The historic town of Nizwa, two hours from Muscat along a good highway, lies on a plain surrounded by a thick palm oasis and some of Oman’s highest mountains. It forms a natural gateway to the historic sites of Bahla and Jabrin, and for excursions up Jebel Akhdar and Jebel Shams.
Only half a century ago, British explorer Wilfred Thesiger was forced to steer clear of Nizwa: his Bedouin companions were convinced that he wouldn’t survive the ferocious conservatism of the town and refused to let him enter. He’d have been amazed to find that Nizwa is now the second-biggest tourist destination in Oman. The seat of factional imams until the 1950s, Nizwa, or the ‘Pearl of Islam’ as it’s sometimes called, is still a conservative town, however, and appreciates a bit of decorum from its visitors.