Rustaq Nestling beneath the soaring peaks of the Western Hajar mountains, the Wilayat of Rustaq borders on the Wilayat of al Awabi the the east, Ibri is to the west, al Musana’ah to the north and the slopes of al Jabal al Akhdhar to the south. It is 150 Kilometres from the Governorate of Muscat and its population of 67,641 lives in Rustaq itself and its 170 villages.
It has two niyabats – al Hawqain and Wadi Bani Hinai – and numerous enchanting wadis where the visitor can stroll among springs and lush palm groves. Among the best known of these wadis are Wadi Sahtan, Wadi Bani Ghafir, Wadi Bani Awf, Wadi al Haimli and Wadi Hajir Bani Umar. The wilayat has 200 aflaj including Falaj al Maisar -the oldest – Falaj al Sayighi, and Falaj al Kamil, which is a truly brilliant feat of engineering.
The Ya’ariba understood the importance of obtaining good drinking water from their wadis and underground springs, just as they recognized the dangers of salinity on the Batinah plain. In tackling the problem they looked to the future and realised that the solution lay in digging a falaj to carry water from Rustaq to the village of al Turaif in the Wilayat of al Musana’ah.
The project was begun during the reign of Imam Saif bin Sultan al Ya’rubi, when a channel was dug through the rocks and mountains to the village of al Misfah near the village of al Hazm. The project came to a halt with the death of the Imam and, though its roofs and wooden supports remain to this day, the.falaj itself is not even a distant memory. Although Rustaq is a very ancient city with origins that date from Oman’s earliest history, Rustaq Fort is one of only a few visible traces of its past that can be seen today.
The hot springs of Ain al Kasfah with an average water temperature of 45C are among the Sultanate’s most ancient springs and are the Wilayat of Rustaq’s best-known feature. Welling up from the depths of the earth, Ain al Kasfah attracts visitors from far and wide who come to bathe in the hot water or benefit from its therapeutic qualities; it offers an effective cure for a wide range of muscular diseases and rheumatism. Others just come to watch the water bubbling endlessly out of the ground.
The Niyabat of al Hawqain with its springs and flowing water is one of the Wilayat of Rustaq’s other major tourist attractions. It can be reached either by road from the village of al Hazm (a 23-Kilometre stretch of this road has been upgraded) or via a 23Kilometre-long road from the Wilayat of al Suwaiq. The two roads meet at a roundabout from which it is possible to drive to Wadi at Haimli and Hajir Bani Umar as well as al Hawqain, al Suwaiq and al Hazm.
The Niyabat of Al Hawqain is a lush district with many trees. It is popular with visitors during holidays and weekends and has an old fort on the top of a high rocky hill overlooking the entrance to al Hawqain village. The niyabat’s main features are its numerous aflaj, which include Falaj al Bilad, Falaj al Damtha wa’l Huwail, Falaj al Bid’ah wa’l Sa’idi and Falaj Tawi’l Bedu. Its springs include al Khabbah al Zarqa and Ain at Khor.
The Wilayat of Rustaq’s fertile wadis have water in abundance. The Niyabat of Wadi Bani Hinai, which is in the Western Hajar mountains about 27 Kilometres from the centre of the wilayat, has a wadi running through the middle of it with datepalms along either side and its 37 villages have numerous fresh water springs such as Ain Sharjah, Ain Aqd al Nuzuh and Ain Hamham.
The villages of Wadi Bani Hinai are fed by several aflaj including Falaj al Sawader, Falaj al Tawiyah, Falaj at Hail, Falaj Nab’an, Falajal Aqr wa’l Muhaidith and Falaj at Huwail. A groundwater recharge dam with a 600,000 cubic metre capacity has been built in Wadi al Far’I and supplies the wilayat’s aflaj.
A trip through Wadi Bani Awf will take the traveler to the spring of Ain al Huwait, after which he will be able to visit a string of green villages along the wadi’s edge like al Fara’, at Riddah, at War and at Zamah. Finally, after crossing numerous smaller wadis and obstacles, he will arrive at the wonderfully photogenic village of Balad Sect where the houses cling to the mountainside in tiers like terraced plots.
Balad Sect is 36 Kilometres from the city of Rustaq and the same distance from the Wilayat of al Hamra in the Dakhiliyah Governorate. These days there is a mountain road between the two wilayats, so that the people of Balad Seet now have a link with their neighbors and kinsfolk in the Wilayat of al Hamra. The village enjoys a full range of government services including electricity and a school, and it is linked to the mobile phone network.
Every prospect pleases in Wadi Sahtan – which in the old days was called Mandoos Oman (the treasure chest of Oman). The road to it begins from the roundabout in the village of al Ghashab. Then after ten Kilometres it drops steeply down towards Wadi Sahtan, which indeed appears as a treasure chest overflowing with beautiful gems, with its terraced villages and fields planted with every type of fruit.
In al Khadhra, its most beautiful village, you can stand and watch the water gushing out from a spring between the rocks – one of the most copious springs in the Wilayat of Rustaq which never runs dry – whence it flows along irrigation channels and waters the terraced plots. The traveller can then climb to the pretty village of al Wajmah which, with its terraced plots, looks like one of the villages of the Jabal al Akhdhar.
The route to it has been changed and the new road is now safer. Other attractive villages in Wadi Sahtan include al Huwaijer, al Hajir, al Mazra’ and Amq. The wadi is famous for its fruit and its date palms. Wadi Bani Ghafir is one of the longest wadis in the Wilayat of Rustaq. It begins from the mountain slopes near the Wilayat of Ibri and runs along a 60-Kilometre course to the village of Khafdi near Rustaq. Wadi Sadaq, one of Wadi Bani Ghafir’s main tributaries, has numerous fertile villages including Yaqa, al Sumaisam, al Dafa’ and al Marji. The wadi flows down to Wadi Bani Hinai and al Hawqain, from where it descends to the Batinah plain before flowing into the sea at al Suwaiq beach.
Wadi Hajir Bani Umar is another well-known wadi in the Wilayat of Rustaq and is 75 Kilometres from the centre of the wilayat at its furthest point. Its eight villages are al Sawdi, Fajra, al Mahduth, Hajir Bani Umar, Sulh, Daisli, al Dhuwaiher and al Gharwah. It offers fine views and has several forts and towers. With its fertile soil and plentiful water supplies it is a major farming area. Bee-keeping is a popular occupation in these fertile wadis, where the bees sip the nectar from the wild flowers and flowering trees. The bee-keepers receive support and encouragement from the state.