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TOURING ANCIENT FORTS in OMAN:
This Country Has Every Kid's Dream -- 500 Forts.
There are Cannons, Swords, Trapdoors & Secret Tunnels !


By John Hessburg, General Manager
U.S. Dive Travel Network


© Copyright U.S. Dive Travel. All rights reserved.


If somebody gave you a crisp one riyal bill for every fort in Oman, you easily could buy a round-trip air ticket from the USA to this nation on the Arabian Peninsula.

OK, here's the punchline: One riyal is worth about USD $2.70; & there are more than 500 forts in Oman. So the math falls into place nicely. Along with the ornately tiled domes & minarets of its many mosques, the forts in Oman are as much a symbol of their national character as the Statue of Liberty is in America. You really must take a day or two to wander these amazing monuments to ancient ways; you'll never regret the time spent. Our savvy tour partner in Oman, Brigitte Wensauer, is deeply versed in the details of Omani history; & I found her fort tours to be a happy chapter in my Oman experience. Brigitte has a memory like a Cray computer, & she knows these forts inside & out. To come to Oman & not take in a couple prime forts is like visiting Paris & spending a full day in the Louvre Museum with a grocery bag over one's head. ("But how do you really feel about this, John?")

Ancient forts in Oman: fun, affordable, exotic side tours.
Expert fort guide & Oman historian, Brigitte Wensauer.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.

500 ancient forts in Oman, exciting day tours.
Approaching one of Oman's most famous forts, Nakhl.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.


Some Omani forts are single watchtowers jutting from city walls, but many are enormous structures -- built like castles -- with turret walls higher than 6 stories & large enough interiors to provide food & shelter to an entire army & its support village. For more than 10 centuries, these forts were the Arabian equivalent of feudal English cities, built to protect food & water supplies, & to shield entire rural populations from predatory warlords.

Since 1976, the Sultan's government began the painstaking process of preserving these magnificent relics, some of which pre-date the 9th Century. So far more than 60 forts have been beautifully restored. Many of these still have original metal artifacts in place, plus old muskets hanging on the walls, & massive iron cannons still hulking in the same turrets where they boomed out their deadly payloads centuries ago.

Most of these forts have walls from 6-7 feet thick (2 meters), & gun towers up to 11 feet thick (3.5 meters). The towers were beefed up to withstand tremendous pummeling of enemy cannons, & also to absorb the vibrations of their own big guns. These forts are oftentimes much larger inside than they seem from the outside, with hundreds of intricate passageways, secret stairways, trapdoors, escape tunnels, secure rooms, airy sundecks on top & the obligatory creepy dungeons. Most of the Omani forts had their own wells, heavily-protected inside the innermost walls, in case enemies encircled them for a long siege.

Oman forts: Nakhl Fort is one stellar day tour.
Battlement on the Nakhl Fort at high noon.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.

Nakhl Fort is a must-see on any Oman dive vacation.
View of the Hajar Mountains from Nakhl Fort.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.


These Oman forts are appealing in color, nearly all of them built with light yellowish-tan bricks, made from local stone, clay or mud. The brick was sloshed over with a desert-colored smooth stucco layer that was perfectly waterproof & architecturally graceful to the eye. Deep inside the forts, in an inner sanctum sanctorum, the air temps can be 20 degrees cooler than the outside, even at midday -- just like entering a refreshing cave.

Most Oman forts had specially protected sleeping & meeting rooms for the local "wali" or ruler of the region, & for the head Islamic teacher or "imam," plus segregated "majlis" areas for men & women (reception foyers). Nearly all the forts had mini-doors, a little over one meter high, inserted at knee level into the massive main doors, so that all visitors had to crouch down vulnerably before entering, one person at a time. That, of course, prohibited any sweeping influx of enemy troops. The outer gates were thick enough to repel days of direct cannon fire. They were huge palm log doors bolted together with brass or iron & fitted with ghastly spikes pointing outward.

Nakhl Fort, one of 500 ancient forts in Oman.
Vast date palm plantation once guarded by
legions of warriors in the Nakhl Fort.

© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.

Nakhl Fort, best of the old Oman forts -- great day tour.
Rooftop view of Oman's ancient Nakhl Fort.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.


One of the most fascinating fort features is their date storage rooms, which were piled more than 10 feet high & held so many tons of dried dates in burlap sacks that their own weight pressed out hundreds of gallons of sweet sticky syrup, which would flow down carefully engineered runnels into collection basins. This date juice could be used for nourishment, or for boiling to pour on the heads of attacking soldiers! Talk about a hideous flypaper demise.

Many of these Oman forts also have scores of little gun slits, & tightly angled windows, trained on the entryways or above the main gates, so that marksmen inside could rain down leaden hellfire upon any would-be invaders. If enemy troops took the wrong stairway, it would lead up a super-tight tunnel, up & up to a dark chamber then the floor would suddenly vanish, hurling those hapless soldiers off a parapet to their death. But not all the side chambers are so dreadful.

Some of these larger forts also have beautifully engineered "falaj" systems, like stucco aqueducts, that brought in fresh water from the mountainsides to sustain their crops & flocks. The bedrooms & meeting rooms were marvels of functional simplicity -- clean, full of fresh air & cozy as any modern apartment. This was good living, & to think it was centuries ago.

Nakhl Fort & Al Hazm Fort, fun, affordable side tours in Oman.
Brigitte Wensauer examines the date storeroom at Nakhl.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.


