Inland from Muscat, Highway 15 winds up into the craggy Hajar mountains, Oman’s geological backbone, which extend all the way along the east coast of the country, from Sur to the Musandam Peninsula. The region southwest of Muscat is home to the Hajar’s highest and most dramatic section, often described as the Western Hajar, or Al Hajar al Gharbi (as opposed to the somewhat lower and less extensive Eastern Hajar, covered in chapter five). The area is also sometimes referred to as Al Dakhiliya (literally, “The Interior”), one of the seven administrative regions into which Oman is divided and which encompasses the towns and mountains of the Western Hajar, as well as a large swathe of desert to the south.
The main focus for most visits to the region is the famous old town of Nizwa, the pre-eminent settlement of the Omani interior and formerly home to the country’s revered imams. Nizwa also provides a convenient base from which to explore other attractions around the hills, with its mix of rugged mountainscapes and dramatic wadis along with historic old mudbrick towns and idyllic date plantations bisected with traditional aflaj. Leading attractions include the spectacular massifs of the Jebel Akhdar, east of Nizwa, and Jebel Shams, to the west, the highest summit in Oman. There are also memorable traditional villages at Al Hamra and Misfat al Abryeen plus a number of the country’s finest forts, including those at Bahla, the largest in the country, and Jabrin, perhaps the most interesting.