What was once a major sea port and trade center of the gulf is now a sleepy town called Barka on the Omani coast. There is a large fish market and an old souk to explore, as well as the impressive Barka Fort, sitting right on the ocean. Dating back to the 17th century, the fort was built to defend against Persian and Portuguese invaders of that time. From the fort and large octagonal tower, you can get expansive views of the rest of town, the date palm groves below and the blue waters of the Gulf of Oman.
Barka is also famous for its halwa, a traditional Omani sweet, and its bullring in the center of town, making it a popular place to watch bull-butting, a non-violent sport between two large bulls bred by Brahmin. Barka is a laid-back place steeped in Omani tradition and culture.
Barka is located about 80 kilometers (40 minutes via car) west of the Muscat airport. To reach the town, take the roundabout by the big Lulu hypermarket and drive for 4 kilometers to the T-intersection at the middle of town. The Barka Fort is open Sunday to Thursday from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm with an admission fee of 500 baisa. Bull-butting usually takes place on Fridays only.