The historic port city of al-Baleed in Salalah is open to visitors as a fascinating archaeological park. Experience first-hand how the ancient trading centre is being rediscovered.
The al-Baleed archaeological site is located in eastern Salalah, an Omani city in the very south of the country. Called the "Land of Frankincense", al-Baleed is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other sites on the Frankincense Route.
Al-Baleed was once a flourishing 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. Due to exports from Asia, however, the frankincense trade is of little importance today.
Discovery of al-Baleed
Before the rule of Sultan Qaboos, which began in 1970, Oman was completely isolated from the rest of the world and hardly any foreigners were in Oman. Therefore, research teams tended to focus on surrounding countries such as Yemen or Iran. The first archaeological finds in Oman were only made by chance in the 1950s by European oil workers or soldiers.
It was only after the accession of Sultan Qaboos, who wanted to make Oman a modern and progressive country, that the first institute for the study of Omani history was founded. Besides al-Baleed, other archaeological sites have been discovered, such as the ancient incense port of Sumhuram, the beehive tombs of Baat and Al Ayn, or the legendary city of Ubar near Shisr.
Further excavations on the Khor al-Baleed headland were commissioned by UNESCO in 1995.
On the road in al-Baleed
The archaeological site has been turned into a 65-hectare archaeological park with green hills, walking paths, explanatory panels and benches where you can take a short rest and soak up the atmosphere of the ancient harbour. At the far end is a small recreational area with an idyllic lagoon, a sunbathing lawn and a children's playground under palm trees.
From the beginning, the work focused on the large projects, such as the Citadel, the Friday Mosque and the city wall of al-Baleed. Over time, paved streets and the remains of some warehouses were also uncovered.
Entrance to the archaeology park is free of charge, only the car park in front of the excavation site is subject to a fee.
The excavations in al-Baleed are far from complete. Under the hills of Khor al-Baleed, there are most likely more remains of the ancient trading city. The concept of the archaeological park is that visitors can also look over the archaeologists' shoulders as they work and thus experience first-hand how the old al-Baleed is being recreated.
The archaeology park can be explored on foot or with a small electric trolley and is also open at night. The paths and ruins illuminated in the dark create an atmosphere all of their own.