Crystal@Home Featured Port: Salalah, Oman
Where Myths and Legends Rule
The Essence & Incense of Salalah
There is no shortage of myth and legend in this land of seafarers and fishermen. Step back into Oman’s past and you can’t help but be immersed in flying carpets and genies, wizards and alchemists. Granted there are majestic forts, castles, ancient gates and walls that have long told a story of the nation's heritage; the country has five listed UNESCO World Heritage sites! But it is the emergence of numerous archaeological discoveries that portray the evolution of a nation whose historic essence is deeply rooted in these timeless tales.
Witness Sinbad and his fabled adventures from Tales of the Arabian Nights. As travelers, we can surely identify with this intrepid sailor. Sinbad is continually confronted with hardships during his seven voyages. But his spirit of wanderlust tempts him time and time again to seek out the unknown. No wonder then, that Omanis claim Sinbad as their own, believing he was born in either Sohar or Sur (depending upon who you talk to and where they reside). After all, the Sultanate of Oman is considered as one of the great pioneering nations in seafaring. The country’s 1,200-miles of fertile coastal plain sprawls along the Indian Ocean between Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and this strategic location and passion for taking to sea have been the guiding forces behind Oman’s rich history since ancient times. The port of Sohar became an important entrepôt (an intermediary center of trade and trans-shipment) between East and West, especially in the trade of frankincense, and by the 10th century AD, Sohar had become one of the wealthiest cities in the Islamic world.
And so we welcome you to Salalah and to the unique and unfathomable myths of Oman. And be sure to keep your eyes and your mind open. A magical adventure awaits.
Gifts of Gold and Frankincense
Speaking of frankincense, the trade in this aromatic resin and the routes which it created dominated the Arabian Peninsula for centuries. Frankincense is obtained from the Boswellia sacra tree which grows in the province of Dhofar where Salalah is located.
Famous as the source of frankincense, Salalah was already a prosperous town when Marco Polo visited it in the 13th century. Furthermore, it is also said that the precious commodity was responsible for the fabulous wealth of the mighty Queen of Sheba
and surely contributed to King Solomon’s vast treasury. On her legendary visit to the grand court of Solomon, King of Israel, Sheba brought with her fabulous gifts of gold and rare stones, and bales and bales of precious frankincense. Today,
history buffs can visit her summer palace (now in ruins) located just 25 miles east of Salalah in the ancient port of Samhurah.
The Tomb of Job
Then there’s An-Nabi Ayyub, also known as Job's Tomb. References in the Book of Job concerning the Chaldeans and Sabeans from northeastern Arabia and Yemen seem to place Job’s homeland in Oman. The prophet went to Jerusalem, returning to his beloved homeland when he was 80 to die. According to legend, Job — or a body that might be the prophet's —- lies beneath a green satin sheet, revered by Muslims and Christians alike. Regardless of your religious convictions, the tomb, which is located on an isolated hilltop overlooking Salalah, is a must-see if only for the beautiful drive and for the view over the Salalah plain.
Lawrence of Arabia
Even Lawrence of Arabia comes to play in this magical land. Five thousand years ago, a busy trading center called Ubar dominated the Arabian Peninsula. Built at an oasis, the fortress city attracted people as far away as Greece thanks to its stock-in-trade: the leaves of the frankincense bush. Worth more than gold, these leaves provided the sweet incense used in the ancient world’s temples. Ubar prospered and the town grew so rich its streets purportedly were paved in gold. But Ubar suddenly disappeared because the people grew greedy and were destroyed by their god, or so the legend goes. While traveling through the Empty Quarter, Lawrence was told by his Bedouin escorts of the lost city, and he dreamed of locating Ubar which he dubbed “the Atlantis of the Sands.” Many thought the place was a fairy tale, of course, but no one could ignore the fact that its name, "Ubar," kept popping up in the Koran and in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. And as a matter of fact, Ubar did, indeed, exist. It lay buried deep beneath the dunes of the Empty Quarter, until researchers identified it using images taken by NASA. By the way, the “Empty Quarter” is the loose translation of Rub' al Khali, the largest continuous sand desert in the world.