Heading out of Muscat and towards Nizwa I frequently pass by the town of Fanja. It is somewhere that always intrigued me but as we are just passing I have never had the chance to stop and explore. This weekend I made the effort to get to know Fanja a little more and I’m really glad that I did.
Just 25km outside Muscat this is the first town in the Al Dakhiliyah region. It looks like any other little town, busy with hustle and bustle and a bit ugly to be honest. We’ve all seen it, too many laundry and barber shops dotted around, nothing too dazzling at first. But behind all the modern ugly buildings Fanja really is a hidden little gem. The beauty is there, you just have to look for it.
Heading straight through the town, passed the market place (souq) selling the traditional wares, over the valley bridge and towards the old town. I wasn’t following a map and didn’t know where I was going but I just knew there was something here that I wanted to find.
Crossing the bridge over the valley and turning right towards to hillside it wasn’t long before I came across my first fort. It was perched on the side of the cliff overlooking the valley (wadi) below. It was time to get out of the car and take a closer look.
Picture the scene.. Exploring an unknown fort, you come across an open door. You are all alone. The door is stuck open and inside its a small tunnel, you have to crouch down to fit, you see that it is dark and dusty, do you dare to go in?!
I managed to venture a few steps inside what felt like a rabbit hole that got narrower as I went before I noticed hundreds of little eyes staring at me, it was full of lizards. I made a swift retreat just incase there was anything nastier lingering inside waiting for me to arrive. That is where I draw the line.
My new aim for the trip was to get to the old village and castle on the hill. I could see it, I just couldn’t get to it easily. There are no road signs here and the roads get narrower with barely enough room to get a single car passed.
As I walked I had the chance to explore the farms and falaj irrigation systems that maintain these date palm farms.
I found a lovely polite local man who pointed me in the right direction and up the hill to find the most wonderful and intriguing old town perched high on the hill side.
Up high above the new town of Fanja lies the old castle and the almost abandoned village, despite being so close to the cliff side and on the verge of ruins there are still people inhabiting this settlement. They hang their clothes out to dry amongst the rubble of old buildings and live peacefully not ready to give up on their ancestral homes just yet.
Walking around and seeing how people live here after all these hundreds of years with only the basics I was amazed. It has plenty of rustic charm and was a real pleasure to explore.
It took a bit of clambering up a rock face but it was worth it, Isn’t this view amazing? I knew that Fanja wouldn’t disappoint me.
Have you been to Fanja? Where was the last place you explored?
How to get there- Drive out of town on the Muscat to Nizwa road for about 25kms and take the right turn off the highway at the Fanja sign, follow the road through the town passing the police station and market, go over the valley bridge and take the next right, follow the road passing the fort on your right, the road gets narrow you might want to park the car here and explore on foot, take a left at the small convenience store, turn right at the junction and follow the hill up and up until you see the gate way to the old town with the painting of the Sultan.