Al Rustaq (الرستاق) is a city in the South Al Batinah region, surrounded by the central Al Hajir mountain range and an abundance of date palm groves and Aflaj. The city came to the forefront of Omani history when Imam Nasser bin Murshid Al Ya’rubi started from here his conquest to unify Oman and repel the Portuguese from the country in the 17th century. Al Rustaq was also once the capital of Oman, and it has many attractions that should make it a much bigger tourist attraction!
Al Rustaq is famous for two impressive and historically important landmarks: Al Hazm Castle (حصن الحزم) and the imposing Al Rustaq Fort (قـلعة الرستاق).
Al Hazm Castle is at the outskirts of Al Rustaq and is one of the most famous castles in the Sultanate. The castle was built by Imam Sultan bin Saif II in the early 18th century, who is buried in this castle along with his son. Al Hazm Castle features a massive beautiful wooden door with intricate writing and it is unique among other Omani castles for having its roof held by columns instead of the traditional wooden roof supports. The massive Al Rustaq Fort, a much older fort dating back to the 13th century, is near the city market and be can be seen from the surrounding hills. The fort is cradled by four tall towers, the tallest being more than 18 meters tall. The fort also has its own falaj water system within it.
Both Al Rustaq Fort and Al Hazm Castle are included in the Tentative List to be nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage List. Unfortunately, they were both also closed for renovations during our visit (with typically no foreseen re-opening dates!), but if you climb up the mountain overlooking Rustaq you can see amazing views of the city and Al Rustaq Fort as it is clearly the most dominant feature of the landscape.
The Old Souq of Al Rustaq is located right next to Al Rustaq Fort but it was also undergoing renovations during our visit. Shoppers can go to the new temporary souq to buy locally made handicrafts, agriculture produce and pure Omani honey.
A popular destination in Al Rustaq is Ain Al Kasfa (عين الكسفة) hot water spring. The spring has naturally hot water and is visited for its therapeutic benefits due to its sulfur content. No swimming is allowed in the source of the water, but there are designated bathing rooms where the water of the spring is channeled for the public to use. However, do keep in mind that the place can be unusually crowded with people bathing in the rooms, and some even swimming in the spring (which is not allowed!), and it may not seem attractive to try it!
Al Rustaq is also known for its many wadis which adventure enthusiasts will greatly enjoy, some of these include Wadi Bani Aouf, Wadi Bani Ghaffir and Wadi Al Sahtan. Again, we didn’t get to visit them (yet!).
Places To Stay
There aren’t really many accommodation options in Al Rustaq, you may find the odd guesthouse if you search online but don’t expect much. However, due to its location you can easily just visit Al Rustaq in a day trip and go back to Muscat or Sohar. Also, the Millennium Resort in Al Mussanah is about 55 KM away, and it would make a nice trip staying there prior to visiting Al Rustaq.
How To Get There
Al Rustaq is almost 150 kms away from Muscat, take the Batinah Highway from Muscat (which also takes you to UAE), and once you reach Mussanah, take a left turn and you are on your way to Al Rustaq.
View Al Rustaq in a larger map
At first glance, Al Rustaq may not seem as an attractive place to visit when compared to Nizwa or Bahla for example, but there are actually plenty of things to see and do, that we really think makes it an enjoyable place to visit!
Have you been to Rustaq? What are your favorite attractions there?