CULTURAL OASIS

Oman 2016 | TOURISM | FOCUS: NIZWA

Nizwa is not only one of Oman's oldest cities and finest cultural treasures, it also sits on a crucial domestic trade route and now forms a key part of the country's industrial matrix.

Nizwa is the most important stop on the route from Muscat to Dhofar, and has historically been a center for Islamic learning and trade. The city is home to Nizwa Industrial Estate, proving its continued relevance to the economic life of the country. Traditional industries also thrive in Nizwa, and the hub is an important center for date growing, with date palms a common sight in the surrounding countryside.

Nizwa used to be the capital of the Oman as far back as the sixth and seventh centuries, and the presence of mosques as old as the So'al Mosque, built in the ninth century, highlights how significant the town was in Islam's formative years. Indeed, Nizwa is the Islamic Capital of Culture for 2015, following on from the UAE's Sharjah in 2014. But the truest testament to the historic significance of Nizwa is the presence of Nizwa Fort, which was built in 1668 by Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya'rubi and remains one of the country's most treasured monuments. Other must-sees in the city include Nizwa Souq and Falaj Daris, the largest falaj, or underground channel, in Oman, without which Nizwa would never have had enough water to thrive. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has also left his mark on the city, transforming it since 1970 via the construction of a highway connections it to Muscat, as well as a series of hospitals and universities. During this time, Nizwa has also grown as a tourist destination. According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information, Nizwa Fort attracted 100,899 visitors in 2014, up from 97,608 in 2013, suggesting the future is bright for the tourism industry in the city.