The ancient city of Qalhat
Once the capital of ancient Oman, the city of Qalhat was recently placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites for its historical significance and its role in Oman’s evolution between the 11th and 15th centuries. “The Ancient City of Qalhat presents a unique testimony to the Kingdom of Hormuz, as it prospered from the 11th to 16th century CE,” UNESCO informed in a statement. “Ancient Qalhat presents exceptional evidence of a major trade hub, which came under the rule of the Princes of
“It was a seasonal residence and refuge to the Princes of Hormuz, which has given it the title of a secondary capital of the larger kingdom,” the statement added. UNESCO has recognised the city’s urban plan and excavated buildings that are typical of the Kingdom of Hormuz. The United Nations body also notes that the archaeological remains provide further potential for a more detailed understanding of Qalhat’s ways of life and trade.
UNESCO added that the section of the site around Bibi Maryam was protected by the residents of the neighbouring village before it was closed to the public for conservation. This guardianship tradition, which was disrupted when the site was closed and visitation discontinued, is to be re-activated as part of the future visitor concept, according to the organisation.
The Ministry of Tourism said in a statement in this context, “Once the first capital of Oman,Qalhat’s history traces back to the Bronze Age. The Portuguese occupied the city until being expelled in the late 16th century. Since then, the settlement has slowly fallen to ruin, with only the tomb of Bibi Maryam remaining as testament to Qalhat’s former importance.”
The Tourism Ministry said that Qalhat was once a shining jewel along the Omani coastline. “The Indian Ocean trade route brought many people through the ancient city, which Italian explorer Marco Polo described as having ‘fine bazaars and one of the most beautiful mosques,’” added the Ministry. “In the late-Middle Ages, when it was Oman’s first capital, the city was notably encircled by a fortified wall and was bustling with shops, bazaars, and houses.”
“Today, a single mausoleum is all that bears witness to the city’s former glory. Some say the lonely tomb was built by Baha al-Din Ayaz, king of the Hormuz Empire, for his wife, Bibi Maryam. But others maintain that it was indeed her who built it for him,” said the Ministry.
source: Times of Oman
Credit: Oman Pocket Guide