Rustaq was the previous capital of the country of Oman before government and trade shifted to Muscat. As such, one may find in the district a wealth of cultural and historic artefacts of the country’s past in the form of human works, from forts to irrigation systems more than a millennium in age. This place is thus one of the premier destinations for a tourist in the country seeking to get a taste of Oman’s historic heritage in all its well-preserved glory.
The first place to go to in the district is perhaps Rustaq Fort, which is undoubtedly among the oldest fortresses in the country. Most of the fortresses in Oman are ones dating to the 16th century, having been built by the Portuguese, but this along with just a handful of others can be confidently dated to a time that is so far back into Omani history that it was before Islam even rose to be the main religion here. In fact, this fort was built well over a millennium before Al Hazm Fort (also in the district)-which was built in 1711.
The fort is quite marvellously preserved, not least because it was restored and renovated in the 1980’s. There are 3 storeys to the fort and it boasts four towers, one of which passes 18 metres in height. It is a commonly visited spot in Oman, but you have to be careful not to visit it on Fridays, or you shall not be allowed inside. Other days of the week are fine.
You can also head over to Hosn al Hazm, also known as Al Hazm Fort or Castle. This is another interesting and well-preserved specimen of fortress architecture. Perhaps its most intriguing feature is that the roof has no wooden joists at all. It also sports walls so thick they pass 3 metres in width at most spots and never go below it.
Then there is Falaj al Myassar, one of the aflaj named in the UNESCO World Heritage list due to its marvellous preservation of an irrigation system over 2 millennia old. Several thousand people are dependent on this particular aflaj for their irrigation and the aflaj itself goes as far as 50 metres underground, a true triumph of human engineering.
Natural attractions are to be found in Rustaq as well. There is an unbelievable oasis near it that has springs flowing at all times of the year and a gorgeous waterfall: Wadi Al Hawqayn. Viewed from the downstream side, the waterfall-which is wider than it is high-presents some fantastic opportunities for photography, especially with its background of palm fringes on the sides and mountainous horizon at the top. This wadi is merely 40 kilometres away from Al Rustaq. You can also go to the even closer Ayn al Kasfah springs, whose waters are often at about 113 degrees Fahrenheit and boast a pleasantly sulphurous, cleansing feel. Fruit growers and apiarists abound too. In short, Rustaq is truly a marvellous spot in the country, one where the traveller can not only enter millennia-old structures not yet reduced to ruins, bathe in healing waters, and feast on some of the purest honey in Oman.