Qalaat al-Qesra Fortress in Rustaq, Oman

Rustaq was the seat of the Omani Imams and was fortified with a massive fort. Besides the souq and the mosque, the Qalaat al-Qesra fortress is one of the most important sights of Rustaq.

The Omani city of Rustaq in the district of the same name in the north of the country is interesting for Omani travellers mainly because of its imposing fortress. And those who like it quiet and tranquil should also head for Rustaq. The bright buildings of the small town under swaying palm trees and radiant sun almost remind one a little of Mediterranean island flair.


Rustaq ("borderland") got its name from the Persians who ruled the city at the foot of the Hajar Mountains in the 7th century. Rustaq first became an Omani ruling city in 1624, when the then ruler of the Ya'arubi dynasty Nasir ibn Murshid chose it as his seat. It was he who commissioned the construction of the fortress and the Al Badayah mosque. In 1784, under Hamad ibn Said, Rustaq lost the seat of government to Muscat.

Rustaq is famous for its excellent bee honey, produced locally in over 1,000 hives, and for its excellent halwa, a typical Omani dessert. In addition to dates, which are delicious in Oman, pomegranates, apricots, plums and grapes imported directly from the foot of Jebel Akhdar are also worth trying.

Tip: The best place to enjoy Rustaq's delicacies is the small souq on the outskirts of Rustaq. It is open every morning except Fridays.

Qalaat al-Qesra Fortress

Behind the up to 3m thick walls and the four round towers of the fortress of Rustaq, one still feels safe from attackers, Oman - © Sudheer Sakthan / Shutterstock
© Sudheer Sakthan / Shutterstock

The imposing Qalaat al-Qesra Fort rises up to almost 20m on three levels and was built on the foundation walls of another fortification that came from Persian master builders.

Enclosed by 3-metre-thick walls, the fortress of Rustaq could withstand many a bombardment. Of the four towers, the largest is 18.5 metres high and 6 metres wide; their names are "Red Tower", "Wind Tower", "Devil's Tower" and "New Tower".

The mighty walls surround several buildings, an armoury and a mosque. Some Omanis from the area have made the restoration and improvement of old weapons their profession. Their works are exhibited in the fortress of Rustaq, among other places. Every day except Friday (the "Omani Sunday") the fort can be visited.

Tip: The forts of Rustaq, Nakhl, Barka and Al-Hazm can be connected by convenient roads from Muscat for a day trip.

Surroundings of Rustaq

From Rustaq, it is worth taking a detour to the hot springs, the most famous of which is called Ain al Kasafa. The water bubbles out of the ground here at a temperature of 45°C and is used to treat rheumatism and skin diseases due to its healing sulphur content.

Another spring, this time underground, can be found in the nearby Al Sanaqha cave, just one of the many scattered in the mountains around Rustaq.


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