Welcome to the Murder Hole: Oman’s Nizwa Fort

Posted by - October 17, 2012 | Category: Escapes, Middle East, Oman

Nizwa Fort, Nizwa, Oman

Exterior of Nizwa Fort, Nizwa Oman

The fort in Nizwa, Oman is an imposing structure – circular gunnery, expansive courtyards, ominous murder holes. Wait now. Murder holes? I had never heard of the term before, so being the nosey Parker that I am, I had to investigate. And besides, if I was lucky, perhaps there would even be demonstrations. You know — infidels and ne’er-do-wells being snuffed out in the name of tourism, that sort of thing. Regrettably, the Omani people are much friendlier than that.

Nizwa Fort, castle in Nizwa, OmanNizwa Fort is castle in Nizwa, OmanInside, various displays showcase what Nizwa Fort looked like back in it’s 1650s heyday – including canned goods, jars of jam, and what appears to be a plastic toy telephone. (Actually, I’m just being a jerk — this is part of the display explaining the Nizwa souq, or market, which is located just outside the fort.) Muscat, Oman 110There are however a pretty hefty number of displays spread throughout the Exhibits Hall detailing the fort’s history and the story of the city of Nizwa.

Nizwa Fort Nizwa, OmanTraditional Omani dressMuscat, Oman 135

But it’s the murder holes that have piqued my interest.

Anatomy of a Murder Hole

So what exactly is a murder hole? Well, it’s a lot like you’d imagine.

The slit you see below at the top of the entrance to the fort is a murder hole (or meurtrière if you like) – one of five as you make your way up the winding staircase.

Murder Hole -- Nizwa FortLook Up -- Murder Hole sign, Nizwa Fort, Nizwa OmanBasically, boiling date syrup would be poured through the holes onto potential intruders, leaving them burned yet surprisingly tasty. Heavy objects (did they have anvils back then?) would then be dropped through the murder hole Wile E. Coyote-style to finish them off.

(click on any image to enlarge)

Murder Hole sign, Nizwa Fort, Nizwa OmanSign detailling murder holes at Nizwa FortNizwa FortLook Down -- Murder Hole sign, Nizwa Fort, Nizwa OmanAnd in the off chance that the murder hole didn’t get them, then the trap doors certainly would. (Sorry for the crap photo.)Trap door in stairwell, Nizwa FortThose of you who do make to the top (and you will – remember the murder holes ARE out of commission) will be met with some pretty nifty views of the gunnery, the town, and the Nizwa Friday Mosque.Top of Nizwa Fort, Nizwa, Oman

Nizwa Fort, Nizwa, Oman (2)Nizwa Fort, Nizwa, OmanView of Nizwa Mosque from Nizwa Fort, Oman

Nizwa Fort Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday, 9am – 4pm; Friday 8am – 11am

Admission price: Adults, 1 Omani Rial; Children, 500 baisa (no refunds if the murder hole gets you)

Have you seen any murder holes anywhere else in your travels?

Antique bed Hotel PhotoIf you’re planning to stay overnight in Nizwa, HotelsCombined takes the guesswork out of finding the best rate for your hotel room since it compares pricing across all the major hotel booking sites. 

Click here to see prices for hotels in Nizwa.


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32 comments - add one
  1. Hmmm that is the first I have heard of murder holes! I confess I am quite intrigued….. thanks for the post

  2. Does it have to be date syrup? What happens if you’ve already used it all up at breakfast. I could you could replace it with boiling maple syrup… or perhaps just some hot treacle…

  3. I always think that the Arab peninsula doesn’t have enough attractions–but this is really a beautiful/ although potentially deadly/ spot to visit. Guess you could call ahead on your plastic telephone to tell them you’re coming and you’re friendly.
    So what do they call the boiling oil spots in English and French castles?

  4. Wow, that was really beautiful and I love to visit that place very soon. They said that Oman has no place to visit but indeed there it is.


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