Bahla is a fortified oasis town in Northern Oman, best known for its immense 14th-century fortress and for a unique style of pottery.
The fortress and the town are enclosed by the extensive remnants of a 12-km long fortified wall. Most buildings in the town are constructed of traditional mud brick, many of them hundreds of years old. The best view of the fortifications and the fortress can be had from just outside the western entrance, near the Jabrin junction.
Bahla is also known in Oman as Madinat Al Sehr ('City of Magic') due to its long association with djinn and sorcerers, an association continuing to the present day.
- Mandana Limbert, In the Time of Oil: Piety, Memory, and Social Life in an Omani Town. An in-depth examination of the many changes in Bahlawi life following the discovery of oil, based on the writer's year-and-a-half stay there in the late 1990s.
Bahla is bisected by Highway 21, about halfway between Nizwa and Ibri.
- Oman National Transport Company (ONTC), Alhuzaily Trading (Agent), ☎ +968 25 419313, +968 99 350922. Runs daily buses to and from Muscat via Nizwa.
- Bahla Fort, Hwy 21. F 08:00-11:00, Sa 08:00-16:00. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in the 13th and 14th centuries by the prosperous Bani Nebhan tribe when they dominated the region. The original, unaltered structure has stone foundations and walls of unbaked mud brick, and together with the rest of the town is a magnificent example of medieval southern Arabian architecture. After a twenty-year restoration effort, the fort is now partially open to the public for limited hours. There are a number of displays inside, but as yet few labels or descriptions. Free.
- Mosques of the Saints (Flying Mosques) (dirt rd off of Hwy 21, 0.5 km SW of the Shell petrol station). Three old mosques in an ancient cemetery mark the tombs of medieval Sufi hermits who were believed to be in communion with djinn. According to one old legend the mosque in the middle was flown in intact from Rustaq, nearly 90 km away.
- Jabrin Castle (5 km SW of Bahla). Sa-Th 09:00-16:00. This impressive fortress was originally built in 1670-1675 as a residence for Imam Sultan bin Saif Al Ya'arubi, and was a centre of learning for medicine, astrology and Islamic studies. Many rooms and balconies feature elaborately carved fixtures, and within the living quarters the ceilings are painted with flowers and other ornamental flourishes. The tomb of the Imam is also enclosed within the fort. 500 Bzs.
- Pottery workshops, Hwy 21 (a short distance W of Bahla Fort and the souq, along both sides of the road). Bahla's pottery is famed throughout Oman, and almost all households have at least a couple of Bahla pieces. The clay is from the wadi floor, and traditional kilns are still used. Pieces range in price from 100 Bzs for small bowls to OMR 12 for large decorative pots.
- Bahla Souq, Hwy 21 (across the road from Bahla Fort). A traditional souq, where you can find Bahla's famed pottery, along with other hand-crafted items. The tree in the small central courtyard marks the spot where a much older tree once stood; this older tree was believed by locals to be bewitched and was chained to the ground to prevent the djinn from flying off with it.
- Jibreen Hotel, Nizwa-Ibri Rd, Jabrin (by the Jabrin junction), ☎ +968 25 363340, +968 25 363371, fax: +968 25 363128, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Has clean, comfortable rooms. Rates include breakfast. OMR 25-45 (May-Sep), OMR 40-70 (Oct-Apr).