You can feel the energies of the ancient people who dwelled here; it's really palpable. And everywhere there's the subtle aroma of dates, palm thatch, the dust off desert sand, plus a hint of camel skin & salt from the Arabian Sea -- a glorious chorus of smells.

I got to spend most of one day touring two of Oman's most cherished national treasures, the forts at Nakhl & also Al Hazm, both within about 2 driving hours of Muscat. If you get to see these impeccable restorations, you will have an up-close look at the best & brightest of Oman's ancient monuments to its semi-feudal past. I recommend these Oman fort tours with full enthusiasm. Don't miss 'em.

( Check our Oman Prices webpage for some ideas about
exciting fort tours you can add onto your diving holiday. )

Nakhl Fort & Al Hazm Fort, superb, affordable day tours in Oman.
Our fort guide Brigitte shows where the old Omanis dined.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.


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FOR MORE INFORMATION or RESERVATIONS:

Please contact -- Susan & John Hessburg, Mgrs
U.S. DIVE TRAVEL Network
PMB 307 / Suite # 116
15050 Cedar Ave. S.
St. Paul, MN, USA   55124-7047

Voice Mail: 952-953-4124
E-mail: divetrip@bitstream.net

Website: www.usdivetravel.com

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Nakhl Fort & Al Hazm Fort, backroads gems in Oman.
Brigitte in her fiercest warrior stance.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.


IMPORTANT NOTE about PRICES & TARIFFS:

First things first for your Oman scuba diving holiday. Please remember that you will need to secure a formal visa from the Omani Consulate closest to your hometown, before you will be allowed entry into Oman. Visas for most U.S., Canadian & European citizens are very easy to secure, & take only a couple weeks. In many cases these entry visas can be picked up right when you arrive in Muscat the first day. The Oman Embassy staffers in Washington, DC are exceptionally gracious & helpful. They are geared up to encourage eco-responsible tourism; this is quite evident. Visa fees are nominal & paid via cashier's check to the Omani Embassy or Consul General nearest to you. Make sure you prepare well for your Oman scuba diving trip.

OMAN VISA PROCESS -- Passport & visa required for all tourists, & for all Oman vacations. Tourist/business visas for multiple-entry issued for stays up to 6 months & valid for 2 years. Both business or tourist visas require a special official application form & cholera immunization if arriving from infected area & a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of passport by mail. For transit & road travel, please check with the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 2535 Belmont Rd., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008 (202/387-1980, -1981 or -1982).

All package prices listed here for Oman diving holidays are subject to possible change in this steadily evolving travel market. Land prices are traditionally stable, while air prices may fluctuate for Oman dive vacations. Until air tickets are issued, all airlines reserve the right to change airfares without notice -- a longtime industry standard, per FAA rules. We at U.S. Dive Travel will price-protect you to the utmost of our professional ability; & that has been our pledge for one decade now. We normally secure excellent discount air tickets. Remember please, the federal government has deregulated airlines, so only they control their pricing -- not any travel professionals. But our lodging & Oman diving contracts are set for one year at a time, & therefore are rock solid nearly all seasons.

Unless specifically noted, these above packages are prices for only the land-based or vessel-based portion of your Oman scuba diving vacation, in most cases reflecting double-occupancy rooms. At most vacation resorts there will be no triple-occupancy rooms offered. Some exceptions may be noted. International air tickets & commuter "island-hopper" airfares are always extra above these land costs. Nominal service fees are also extra for air tickets & the lodging + diving components of all Oman dive vacations. The baseline tariffs for all clients start at $35 per person for the land portion + $20 pp for published-fare air tickets. Late-booking clients may receive slightly higher tariffs on the lodging + diving. Solo clients will always pay a single supplement to secure a private room on their Oman diving holidays -- normally 35% to 50% more -- & possibly a doubling of the standard double-occupancy rate at some resorts.

For our U.S. or Canadian clients, the preferred payment mode for all lodging, diving & side tours is by cashier's check or wire transfer in U.S. dollars. All clients living outside the USA or Canada will need to pay only via direct wire transfer in U.S. dollars -- no exceptions please. No personal checks or credit cards will be accepted for the lodging or land-tour portions of any Oman dive vacations, please. Thank you for your gracious understanding. Our service level is the highest & our prices the lowest in this industry, & thus we need to preserve a reasonable margin to keep the Ship of State afloat, thereby ensuring that your Oman diving holidays will be brilliant & affordable.

For published-fare air ticket bookings on your Oman dive vacations, USDT always accepts Visa & Mastercard, even from non-U.S. clients. For discount wholesale air tickets, however, USDT accepts only cashier's checks or wire transfers, please, since we are giving you exceptionally low net rates, below the lowest published discount fares available.

Remember, all Oman scuba diving clients will be asked by local officials overseas, upon departing the airport on your final day, to pay a nominal government departure tax, usually between USD $35 - $45 per client. USDT cannot collect this tax beforehand, so you simply pay it down there, in your host country. Be sure to stash away a little cash for this final moment at the airport, so you'll get your exit visa stamped quickly with no fuss; & away you go. Best of luck with your travel plans. We hope your Oman scuba diving vacation is a safe & satisfying adventure. Blessings & best wishes.

Best fishes too!

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John Hessburg, General Manager
Susan Hessburg, Operations Manager
Founding Partners of the U.S. Dive Travel Network.


Oman forts.
Mosque & fort
in old Rustaq.

© Copyright Werner Thiele.



© Copyright U.S. Dive Travel. All rights reserved.



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