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Published: December 26th 2008
Very much Oman
Every other hilltop in Oman has a citadel on top of it. So if you want to know what Oman looks like, look at this photo
Sand dunes beat the hell out of snowdrifts
For this year's Christmas vacation I decided to go to Oman. People have for the last couple of months asked me why and I couldn't really explain. Well, here is the best explanation I can come up with. Oman
• Daylight - 12 hours a day
• Temperature - 25 degrees in the shade in the daytime
• Typical weather - sunshine Sweden
• Daylight - 4 hours a day
• Temperature - hovers around 0
• Typical weather - cloudy sky and rain
Add to this that I found a cheap flight ticket to Oman and that Oman is a country with old history and as such probably has one or two places worth seeing. That and two weeks off from work is all I need for going to Oman.
I never have any doubts that I, when visit a new place, will find interesting things to see. Every country has something worth seeing. I don't necessarily have to know exactly what these things are before I book a trip. I can just as well figure that out while I am traveling.
First I arrived in
Citadel at Al Baleed
Citadel at Al Baleed - ruins after a port and surrounding city
Muscat, the capital of Oman. But I only stayed in Muscat one night because I decided to start my traveling in the western part of the country this time and do the eastern part, where Muscat is, in the end of the trip.
The western half of Oman is mostly desert and there really is very little to see there. All the sights I was interested in seeing I could see on one long outing from the city Salalah. There are a few more sights in the area but the rest I couldn't really be bothered going to.
In the outskirts of Salalah is a place called Al Balid. Al Balid is the ruins after a large and very lively port and surrounding city. Al Balid had its heydays starting from the 10th century and lasted for about 500 years. In these times Al Balid was the most important harbor around here and the main place and the main commodity that was exported from the area was frankincense
Frankincense is the sap from the frankincense trees. Frankincense trees grow in the mountains in the west of Oman and the east of Yemen and the sap can be
Grand Mosque at Al Baleed
Grand Mosque at Al Baleed - ruins after a port and surrounding city
used for a variety of things. One of them is as incense.
In the 15th century trading routes shifted and Al Balid gradually lost its importance. Eventually the city was abandoned and today there are only ruins left.
This trade in Frankincense was so important for this area for such a long time that UNESCO decided put the Frankincense Trail
on the World Heritage List. Al Balid is together with a few other places in this area a part of this World Heritage.
One of the other important places on the Frankincense trail was Khor Ruri or Queen of Sheba's Palace. I am not sure how much the actual Queen of Sheba had to do with this place other than lending her name to it that is. It wasn't really a palace at all. Just like Al Balid it was a harbor and a town, but much smaller in size. Also just like Al Balid it is all in ruins today.
Not far from Khor Ruri is a town called Mirbat. The town is fairly popular for daytrips from Salalah. But I find it hard to believe that anyone can spend an entire day in Mirbat without
Cemetery in Salalah
Cemetery in Salalah. It is not a place where tourists normally go. But I sometimes visit cemeteries in foreign countries.
getting bored. Personally I was quite happy after seeing the town for only 20 minutes.
Outside Mirbat is a cemetery where Bin Ali's Tomb can be found. Bin Ali was local preacher who had big influence on the people here about 1000 years ago. It was nice to visit even though I had never heard of Bin Ali before I came here.
The sites in Mirbat are few. Basically it is a town for fishermen and merchants and that is it. Almost every town in Oman has at least one fort. Mirbat has two forts. But they were small and both looked rather uninteresting so I didn't bother to look at them more than from a distance.
Inland from the coast is a low chain of mountains. In these mountains there are a number of sinkholes. The best way to describe what what a sinkholes are is to say that they are vertical caves. On the tour around Salalah I visited two of these sinkholes - Taiq Sinkhole and Tawi Attair Sinkhole. I was a bit disappointed with both of them. Taiq Sinkhole was so huge that it more looked like a valley than a sinkhole and
Queen of Sheba's Palace
Khor Ruri, also known as Queen of Sheba's Palace - used to be a harbour but is today all in ruins.
at Tawi Attair Sinkhole it was not possible to look down into the hole so it was not possible to see how deep it was.
Also in the mountains, but further to the west, is Job's Tomb. If Bin Ali was a new acquaintance to me Job is not. I never read the Bible but I am familiar with it. I have for instance heard of Book of Job
. I don't know what it is about but I have heard the name. The Job in Book of Job is the same Job who is in the Tomb. Not every day you see the grave of a bloke who is in the Bible!
The last place of the tour around Salalah was a Wadi, a valley with a dry riverbed, where there grow frankincense trees.
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