Al Batinah Region is a prime area for investment. It has achieved much over the years. The twelve wilayats that make up the Batinah Region – Sohar, Al Rustaq, Shinas, Liwa, Saham, Al Khaboura, Al Suwaiq, Nakhl, Wadi Al Ma’awal, Al ‘Awabi, Al Masn’a and Barka – occupy a coastal strip along the Gulf of Oman from the Wilayat of Barka in the south to Khatmat Malahah in the Wilayat of Shinas to the north. The 25-Kilometre-wide strip is enclosed by the Gulf of Oman to the east and the foothills of the Western Hajar mountains to the west.

With its geographical location, economic resources and high population density, the Batinah Region has played an important part in Oman’s history. It has always been the country’s maritime and commercial outlet to the Gulf and the Indian Ocean and its mineral resources have provided the basis for several important heavy industries. Today the port of Mina Sohar is one of the Sultanate’s economic mega-projects. Most of the Batinah’s wilayats and villages are on a plain and the region’s most distinctive feature is its fertile coast with its acres of farmland and wide variety of crops. It has been famous for its agriculture since ancient times and its people have traditionally been farmers and fishermen – a fact reflected in the harmony between the blue sea and the green countryside.

Wilayats

Wilayat Sohar: When he visited Sohar, al Maqdisi described it as “the gateway to the east a prosperous, beautiful city and a pleasant place to live with a large number of inhabitants.” He noted that its residential areas were strung out along the shore and that its mosque, which overlooked the sea, had a tall minaret and a mihrab that changed colour because it was plated with copper. In his book Mu’jam al Buldan (Geographical Dictionary) Yaqut al Hamawi refers to Sohar as “the kasbah of Oman”, while al Farisi, author of Hudud al ‘Alam (Boundaries of the World) describes it as “the market-place of the whole world.” In his book Al Masalik wa’1 Mamalik (The Roads and Countries) al Istakhri says it is rich and beautiful – a description which indicates that even at that time it was economically prosperous and a haven for the ships that plied the Arabian Sea. Amr bin al `As – the Companion of the Prophet who brought the Prophet’s message to Abd and Jaifar, the sons of al Julanda and kings of Oman, inviting them to embrace Islam – visited Sohar in the 3rd year of the Hijrah/624AD.

Sohar is under constant development, and has incorporated major industrial projects, including Sohar Refinery, one of the largest refineries worldwide. Sohar Port boasts an international industrial port along with a flourishing industrial zone and an airport.

Wilayat Al 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.

Wilayat Shinas : Although the Wilayat of Shinas is right up at the far end of the Batinah Region on the Sultanate’s northern border, it has enjoyed just as many of the benefits of modern development as the rest of Oman’s wilayats. It has numerous tourist attractions, a lively commercial scene and a thriving agricultural sector and, thanks to its seaside location, it also has an important commercial sea-port. Its land is fertile and watered by flowing aflaj and it produces a wide variety of fruit and vegetables.

Shinas is the “bottle-neck” of the Batinah Region and it is through this wilayat that much of the overland traffic and trade passes between the Sultanate and the other Arab Gulf Co-operation Council states. It borders on the Gulf of Oman to the east and the Wilayat of Mahdhah to the west and the south. It is 300 Kilometres from the Governorate of Muscat and its beautiful coast extends from Khatmat Malahah in the north to al Dawaneej in the south.

Wilayat Liwa: When our thoughts turn to the Wilayat of Liwa, we think of the smallest and lightest of unsinkable ships, or the Baobab tree with its pain-killing powers, or the wilayat’s tourist attractions like the mountain village of Qazah.

With its 58 villages, Liwa is 270 Kilometres from the Governorate of Muscat, just beyond the Wilayat of Sohar and on the strip of coast that ends at the Wilayat of Shinas. It has numerous castles, forts and towers including Liwa Fort with its three towers, the recently-restored Qazah Fort – a fine three-storey citadel 15 metres high and 14 metres wide with four rooms on each floor – and Awlad Ya’rub Fort – an architectural gem in the village of Harmul. Liwa’s white coral limestone mosques are an unusual feature of this area with their ventilation holes like small windows high up in their walls. Some of these mosques have attractive minarets; the prettiest is the minaret of al Bahlul mosque in Hillat al Husn.

Wilayat Saham : There is nothing odd about the fact that the Wilayat of Saham has adopted the lime tree as its emblem, because, despite its seafaring tradition, it has also been renowned throughout its history as a centre of citrus fruit cultivation.

The Wilayat of Saham extends from Qasabat Breik in the south to Majaz al Sughra in the north. It borders on the Wilayat of al Musana’ah to the south and the Wilayat of Sohar to the north, and it is 200 Kilometres from the Governorate of Muscat. With its 66 villages it has a high population density. Saham occupies a central geographical position half way along the Batinah coast and links the north and south of the Sultanate as well as the Batinah Region with the wilayats of Yanqul and Ibri in the Dhahirah Region. It has numerous sites of historical interest including the recently-restored Souq Fort. Much of the wilayat is under cultivation, the main farm land being around the villages of Wadi Bani Umar, al Fulaij and al Rawdhah, and in the rural areas beside the mountains. Saham’s 23 aflaj are fed by the wadis of Wadi Ahen, Wadi al Mahmoom, Wadi al Sarmi, Wadi al Shafan and Khor al Milh, and provide the main source of water for the wilayat’s farms and lime orchards.

