Frankincense is closely associated with the history of Oman. So much so that the place was known as Land of Frankincense and there are plenty of evidences available to support this nomenclature. The frankincense trees of Wadi Dawkah and the remains of the caravan oasis of Shisr/Ubar and the affiliated ports of Khor Rori and Al-Baleed vividly illustrate the trade in frankincense that flourished in this region for many centuries, as one of the most important trading activities of the ancient and medieval world. The Frankincense was so popular in antiquity that at times its price was as high as gold in the Roman Empire’s bustling markets. To meet this pent-up demand, frankincense was distributed with camels as means of transport on a 2000km long journey via a vast overland trade network across Arabia to Gaza and other Mediterranean ports.
During the heyday of the frankincense trade, the caravan oasis of Shishr/Ubar was a crucial rest stop where the caravans would load up on water and other supplies before venturing into the world’s largest sand desert, the forbidding Empty Quarter. This sight as well as frankincense plantations are one of the highlights you will see during the Salalah4Tourist tours to the desert. There you will also learn everything about the cultivation of frankincense, the different varieties and uses. Did you know for example that the color is a quality characteristic and varies from dark brown to amber and a yellowish white to an almost transparent green?
The Al-Baleed excavation site is in eastern Salalah. Under the designation “Land of Frankincense,” Al-Baleed, along with other sites on the Frankincense Route, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Al-Baleed was once a thriving port city where mainly frankincense was handled for many centuries. The flourishing trade with Southeast Asia and Africa helped Al-Baleed to great wealth, which was reflected in magnificent buildings. This sight is a fixed component of the tours Salalah East Half Day, Salalah East Full Day and the Historical and Religious Tour Full Day.
Another Site of the “Land of Frankincense” is Sumhuram Old City, also known as Khor Rori. This is a fortress that was once built by the king of the Hadramaut Empire (today’s Yemen) to control the frankincense trade from Dhofar to India. For the inhabitants of Dhofar, however, the fortress at the mouth of the Wadi Darbat was a thorn in their side. The Hadramite had to protect themselves not only against attacks from the sea, but also against attacks from the immediate surroundings. This is made clear by a double city wall that encloses the elevated fortress. The Hadramite built the fortress itself so large that both the soldiers and the merchants with their supplies and Frankincense stores found enough space within the walls. The concept worked: for several centuries, the Hadramite occupiers maintained the world’s largest transshipment point for spices in the middle of Dhofar. Ships brought the valuable cargoes from there to the Yemeni home ports. Opportunity to visit Sumhuram Old City is given with the Historical and Religious Tour, Salalah East Tour Full Day and Salalah East Tour Half Day. However, since all our tours can be customized, we will be happy to take you to this location if it is not a fixed part of a tour you have booked.