Barka is one of the various locations along the Batinah coast where you can catch the traditional Omani sport of bull-butting (which can also be seen in neighbouring Fujairah in the UAE). Unlike Spanish bullfighting, bull-butting is a bloodless contest between animals, rather than bull and matador. The sport is thought to have been introduced by the Portuguese, although its origins probably go back to antiquity, and appears to have roots in both ancient Persia and classical Greece.
Contests are between large Brahma bulls, traditionally fed up on a diet of milk and honey. Animals are matched according to weight and led into the area to do battle, at which point (all being well) they will lock horns – although some bulls just turn around and run away, frantically pursued by their owners. The winning bull is the one which either pushes the other to the ground or forces it to give up its ground. Most fights last less than five minutes, and ropes attached to the bull mean that they can be pulled apart (with difficulty – some of the bulls weigh around a ton) if things start turning ugly.
Meetings are held on Fridays during the winter months from around 4pm, lasting a couple of hours and attracting a good-natured, but exclusively male, audience. Contests alternate on a weekly basis between Sohar, Shinas, Barka and Seeb.
Barka’s bull-butting arena is on the northern edge of town. To reach the arena, turn left at the T-junction in the town centre and follow this road for around 3km; the low-walled enclosure is down the side road signed to the Barka Health Center.