03 May 2011

Al-Baleed Fort Salalah

Al Balid Archaeological Site on the Salalah waterfront is a new model for archaeological tourism with guided site tours, a museum, gift shop and coffe shop.


A UNESCO World Cultural and Heritage listed archaeological site, Al Baleed was a settlement during the Iron Age. The Land of Frankincense Museum can be seen on the right

Go back in time at the Al Baleed Archaeological Park and Museum. Al Baleed’s history goes back to pre-Islamic times when there was a large Iron Age settlement in the same location. The city of Baleed itself was founded in the 11th century AD and rapidly became a centre of commerce for the frankincense trade. Today, visitors can explore the remains of a grand mosque, citadel and the old city wall and gates. As the historic remains are set in a picturesque nature reserve, it’s an ideal place to relax, enjoy bird watching or take a boat trip.   
Open: Weekdays 8am-2pm, 4-8pm; Thursday-Friday 4-8pm
Location: Off Sultan Qaboos Street, close to Crowne Plaza Resort
or more information: +968 23202577www.omantourism.gov.om

The city of Al Baleed lies on Salalah’s coastal strip and covers an area of 640,000 square metres. During the Middle Ages the town played an important role in world trade through its harbour and links with the ports of China, India, Sind, Yemen and East Africa, as well as with Iraq and Europe. A German university and Omani team date the site from the Islamic period, though the area was inhabited from the end of the 5th and beginning of the 4th millennia BC. The city was re-established in the 4th century AH/10th century AD at the time of the Mujais dynasty and was rebuilt during the Habudhi period.The main archaeological discoveries in al Baleed include the great mosque which has around 144 pillars and is nearly square in shape. It has outbuildings, a minaret and is believed to have been built during the 7th century AH/13th century AD and remained in use until the 11th century AH/17th century AD. The city is surrounded by a moat.In the Wusta (central) region stone implements have been excavated from the Asholite civilisation. An American and Omani team are working on the migration of early man from Africa to Asia via Oman across a land bridge that existed before the Red Sea trench was formed.Excavations continue in the Ja’alan (eastern) region on the sites at Ras al Hadd and Ras al Jinz where it is believed there has been human development from the Holocene period in the 7th millennium BC to the arrival of Islam. Italian, French, British and Omani teams are focusing on maritime trade in this area during the 2nd half of the 3rd millennium BC. Pits in the area suggest that 4th millennium BC fishing communities builtround huts directly onto the rocks, and finds have included copper fishhooks, small implements, spear-heads, and potsherds originating in Mesopotamia..Marco Polo visited Oman in 1285, extolling a frankincense port called al-Baleed, where contemporary archeologists now sweat in roped-off surrounds on the outskirts of Salalah, Oman's second city. Even more revered is Ibn Battuta, a renowned 14th-century wanderer who, as a Moroccan, is accurately described as the Arab world's, as well as Africa's, most intrepid traveller. The Arabian Peninsula, I'm frequently reminded, is a bridge between Africa and Asia.
From al-Baleed's brown walls of stone, their remains seldom more than waist-high, I head into the adjoining Museum of the Frankincense Land. It encapsulates Omani history and the pivotal role of frankincense trading as well as showcasing contemporary Oman, the petrochemical industry and the initiatives of head of state Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said.

No comments: