My first venture outside Muscat is Nizwa, a historic town of over 110,000 people that was the capital in the 6th and 7th centuries. This oasis with a mountain background is prosperous and a must-stop on the typical road trip itinerary.
Tourists flock to the souq on Friday mornings to see the animal market in action. Goat and cattle are exchanged here by auction, while neighbouring modern buildings offer all sorts of different wares and delicious souvenirs.
Dates are plentiful in this country, and there are many kinds. Even my hotel had offered them as a snack to go along with a strong local coffee. The two must be enjoyed together.
The fancier packages that even supermarkets sell include additional ingredients to the date, such as a pistachio or other nuts.
Halwa is Oman's dessert, and plenty of shops offer a taste test of this very sweet dish. The saffron one was especially unique, and the merchants are very friendly to give you an explanation and not a bitry of their products. It doesn't need to be refridgerated, making transport fairly easy even on long-haul flights.
The produce sections were relatively less interesting after my halwa shopping spree.
A short drive away to the north, Falaj Daris Park is a good picnic and swimming spot to observe these groundwater channels that are used for irrigation.
I chose to live a bit better in this town, and the nicest hotel is in the outskirts. With a car, it's an easy drive.
Nizwa itself doesn't have that many attractions in town, but it is a good base to explore the region. The 2 forts west of town, Jebel Shams, and Jebel Akhdar are all within driving distance, so plan at least 2 nights here, or alternatively with a fatter budget, spend a night up in the mountains.