Ancient city in Oman now a U.N. Heritage Site
June 30, 2018 | 9:35 AM
by Times News Service
Photo: UNESCO/Twitter

Muscat: The ruins of Qalhat near Sur were recognised as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), according to a statement by the global cultural body.

In a post on Twitter, Unesco congratulated Oman saying, “New inscription on Unesco World Heritage List: Ancient

City of Qalhat, Oman. Congratulations!”

According to Oman’s supporting documents submitted to Unesco, the ancient city of Qalhat was developed as a major port on the east coast of Arabia between the 11th and 15th centuries CE, during the reign of the Hormuz princes.

Today, it bears unique archaeological testimony to the trade links between the east coast of Arabia, East Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia.

‘Quake may have ruined it’

Oman’s Ministry of Tourism has in the past emphasised the importance of this site as it was home to a vibrant Bronze Age civilization.

It continued to be a famed city in the Middle Ages, but it is suspected that a natural calamity overwhelmed it in the 14th century, the Tourism Ministry added.

“In the past, Qalhat City witnessed an ancient Omani civilization, being Oman’s first capital before the advent of Islam. In the 13th century, it was the main commercial port linking Oman and abroad.”

“But the city has since slipped away from history, geography, time and place. Nature overpowered man here and transformed the city into a pile of rocks, scattered over a wasteland, starting at the beach, to homes that fell to ruin, to crumbling citadels and walls that once fortified the city.

“It is said that the city fell prey to an earthquake in the 14th century. The Portuguese also invaded and occupied Qalhat until they were expelled in the late 16th century,” a statement by the Tourism Ministry said.

‘First capital’

The statement pointed out that it was perhaps the first major city of Oman.

“Qalhat’s history dates back to the Bronze Age, when it was a major city and the first capital of Oman. Also, due to many characteristics that augment its unique and distinctive location, and being an important city and port, it had the advantage of attracting travellers, explorers and seekers of knowledge.”

“The ruins of Qalhat include Bibi Mariam’s shrine (Bibi means free), who is said to be an elderly woman who built a mosque, while some historical sources mentioned that she was the governor of Qalhat during the reign of King Hormuz (Kotob Eddine Yamtuhin). At the shrine entrance, there is a crypt leading to underground corridors beneath the floor of the shrine,” the

statement added.

Famous traveller Ibn Battuta is said to have travelled to Qalhat and praised the city’s bazaars and mosques.

This is the fifth site in the Sultanate of Oman to be added to the Unesco World Heritage list, joining the Aflaj irrigation systems; archaeological sites of Al Khutm, Bat and Al Ayn; Bahla Fort, and the Land of Frankincense in Dhofar region.

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