Built four centuries prior to the dawn of Islam, Rustaq Fort is up there among the oldest of Oman’s forts; its walls are also some of the tallest.
I’ve been to the area around Rustaq several times for other Destination pieces and it’s with some embarrassment that I admit I didn’t even know there was a fort there. I just hadn’t noticed it on my travels.
Discussing possible locations to visit on a Wednesday evening with friends, one of them mentioned the fort in passing and I resolved to head west from Muscat once more and pay the fort a visit early the next morning to atone for my ignorance.
After a 4am wake up call, my cousin and I arrived at the fort bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at around 7.30am, which was a shame, because the fort didn’t actually open until 9am.
We proceeded to engage the guard in a long and drawn-out conversation and after much pleading and sweet talk, he eventually let us pass through the gates into the sprawling complex where old cannons stood like sentinels silently guarding the fort’s entrance. This gave us the unique experience of having the fort entirely to ourselves as we wandered around at our leisure.
The word “amazing” does not do justice to this fort. One of the first things that struck me was the engineering. I couldn’t help but wonder just how the architects and designers had come up with such an impressive structure all those hundreds of years ago without modern tools and machinery.
The walls are so high that you have to crane your neck from ground level and actually lean back slightly to take it all in.
The fort goes on for what seems like forever and each of the different buildings is filled with several rooms that you can enter to get a feel for what life was like when the fort was in use. Each room had its original purpose stated, but apart from this were empty.
It was quite dark inside the fort, so I had to rely on where the light was falling for my photos. After negotiating a series of twisting and turning interconnecting paths through the belly of the fort, we were able to find the stairs and climb to the top of the tallest tower. Emerging blinking into the sunlight once more, it was from here that I captured one of my favourite shots of the day – a panoramic view of the whole of Rustaq. Green date palms filled my vision almost as far as I could see, thanks to the falaj that runs through the city.
Sat up here enjoying the commanding view, I imagined myself as the dignitary or noble who resided in the castle hundreds of years ago, assessing his town spread out below.
On our way back down, we stumbled across the solitary confinement or prison area. It was very claustrophobic and my cousin began crawling through the tight space for a better look. I didn’t dare follow him, but it didn’t sound like a nice place to be judging from his description.
All in all we spent a good two hours at the fort and even that probably wouldn’t be enough for a tourist to see everything. I think the best time to visit would be in the morning (although perhaps not as early as we did!) so that you beat the crowds and can explore in peace.
If the fort opened at sunrise it would make for some beautiful shots and I would highly recommend a trip there. Having finally visited Rustaq Fort, I’ve decided it’s actually very visible and you can’t really miss it. I’ve been to my fair share of forts up and down the country over the years, but this was definitely one of the most interesting ones I’ve ever seen.
Rustaq Fort is very easy to get to from Muscat and the whole journey takes a little more than an hour and a half in total. Just take Route 1 all the way past Barka and exit left onto Route 11 at Muladdah. Follow this road until you reach Rustaq and the fort should be signposted from here.
GPS location of the fort: N31º 8’ 49.223” E10º 18’ 18.632”