Wilayat Al Khaboura: The Wilayat of al Khabourah is 178 Kilometres from the Governorate of Muscat and borders on the Wilayat of al Suwaiq to the east, the Wilayat of Sohar to the west, the Wilayat of Ibri to the south and the blue seas of the Gulf of Oman to the north. It has 76 villages.

Al Khabourah has seven castles (the best-known of these is the castle of Bani Said), as well as twenty-one forts including al Khabourah Fort – a square building beside the sea with a round tower and a heavy wooden gate, which was restored in the year 2000. Date-palms, limes and fruit trees can be found in abundance in the wilayat’s well-watered wadis and around the small villages that lie halfhidden among the mountains. Traces of the past may be seen in Wadi al Hawasinah and Wadi al Sarmi, famed for their fresh water springs and aflaj. Wadi al Hawasinah is one of al Khabourah’s best-known and most fertile wadis and its mountain setting makes it a magnet for visitors. Among the most attractive of its thirty villages are Hijjah, al Rafi’ah, al Badi’ah (with its old dam, which is 200 metres long, four metres high and three metres wide), al Washihi, al Hamimi, al Rak and Saddain. The wadi’s numerous springs include Ain Saddain, Ain al Ma’abela and Ain al Owainah, while its pools include Hawdh al Khajour, Hawdh Hammad, Hawdh al Buwaidhah and Hawdh al Hamimi.

Wilayat Al Suwaiq : Visitors never realise that the Wilayat of al Suwaiq is one of the biggest commercial markets in the Batinah Region, that it is known locally for its numerous souqs and that the town is full of modem shops.

They are also generally unaware of the fact that the emblem of this coastal wilayat is a four-legged desert-browsing ship – in other words, a camel. These are two of the anomalies about this place. Firstly, the name of the wilayat – al Suwaiq – is a diminutive of ,souq, despite the fact that there have always been numerous souqs in the town and its surrounding villages. Secondly, despite the fact that sea-going vessels anchor off its beautiful shore, the wilayat’s emblem is a ship of the desert. However, the visitor will find that these anomalies evaporate once he sees this beautiful wilayat and its prosperous town or bathes in its clear blue water and he will forget his cares if he goes out into the countryside and visits places like the sprawling ancient village of al Hailain, nestling between high mountains and bisected by a wadi of date groves and junipers.

Wilayat Nakhl : The Wilayat of Nakhl is famed for Ain al Thuwwarah – a fresh water spring that bubbles up through the rocks below the surface of the earth. There are numerous other springs nearby, all of which flow into one wadi. The wilayat gets its name – Nakhl – from the fact that the ground on which it stands “filters” the water. Ain al Thuwwarah, Nakhl’s main attraction, receives visitors from far and wide at weekends and on holidays. They come to sit for hours, watching the water welling up from beneath the ground and flowing along the wadi and through the date palms.

The Wilayat of Nakhl is 120 Kilometres from the Governorate of Muscat. To get there, you turn south at the Barka Roundabout towards the villages of Wadi’l Ma’awil and drive straight on until you see Nakhl’s imposing old 200-foot-high fort in the distance in front of you. The fort, which is built on a rocky hill, is easily accessible since the asphalt road leads right up to its gate. There is a splendid view from its balconies, from where it is possible to see several of the wilayat’s 74 villages scattered over the hills and plains, as well as the fertile wadis of Wadi’l Abyadh and Wadi Mistal, the high mountains including Jabal Nakhl and other features of this beautiful area.

Wilayat Wadi Al Ma’awal : Eight villages are strung out neatly along either side of Wadi’l Ma’awil – Afiy (the centre of the wilayat), Habra, al Wasit, al Tawiyah, Muslimat, at Maraighah, at Lajal and at Ghubrah. The Wilayat of Wadi’l Ma’awil also comprises some of the Wadi Mistal villages – Amsa, al Hail, Jama, at Jilah, Hasma, Qays, Miyaqa’ Wardat Muwaizah, at Shabik, at Safa at Abyadh and at Mutali’.

Wadi’l Ma’awil is 115 Kilometres from the Governorate of Muscat and borders on the wilayats of Barka to the north, al Awabi to the south, Nakhl to the east and Rustaq to the west. It has numerous sites of historical interest including the forts of Hajarat at Sheikh, Bait at Matma’, al Mitla’, at Hajarah (in the village of Muslimat), Habra, al Hail, Bani Sulaimah, at Sharjah, al `Aali, at Sharqi, al Muhaidith, at Mahyul, Bait at Khandaq, and at Rowshan (in the old quarter of the village of Muslimat). There are also fifteen towers in the wilayat including the towers of at Hajarah, Shamis, al Muqairshiyah, at Souq, at Hail, Sabah Raf’ah, at ‘Uyunah, al Shamisi, Miftah and al Suwaifih. The mosques of Al Safalah and at Hajarah are two of the oldest mosques in the wilayat and were built several centuries ago.

Wilayat Al ‘Awabi: The Wilayat of al ‘Awabi is very similar to its neighbours, with its flowing wadis, mountain villages, fresh water springs and ancient buildings. Its best-known wadi is Wadi Bani Kharus, which extends as far as the beautiful village of al Aliya.

The Wilayat of al ‘Awabi’s emblem is a pen, an inkwell and a book. Over the years it has produced numerous scholars, poets and imams – the imams of Bani Kharus including al Warith bin Ka’b, al Salt bin Malik and Azzan bin Tamim, to name but a few – as well as men of letters like the poet Salim bin Ghassan al Lawah, and scholars like Abu Nabhan Ja’id bin Khamis al Kharusi who lived in the village of al Aliya where his mosque, his house and his tomb can be seen to this day. Al ‘Awabi has many old buildings and mosques including al Ghamamah Mosque in at Hajar village in Wadi Bani Kharus, forts like al Awabi Fort, al Rami Fort and al Salut Fort, and a number of towers.

Wilayat Al Masn’a: The Wilayat of al Musana’ah has no factories as Ithe root of its name (masaani), might appear to suggest. However, it has something much more valuable – the riches of nature, and these can not be produced by any factory.

In earlier times al Musana’ah was renowned for certain traditional industries such as the production of indigo, which was used to dye women’s garments. It was also well-known for its sugarcane presses – a reflection of the fertility of its soil and the abundance of its water. The belt of trees along the edge of the desert – such as the evergreen rak (tooth brush tree) which the wilayat has adopted as its emblem – provides further evidence of the blessings nature has bestowed on al Musana’ah. The Wilayat of al Musana’ah is 160 Kilometres from the Governorate of Muscat. It borders on the Wilayat of Rustaq to the south, the Wilayat of Barka to the east, the Wilayat of al Suwaiq to the west and the Gulf of Oman to the north. It has a population of 56,659 and thirty villages. Despite the fact that it is beside the sea and has a seafaring history, another aspect of its character and past can be seen in its fifteen forts, castles and defensive walls. The main ones are al Maladdah Fort and al Qirt Wall.

Wilayat Barka: With 75,501 inhabitants, the Wilayat of Barka is the first of the beautiful havens along the Batinah’s fertile coast. It borders on the wilayats of Seeb to the south, al Musana’ah to the north and Wadi’al Ma’awil to the south, and the Gulf of Oman to the east. It has 63 villages and 29 schools with 21,858 male and female students. The wilayat has 38 forts, towers and other ancient buildings, including the forts of Barka, al Felaij and Bait al Nu’man.

Al Felaij Fort Theatre is in a pretty village and is one of the district’s tourist attractions. A few years ago it was just an abandoned fort, but today it stages performances by leading Arab and international theatre companies. Al Sawadi beach, in the Wilayat of Barka and about twenty Kilometres from Barka itself, is one of the Sultanate’s most popular and attractive beaches and its three rocky offshore islands provide a refuge for migrant birds like herons, black-headed gulls and waders which stop there in January and February every year. Visitors to al Sawadi also have a chance to observe the crabs and other marine life in its lagoon.

Tourist Attractions

Nakhal Castle

Ar-Rustaq Castle

Al-Hazm Fort

Bait An-Nuaman

Sohar Castle

Sohar Castle Museum

Wadi Al-Hoqain

Ath-Thuwarah

Wadi Bani Auf

How to get to Al Batinah

Barka, it’s a pleasant drive to Barka, 48 kms along the tree-lined highway from Muscat Airport.

There are two routes to Nakhl. You can turn left at the Barka rounabout, at 47.5 from Muscat airport.

Other important information

The region has the second largest population after Muscat with almost 653,505 residents.

Batinah means front or inner and the region know as the belly of Oman.

Hotels in Al Batinah

Hotel name

Telephone

Al-Sawadi Beach Resort

968 26795545

Sohar Beach

968 26841111

Al-Suwaiq Rest House

968 26862241

Al-Shumokh Rest House

968 26877071

Al Wadi Hotel

968 26840058

Green Oasis Sohar

968 26846442

Sadaf Apartments

968 99794019

Wahat Al Musafir Apartments

968 99515751

Useful Number

Name

Telephone

Sohar Police Station

968 26840099

Al Khabourah Police Station

968 26805099

Kitmat Milaha Police Station

968 26849413

Al Aswad Police Station

968 26849599

Al Wajajah Police Station

968 26849911

Rustaq Police Station

968 26875099

Suwaiq Police Station

968 26860099

Massanah Police Station

968 26968150

Barka Police Station

968 26882099