It’s around 140km from Muscat to Nizwa, an easy drive along the fast, modern Highway 15 which is now dual-carriageway virtually the whole way – a fine drive up into the mountains, or an even more exhilarating downward swoop when descending from Nizwa towards the coast.

The route covered by the modern highway is one the most significant in Omani history, winding through a gap between the towering uplands of the Jebel Akdhar on one side and the more modest peaks of the eastern Hajar on the other. This was once perhaps the most important commercial conduit in the country, and the principal trade artery between the highland capital of Nizwa and Muscat on the coast, ­its former importance signalled by the extraordinary surfeit of forts, watchtowers and fortified settlements which still flank the modern highway. These include the massed watchtowers and hilltop village of Fanja, the fort at Bidbid, the walled town at Izki, and the oasis-smothered valley and massed fortifications of Sumail, all of which offer rewarding diversions from the main road up into the hills.

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