Girlfriends are the best thing that could ever happen to a woman. They work the magic of a hot soup on a really crummy, cold and lonely day. It so happens that every where I go, I find myself amazing female company. Our friendship has a very predictable graph: We start from becoming good friends, to confidants, to annoying mates, before we eventually take on the role of soul sisters, who can read each others’ mind without even having to spell it out . In Muscat, where I have been working for the last two years and where, I am currently enjoying the last leg of my calm sabbatical from the crazy life in Mumbai, I have enjoyed the love and friendship of so many girlfriends that I can’t really complain. So this weekend, when I decided to take off on a sudden trip to visit the Nakhal Fort, which is a decent 90 minute drive from Oman’s capital city of Muscat, I knew that there would be no better person to have alongside me, than one of my closest girlfriends – Sajini. The two of us have been planning a long drive out of town since time immemorial. That we decided on a trip only now is a pity. But, better late than never. And to club this drive with fort-spotting….how awesome could that get?
We started the trip quite early for a sleepy Friday. Our early was supposed to be 7.30 am, but we eventually bargained on 8 am. Still groggy from my previous night’s running nose-infused insomnia, I reached Sajini’s home, where I left my car (Jake) and hopped into Sajini’s Mazda. It was my second time driving her car, and boy, I’m still trying to get used to controlling the breaks, especially at those jolting humps. Now both of us did not know where this place was, and since we are so technology-unsound, we didn’t even try relying on Google Maps. That’s how we went ahead of our destination, missing it once, before we drove back again.
For the uninitiated, Nakhal is a small town in Oman and is accessible from Muscat’s highway, if you take the road heading towards the coastal city of Barka. It can be reached after taking the left from the roundabout near Barka’s Lulu Hypermarket. From here, a decent 20 minute-drive takes you to Nakhal, known mostly for its spring – said to have healing powers – and the fort, which was on our itinerary. With my love for history and everything old, I managed to convince my friend to be part of my fort-spotting shenanigans. And should I say, she wasn’t the least bit disappointed when she saw the towering fortress that sat atop the hill.
The monument has a history dating back to the pre-Islamic Period, but it was extended in the early 1800s and ever since it has continuously been re-modelled. The Nakhal fort gets its name from nakl (meaning palms). Not surprisingly, a thicket of palm trees encircle the fort. The stone castle stands out from its counterparts because it was built on a jagged peak. Whosoever had the architectural genius to build this structure ensured that the rocks naturally found its way into the interiors of the building. It appears like the fort was built around the existing rocky terrain, rather than the other way around.
However, what I liked most about this site was that its many tiny-little rooms gave you a sense of the times and the lives of the people who occupied it. The men’s majlis (sitting area) for instance was decorated with rifles and a widespread rug with vibrant, colourful seating. The women’s room, interestingly, had been embellished with hand-painted chinaware, antique utensils and mirrors. What particularly caught my interest was what I assumed was an escape pit, which opened into a disconcerting craggy gateway below. One would land down with broken bones and that I was certain of.
Sajini and I took our time out experimenting with my new Canon EOS750D, and here I must say, how much I am in love with the DSLR already. We couldn’t get enough of ourselves, and the gorgeously-shaped arches that made for the perfect backdrop for our photographs, just bolstered us to indulge further. Masoud, who resides in Muscat, and handles the ticketing at the fort (500 Baiza per head) also became a willing subject for my DSLR. Having said that, it was such a wonderful morning that we girls nearly lost track of time. With a gazillion things to do back home, we left Nakhal just before noon.
You know how sometimes that smile just refuses to leave your face. I was told that it happens when your mind is happy and your heart is happier. I definitely won’t rule that out. But whoever said that, forgot to mention that you are the happiest, when you are left to your own devices in a spectacular place with beautiful company. That’s when you, undoubtedly, smile the widest.
A photographic narrative of Nakhal Fort: