We got to the huge parking lot about 8 and had a tough time even then finding a spot to park. The big draw for both locals and tourists was the weekly Goat Market when hundres of tradtionally clad Omani men come to trade goats, cows, and other livestock.
We knew we were headed in the right direction when we began to see goats being led to the parking lot.
Just a couple of minutes' away was the actual Goat Market itself. It consisted of a large covered area inside with an elevated, circular platform where many men stood. Men, up to three deep, also stood all the way around the elevated area leaving about a four foot wide area.
That empty space was where a steady stream of goat herders circulated with their goats in tow between the potenital buyers on the platform and those standing on the outer ring.
For me, the thrill was this quintessentially Omani spectacle which we would likely never have an opportunity to view again and that's what our trips or adventures are all about.
The man on the left was the goat herder hoping to entice the man on the right to buy his goat after the latter had 'inspected' it. Assessments of a goat's worthiness appeared, from an ignorant outsider's view, to be very quick and superficial.
I stayed on the periphery gazing in wonder at the spectacle in front of us for a good while. Then I was able to see a break in the passing of the goats and quickly darted to the other side so I could stand on the platform for a different view.
Bringing over a reluctant goat for inspection to a potential buyer:
This was the only Omani woman we saw at all at the market. Look at her very different facial covering. More about that later...
A huge thrill of the entire experience for me was beig able to take photos of some of the participants in the market. Very few of the men had a head covering like this man.
I stood entranced for a good hour or so at the market and could have stayed for longer still. Steven, however, wisely said we needed to move on as there was still so much more to see here in Nizwa and we still had many more places to stop before the end of the day.
The Goat Market was just one small part of Nizwa's Friday Market. It was fascinating strolling among the farmers selling their crops in the open air.
The air was redolent with men selling garlic here.
There was also a good-sized enclosed market area but it was mostly empty - I think we had gotten there too late.
In the souk's central square there were displays of pottery from the nearby town of Bahla which we had visited yesterday.
If you've been reading a lot of these posts, you know by now that two of the markets listed were of particular attraction to me: the crafts and the date market!
I can't remember the last time we saw gun shops. These ones were packed to the gills, I noticed.
Small intricately carved wooden chests were a popular item for sale.
An entire store selling nothing but dates: how could we go wrong?! We just needed to find it.
Lots of men gathered around about twenty or so men selling guns in the open air just outside the shops.
Photos of Oman's leader, Sultan Qaboos, were everywhere in Oman, even in the souk.
This souk provided a much clearer idea of what Nizwa formerly looked like with tiny shops clustered beneath crumbling mud brick arches and a makeshift corrugated-iron roof propped up on weathered wooden beams. Steven and I always preferred seeing the original, rather than the sanitized, versions of a city's or country's past.
We were welcome to sample each of them. Most were mouth-watering moist and gooy but others I found very dry and not enjoyable. Steven doesn't care for dates like I do so he wasn't as tickled being in the date shop as I was. I was a little disappointed when I told one of the men which types I wanted to buy and he reached up and took down a half kilo, pre-packaged bag of each rather that getting them from the open containers. I haven't opened them yet so hope they are as fresh and yummy as I remember their being when we get home. Ivy: Any chance you will 'help' me eat some too?
If I had thought before I was like a kid in a candy store, I realized I really was when Steven pointed out this display of individually wrapped dates covered with chocolate, almonds and everything else you could imagine.
I nicknamed this man as Mr. Date as he knew everything there was to know about dates.
I had reached my own nirvana after sampling a chocolate-covered date. Of course, I had to buy some of those too. (Even though they were exposed to extreme heat in the car over the next couple of days, the chocolate surprisingly never melted. What a waste that would have been!)
I would have given my eye teeth to have brought home some of the date syrup but I just had visions of the plastic jar opening up in my bag over the next six weeks of our trip.
Nizwa Fort was built over a period of 12 years by Imam Sultan bin Saif in the late 17th century. Nizwa's importance in the long struggle between Muscat and the Interior was reflected in the fort which was built as a residence and administrative center for the Imams. The massive, 110 foot high, circular tower was built with foundations sunk to an additional 90 feet to withstand vibrations of mortar fire.
The Date Store: Just like at Oman's Jabrin Fort which we had visited yesterday afternoon, Nizwa Fort had prodigious quantities of dates stored inside the castle as a defensive measure against a long siege. There were two date stores at Nizwa. This store or room, the smaller of the two, could accommodate a mind boggling 2.5 metric tons of dates at one time.
In peacetime the date juice was used in the kitchens but when danger threatened, it was heated in large copper boilers and made ready to pour on attackers through 'murder holes' located above strategic doorways in the fort and castle.
The Ablution Room or the area where people would wash up. I had only ever seen that term used in a religious context before as in the ritual washing of arms, legs, etc before entering a mosque.
This and adjacent rooms served as accommodation for the 'shawi' or shepherd who used to take the Imam's goats out to graze every day at sunrise. The shawi also gathered up any stray animals and kept them until they were collected by their owners. Any unclaimed animals were sold at auction at the souk with the proceeds helping needy people in the area.
Fonds are lashed together to construct summer houses, livestock pens, fences and sun shades.
Fruit stalks have flexible branching stems that are used as simple brooms or rakes. The woody portion of the stalk is split into thin strands to make coiled baskets.
Date fruits, apart from being eaten or exported, are used as animal fodder and as a curing agent in leather tanning and indigo dyeing.
Palm fiber is plied into rope and twine and used to make saddle padding for donkeys, filters for coffe pots, scouring pads and tinder for the lighting of fires.
Trunks are split lengthwise into quarters for ceiling rafters and cross sections serve as stands for water jars. Surplus wood is used as fuel for firing pottery and boiling dates, wheat and halwah.
Copper was shipped to Mesopotamia in the form of bun-shaped ingots created by simply pouring molten copper into depressions in the earth. These examples, believed to be 4,000 years old, were found near Bahla where we were yesterday.