Nizwa, Oman: the Gateway to Ancient Arabia

Located just under 90 miles from Muscat in the heart of Oman is the historic city of Nizwa. The city dates back to at least the 6th century and is famous for its rich cultural heritage and history. It’s also one of Oman’s oldest cities and was a center for trade, education, art, and religion.

From stunning forts and ancient mosques to bustling souks and traditional restaurants, Nizwa offers a unique blend of history, heritage, and culinary adventures. As you explore the city’s winding streets, you’ll find yourself transported back in time to a world where the pace of life is slower, and the people are warm and welcoming.

I got to explore Nizwa back in the spring of 2022 with my guides at Oman Travel. With them, I was able to discover the hidden gems that make Nizwa a truly enchanting destination. These are the top things to see and do in Nizwa, Oman!

Visit Nizwa Fort in Nizwa, Oman

No visit to Nizwa is complete without visiting the city’s most famous landmark, Nizwa Fort. Built in the 1650s, the fort served as a military stronghold and played a significant role in defending the city against invaders. Inside is a museum that showcases Omani history and culture, with exhibits on traditional clothing, weaponry, and crafts.

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The interior of Nizwa Fort in Nizwa, Oman | David's Been Here

Visitors can also climb to the top of its cylindrical defense tower and enjoy panoramic views of the city, including the nearby souq, and the distant mountains. If you get hungry while exploring, you may find a vendor outside grilling rakhal, a crispy flatbread containing eggs, sour cream, and honey. Visiting the fort costs 2 OMR for locals and 5 OMR for non-locals.

Explore Nizwa Souq

Lying in the shadow of Nizwa Fort is another of the city’s top attractions, Nizwa Souq. This market is one of the oldest souqs in Oman and is one of the best places in town to meet friendly locals, people watch, and learn about the local culture. There, you’ll find shops and vendors selling jewelry (including charms and bangles) and clothing, as well as daggers, pendants, incense holders, pottery, and lamps.

A shop selling pottery in Nizwa Souq | David's Been Here

My personal favorites were the handmade daggers. The craftmanship used to make them blew my mind. Two of the most impressive items I saw were an elaborate silver dagger that cost $700 USD and an breathtaking silver sword. It’s a fantastic place to buy souvenirs, so be sure to bring some money and support the locals!

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Taste Omani Sweets at a Halwa Market

Travelers with a sweet tooth, rejoice! One of my favorite spots I visited in Nizwa, Oman was a local halwa market. Halwa is a thick, dense, and sticky Middle Eastern dessert made with wheat flour, nuts, ghee or butter, sugar or honey, and spices, including cardamom, saffron, and cinnamon.

Several varieties of Omani halwa | David's Been Here

At Saud Al Subhi Sons, visitors can sample a variety of flavors, including camel milk, brown sugar, frankincense, saffron, and special halwas. The camel milk is particularly noteworthy for its sweet and heavenly taste, while the frankincense has a nuttier flavor. I loved their unique “special halwa,” as well as their one-of-a-kind version of Nutella, which contains black pepper, honey, and cardamom.

Sweet and sticky Omani halwa | David's Been Here

Another destination in the market is Al Saifi, where their special halwas are a must-try. The walnut halwa is soft and flavorful, while the date syrup halwa is stickier. The fig halwa contains seeds but still has a great taste. However, the honey halwa reigns supreme as the best option. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but even I couldn’t stop trying them!

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Enjoy Traditional Food in Nizwa, Oman

When you’re ready for a proper, sit-down meal in Nizwa, I highly recommend Nizwa Al-Khair Restaurant. Their menu offers a variety of dishes ranging from chicken to tuna, but we decided to go big and try something exotic – camel meat with bones in rich gravy!

Camel meat meal with kabuli, lamb, and salad | David's Been Here

I paired it with some lamb and kabuli, a rice dish with chickpeas and onions. The salad they served us was a delightful blend of arugula, tomatoes, onions, and chilies. But let’s talk about the star of the show – the camel meat. It was slightly gamy and lean, but oh so delicious! The rice with chickpeas and onions complemented it perfectly.

Camel meat and rice | David's Been Here

I couldn’t resist mixing in the salad and sauces to create a flavourful medley with the camel and rice. The lamb was also a showstopper with its juicy and fatty texture, and the biryani was a hit too. Best of all, it only cost us about $15 USD!

Explore an Ancient Mud Village

Another historical treasure in the Nizwa, Oman area is Harat Al Siybani. This abandoned historical village is made up of crumbling mud ruins on the side of a hill. They include roughly buildings and the remnants of old houses. Situated on a hill, the settlement was last rebuilt in the 17th century. Visitors can enter the village through a huge arch door, where they’ll find a signboard detailing the city’s history.

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Harat Al Siybani village near Nizwa, Oman | David's Been Here

I enjoyed exploring the winding lanes of Harat Al Siybani. I couldn’t help but marvel at the village’s architecture, including its old irrigation canals and the staircases between homes. But the highlight of my visit was hiking to its highest point at the top of the hill, where you can enjoy stunning views over all of Nizwa!

Book a Trip to Nizwa, Oman

With roughly 72,000 residents, Nizwa may be a small city that’s easy to overlook. But it’s actually a culture and heritage stronghold that offers a valuable glimpse into Oman’s past.

Standing at the top of Harat Al Siybani | David's Been Here

Between the city’s impressive fortress, immersive souq, and wonderful food, Nizwa is very much a gem hidden in plain sight. It has much to offer any traveler, and is a privilege to explore. Book a trip to experience the wonders of Nizwa, Oman today!

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