Rustaq as a city has maintained its old-world charm. Once the capital of Oman, it is full of historically significant forts and villages that visiting it earns one a profound insight into the changes that had swept the country. Located on the western side of the Hajar 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.
If you’re looking for a place to explore that combines historical attractions and a great outdoor setting, this is definitely the place to go. Here are five things to not miss when visiting Rustaq.
The Al Ramahi Heritage Shop
While this is a personal collection of the owner Hilal bin Mohammed al Ramahi, this heritage shop is breathtaking with all the unique items included in the collection. From old guns some of which are owned by renowned personalities in the GCC to hundred-year-old coins, trinkets and household items, Hilal can take you on an exciting journey behind each of the history of the items. The very accommodating Hilal will also regale you with his stories of how he started as a fruit seller to ultimately becoming a collector of ancient artefacts.
Located in Rustaq’s old market known as Abu Thamania, even the surrounding markets are fascinating to explore. 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 is 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 to 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. If you want to understand how the old Omanis live, this is one of the best places to start.
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 in the centre of the city, the hot spring is said to have therapeutic benefits and has been curing people for years now of 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 are 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 having 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.
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.
On our trip, one of our interesting finds is the tomb said to be that of the Al Saidi Estate — the grandfather of the late Sultan Qaboos. 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.