Located on the Persian Gulf near the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the Sultanate of Oman is much more than deserts, camels and heat. A wide range of activities offers something for everyone.
Camping in the desert or on the mountain, snorkeling and diving in clear turquoise water, and learning dune bashing are just a few of the possibilities. You can also walk through the old villages and take pictures of the old traditional wooden doors.
Oman is known for its hospitality and friendly people, so don’t be surprised if someone offers you coffee/tea and desserts along the way.
Many people come to the capital, Muscat, and then move south to the coastal areas. However, a place worth visiting with its museums, mountains and nature is Rustaq, just an hour north of Muscat.
HERE ARE 8 THINGS YOU MUST DO IN RUSTAQ
1. WADI HQAIN
After the rain, this Wadi Rustaq has turquoise and cobalt blue water. To get to the swimming areas you have to navigate around the rocks.
The route is easily marked with white, yellow and red painted flags that you can follow. As you walk, you can admire the natural beauty of the lush green trees and farmland around you. When you get to the water, you will find several pools where you can swim. The distance is 10-20 meters per swimming section.
If swimming the whole way doesn’t sound appealing, go to the right side of the first pool. Follow the tickets until you get to the premises. Just after the last farm is a path that descends to a small pool where you can swim.
If you decide to swim in all the pools along the way, the trip will take about three hours. Walking to the farms without swimming takes about an hour and a half. The level is considered easy. Organized group tours have life jackets.
2. AYN AL KASFA HOT SPRING
After walking through Wadi Hoqain, head to the hot spring to relax in the 85-90 degree water. This hot spring removes all aches and pains.
First, there is a small section for men and women known as the family section. Then there is a section just for men. It is about 20 kilometers from Al Hazm Castle or 43 kilometers from Hoqain.
3. QASRA MUSEUM
Take a step back in time when you enter this traditional, self-styled mud house in Rustaq. The house has been converted into a museum to preserve Omani heritage and culture.
Wander through nine rooms with hanging clay water jugs, brightly colored rainbow rugs and even antique clogs. Upstairs is a room that used to be a small Koran school. At the end of the tour, stop by the last room near the entrance to pick up Omani cookies, dates and coffee.
The museum is free and won second place at the Sultan Qaboos Award for Volunteerism. The owner is immensely proud of the house, which retains his great-grandfather’s home.
The rooms are unique and full of character, offering a chance to see how Oman used to live. The owner’s English-speaking cousin is sometimes there and is happy to share information about the museum. Best to go in the morning before it’s too busy.
4. AL-HAZM CASTLE
Built in the 18th century, this castle features traditional items such as wooden storage boxes surrounded by golden hoops. There are also rooms that emphasize the traditional living room. This type of room has a carpet on the floor and cushions for you to lean on when sitting.
Allow 45–90 minutes to visit the castle. When you’re done, stop by the garden for a cup of coffee and a date of your own. It is currently undergoing renovations, so it is recommended to check before you go.
5. WAJMAH VILLAGE
Old faded turquoise and light blue wooden doors with flowers and other decorations can be found all over Rustaq village, adding to its charm. The yellow, white and red painted flags on the stones are easy to follow with driving directions.
As you walk, stop to look at the layered concrete terraces across the street. On the other hand, lush date trees keep this village hidden. You will also see clay water jugs hanging from the trees, drawing fresh water from the mountain for a cool, refreshing drink.
There are steps in this village, but it’s easy to walk and explore. Remember to be respectful and dress appropriately. Men and women must cover their shoulders and knees. Getting here requires four-wheel drive and takes about thirty minutes from Rustaq.
6. BILAD SAYT
Nestled in the mountains, this ancient village overlooks tiered terraces, lush green date palms, houses and farms all around. There are two options for getting here after parking.
One is to start the hike by following the yellow, white and red painted flags on the rocks. This hike is a little challenging as parts involve walking on loose rocks on the edge of the cliffs.
Some upper body strength is also required to climb rocks. As you ascend, you will see brown wood chip layered rock formations with shades of light purple and blue. It takes five to six hours to reach the top of the mountain.
If walking doesn’t appeal to you, you can stroll through the village to see the farmhouses and traditional turquoise and sapphire wooden doors. Or you can walk up to the watchtower. You don’t need a guide to get to this village, but you do need four-wheel drive. Alternatively, you can hire a driver for a private tour.
7. WADI BANI AWF
Wadi Bani Awf, also known as Snake Canyon, is a more adventurous trek with rappelling and swimming. There are two paths to choose from. The longer of the two lasts five to six hours, depending on the pace of the group.
When you reach the first drop, it’s about 20m drop. Then it’s time to dive into the water for a swim for the next part of the hike. Sometimes there is also climbing around gigantic boulders.
There are a total of three ten to twenty meter landing drops. And seven or eight swimming pools. Depending on the water level, some parts can be walked on. The distance varies from ten to fifteen meters.
The water can get chilly in the cold months, so it’s best to come here between March and September. The rock formations and colors alone are a reason to visit this place.
This excursion requires the assistance of a guide or leader.
8. EAT LUNCH AT A LOCAL RUSTAQ FARM OR HOME
Qaboul, consisting of meat and rice, is considered a specialty here. This dish consists of smoked barbecue with a mix of cumin and other Arabian spices. It usually contains caramelized onions, nuts, masala, Omani spices, cumin and curry powder mixed with rice.
There are two places where visitors can try this dish prepared by the locals. The first is a local ranch in Snake Canyon, located at the end of the hike. The man who cooks used to work as a cook in the army.
Another location is in Bilad Sayt, in the house of a village resident. Usually the meal is served in a majlis. Majlis is a living room, usually adjacent to the main building, where visitors stay. can arrange this for you.