely wouldn’t want to be the one stuck on goat duty for the rest of our stay.
Other than the auctions, the Suq was a pretty interesting experience in general. I didn’t end up buying anything this time around, but sifting through shops in the alleys of Nizwa was kind of fun. The contrast between old school bags of spices and pulses and shops boasting refrigerated was striking, and there were all kinds of ‘handmade’ goods. I’m sure a lot of the craftier stuff was handmade by Omanis, but there was definitely some Made in China products as well. It seemed large at the time, but later adventures in other Suqs showed me that Nizwa was actually middling at best.
One thing I noticed about the stalls is that many carry the exact same items. I’m sure there is some competition in price that differentiates different stalls at different times, but I also wonder how much of their business is from repeat customers. How many of the stalls rely on long term relationships with customers and how far do those relationships go back? I imagine location and visibility are also quite important.
After the Suq, we visited the Fort at Nizwa. Its a pretty big castle, but what’s really interesting is that you can tell it was built as a military fortress rather than some rich lord’s private mansion like a lot of the castles in Europe. The layout of the fort is incredibly confusing so that even if attackers breached the walls, it’d be difficult for them to even navigate the castle. Many of the halls are narrow to be used as chokepoints and in a lot of cases the windows are extremely narrow downward facing arrow slits. One of the exhibits talked about how instead of boiling tar, they would pour boiling date syrup from their date stores on attackers from murder holes. In addition to date storage, the castle was actually built on an underground river so that it had access to a water source in case of siege.
Nizwa used to be the capital of Oman and I think that the fort might have been a factor in that. Having an impregnable fortress on your side give you an edge in holding power against rivals I’d imagine. Nizwa itself has a pretty decent population, according to Wikipedia its around 700,000, but I would have guessed it would have been substantially less. I’m guessing that figure includes some of the surrounding areas. There’s also a university there, a good number of our Omani language partners study there.
The last thing we did in Nizwa was visit Falaj ad-Daris which is the largest Falaj in Oman and the third largest in the Middle East. It provides irrigation for much of the surrounding area. There’s not a whole lot else to say about it, but that the area around it is beautiful.