Bahla: Two Castles and a Souk


Sultanate of Oman

January 30, 2015

As I drive through the mountains on my way to the north coast beach resort  of Sohar, I visit two castles and a market.

The castles are described in my guidebook and clearly marked on my map.  I find the market (souk) by “accident.”   It is the best site of the day.

The Bahla souk is traditional - the buyers and sellers are all men and boys.  On offer are the common fruits and vegetables: carrots, huge cabbages and assorted greens.  Watermelons are plentiful.  But the market specializes in fresh fish.  In a large open-air shed, the fish butchers slice up and weigh the steaks from lengthy bloody carcasses.

Apparently, very few foreigners visit this local market.  I am an oddity here but a welcome one.  The fish mongers and the green grocers are happy to pose for me.  They even jostle with their colleagues to pose with me.   

The castles are fine and worth the visit.  But for me, the market, any market, is just plain fun!

Jabrin Castle.   “Rising without competition from the surrounding plain, Jabrin Castle is an impressive sight….and one of the best preserved and most whimsical castle of the area.”

“Built in 1675 by Imam Bil-arab bin Sultan, it was an important centre of learning for astrology, medicine and Islamic law.” *  

*Oman, UAE & Arabian Peninsula.  Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. Sep 2013. pg 170

Bahla is an ancient oasis in the Dakhiliya region of Oman that was famous for its fertility and its pottery. The entire oasis was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987, making it the first such site in Oman.

Bahla Fort is one of four historic fortresses situated at the foot of the Djebel Akhdar highlands in Oman. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries when the Oasis of Bahla was prosperous under the control of the Banu Nebhan tribe. The fort's ruined odobe walls and towers rise some 165 feet above its sandstone foundations.  Restoration began in 1987 and was complete in 2004.