Nizwa is the largest city in the Ad Dakhiliyah Region in Oman and was the capital of Oman proper. Nizwa is about 140 km (1.5 hours) from Muscat. The population is estimated at around 700,000 people including the two areas of Burkat Al Mooz and Al Jabel Al Akhdar.
Nizwa is one of the oldest cities in Oman and it was once a center of trade, religion, education and art. Its Jama (grand mosque) was formerly a center for Islamic learning. Nizwa acquired its importance because it has been an important meeting point at the base of the Western Hajar Mountains. Set amid a verdant spread of date palms, it is strategically located at the crossroads of routes linking the interior with Muscat and the lower reaches of Dhofar thus serving as the link for a large part of the country. Today, Nizwa is a diverse prosperous place with numerous agricultural, historical and recreational aspects. Nizwa is a center fordate growing and is the market place for the area.
Nizwa was the capital of Oman in the 6th and 7th centuries AD. With its deep connection to the root of Islam, Nizwa possesses a number of renowned mosques, such as Sultan Qaboos Jama (Friday mosque), So'al Mosque built in the 2nd century AH (9th century AD), Ash-Shawathinah Mosque in Uqr and Ash-Sharja Mosque. There are also Al-Ain Mosque, Ash-Sheikh Mosque and Shuraij Mosque in Tanuf built in 377 AH (around 1,000 AD).
In the early 1950s the large round tower of the ancient fort built around 400 years ago in the center of the town was bombed and rocketed by the British Royal Air Force who were called in to assist the then reigning Sultan, Said bin Taymour in suppressing a revolt by leaders of the interior Imamate of Oman. The conflict was driven by a struggle for shares in the newly discovered oil wealth.
Nizwa has become a more modern city since 1970 under the reign of Sultan Qaboos. Improvements include connections to Muscat via a two-lane highway which has increased tourism. Communications have been improved to include broadband access and there is a substantial hospital. It is also a hub for education including a Technical College, College of Applied Sciences, The University of Nizwa, and the training academy for the Royal Oman Police. There are now four hotels and tourism is promoted in the area.
The main tourist attractions in the city are Nizwa Fort, the traditional Souq and Falaj Daris. In the 1990s, the Jama, the fort and the souq which sit next to each other in the centre were renovated using the same traditional materials. In 1993 Nizwa won the award of 'Organisation of Arab Cities'.
Main article: Nizwa Fort
Nizwa fort was built in the 1668 AD by Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya'rubi. It is Oman's most visited national monument. The fort was the administrative seat of authority for the presiding Imams and Walis in times of peace and conflict. The main bulk of the fort took about 12 years to complete and was built above an underground stream. The fort is a reminder of the town's significance through turbulent periods in Oman's long history. It was a formidable stronghold against raiding forces that desired Nizwa's abundant natural wealth and its strategic location at the crossroads of vital routes.
The city, famous for its handicrafts and agricultural products, has an expansive souq with an array of products. It is one of the most important in the country besides Muttrah. The souq bustles with vendors selling everything from meat, fish, fruits and vegetables to spices, dates, gold and silverware. Nizwa is renowned for its silver jewelry which is considered to be the best in the country. Its people are masters in Khanjar making (curved dagger), recognised for its distinctive style and patterns. They also make copper ware, coffee pots, swords, leather goods and pottery.
Falaj Daris (a World Heritage Site) is the largest falaj in Oman and is the life maintainer of Nizwa. It provides the surrounding countryside with much needed water for the plantations. Al Ghantuq and Dhoot are two other important falajs in Nizwa. Farming is widely practiced and the town's immense palm farms stretches for eight kilometers along the course of two wadis (Kalbouh and Al Abiadh). Also in practice are red sugar processing and hide tanning.