Rustaq as a city maintained its old-world charm. Once a capital of Oman, it is full of historically significant structures that visiting it earns one a profound insight into the changes that had swept the country. Located in the western side of the Hajjar Mountains, it is a city teeming with farms fed by constantly flowing falaj. It is the best place to witness the amalgamation of the old and the new and home to some of the sites that are currently on the Unesco Tentative list.
Oman Daily Observer has compiled the six things you should not miss doing when you find yourself exploring this place that served as the home base of Imam Nasser Bin Murshid al Ya’rubi when he embarked on a journey to unify Oman and repel the Portuguese from the country in the 17th century.
The Al Ramahi Heritage Shop
From old guns owned by the whos-who of the GCC in the recent past to hundred-year-old-coins to ancient trinkets and household items, Hilal bin Mohammed al Ramahi’s heritage shop located in Rustaq’s old market known as Abu Thamania is a good place to start your exploration of Rustaq.
The very accommodating Mohammed will regale you with his stories and will entertain you with his fascinating tale of being a fruit seller to ultimately becoming a collector of ancient artifacts.
If you are lucky, you’d get invited to Al Ramahi’s majlis in his house and will have an even better look at his pots of ancient coins and a more intimate look at his most prized collections.
The old-house turned museum
Bait al Garbi was a 200-year-old family home destined to be demolished but an entrepreneurial family member, Zakiaa bint Nasser al Lamki thought that she cannot allow all the family’s history go to waste that she went full-throttle to restore the house to its original glory and filled it with historical heirlooms.
With 14 rooms containing precious objects — from old books, swords, ancient coins and potteries, guests will also have an inclusive look into the family’s collection of aged perfumes, incense, bags, and trinkets.
Averaging a thousand visitor’s per month, Bait al Garbi is beginning to become of Rustaq’s must-visit attractions.
The hot spring in the middle of the city
People from far and wide come to Rustaq for the healing quality of Ain al Kasfa. Located at the dead centre of the city, the hot spring is said to have therapeutic benefits and has been curing people for years now from different diseases.
Although it is forbidden to swim at the main source of the spring — a pool of different hues of green — bathing areas are provided so people can enjoy its water in total privacy.
Ain al Kasfa is a real tourist trap during the winter season so be prepared for the influx of other tourists during the colder months.
Of castles and forts
Rustaq is synonymous with two of its impressive and historically significant landmarks — Rustaq Fort and Al Hazm Castle. A trip to Rustaq will not be complete without visiting these sites.
Both included in the Tentative List of the Unesco World Heritage Sites, they reveal a lot of things regarding the area and the dangerous and thriving time they were in.
Built by Imam Sultan bin Saif II in 1711 AD, Al Hazm Castle is a picture of intricacy — its wooden door, a real work of art and its halls and alleys filled with details of that era — an outstanding example of Omani Islamic architecture of the 18th century.
The massive Rustaq Fort, dated to had been built in the 13th century, offers an amazing 360 view of the area. With its many rooms all serving a specific purpose, don’t miss the chance to find out how the water is circulated within the fort. Be warned that exploration requires a lot of walking so come prepared.
Before you visit, make sure to check the timing as well so as not to waste a good day’s journey.
Wadis, farms and many more
Home to Wadi Bani Aouf, Wadi Bani Ghaffir and Wadi al Sahtan, Rustaq cannot be fully explored in one day. There are scenic farms scattered all over the city and if you are visiting here during the honey harvesting season, you can watch the beekeeping process as well as honey extraction being done by the locals.
In our trip, one of our interesting finds is the tomb said to be that of the Al Saidi Estate — the grandfather of His Majesty. Surrounded by a small, ancient mosque with a still working falaj flowing underneath it and planked by crumbling houses all around, we got encouraged to do more research to learn more about who was buried in the said tomb — proof that there is still more to discover about Rustaq.