Khor Rori – a walk around the archæological site of Sumhuram.

Sumhuram.

A site on the coast near Mirbat Dhofar.
It has always been assumed that Sumhuram was founded in the 1st century CE, for the trade of frankincense between the Mediterranean Sea and India. The latest discoveries by archæologists from the Italian University of Pisa using pottery assemblage & C14 dating, put its foundation back to the 4th century BCE; it looks like it was an important stopping place on the trade route between south-eastern Arabia and the northern coast of Oman.

Salt flats – near Shannah.

Gathering sea salt.
These were made near Shannah (Ferry port for Masirah) actually just a sleepy little place with a few buildings serving the ferry: although it has grown in size over the last year or so & soon may even have a coffee shop & what purports to be a hotel !

The pink tinge seen is from Halobacteria   they are a rather interesting form of Archaea  so are not actually bacteria and very dependant on salt, freshwater would kill them instantly. Confusing ! hence the links which give a better description than I ever could. Because even belonging to the Archaea family, they don’t follow the rules and are a branch with behavioural characteristics all of their own.

Ho and the reason I got these images is because I made a quick road trip to Masirah (work) so was lucky enough to catch this salt flat at its best. I have only once seen the whole area pink, in all the years I have made the trip (no camera – typical) but at least I got the salt this time.

Dhofar – Adenium obecium.

 

From my book ‘Plants of Dhofar’  this is Adenium obecium or more commonly known as Desert Rose.

A plant that was treated with fear and a lot of respect in days gone bye: Snakes were believed to get their poison from it and getting close would result in painful eye inflammation if care was not taken. The sap from the bark was used for medicinal purposes as a topical salve for inflammation of joints or limb paralysis. It is poisonous if eaten by animals, so the sap could be used as a fish or arrow poison.

The person collecting this bark should carry something iron and pray out loud while approaching the plant,  strip the bark as quickly as possible then depart without looking back; never return to the same area until a reasonable period of time has passed.
The bark was  pounded then put in warm water to soak, a small piece of iron included in the mixture made it more powerful and stopped the ‘evil eye’ of malcontents or evil spirits interfering with it.

Early fishing boat construction – Dhofar.

These are examples of a traditional method of sewn-boat construction (no nails) which is no longer carried out in Dhofar: the last person with this skill, died in the 1990’s, although a few still live in the Musandam. (Seminar of Arabian Studies 40)

Archæological evidence from the al-Balid site, of timbers re-used as building materials when boats were no longer sea worthy, indicate that this method of construction in Dhofar is very old.

All the materials come from the Coconut palm – wood, cordage & wadding, with a covering derived from fish oil. The tools used being saw, adze, chisel & hammer, along with a good eye for a straight line & curves – undoubtedly very accomplished carpenters.

Erosion.

ErosionRillenkarren – Erosion of rock during Oman’s wetter phase.

The technical description from my geology book says:

Rillenkarren.- Are forms of dissolution on the surface of the rocks that consist of small channels separated by sharp crests configuring a network of tight more or less parallel gullies next to each other. Its Genesis is linked to the dissolution of the rock by the sheet of water that forms on it as a local run-off.

 

More from Al Baleed.

Al Baleed.

 

Al Baleed or Al Balid (from the Jibbali Arabic for ‘town’) is what is now known as the Al Baleed Achæological Park & Frankincense museum.

This extensive site described in great detail by Dr Paolo M. Costa, working with the Ministry of Heritage & Culture between 1976/86 can be found in The Journal of Oman Studies Vol:5. [The Study of the city of Zafar (al Balid) ] unfortunately I have not been able to find a link for this publication – Oman does not seem to make these publications easily available on the internet.

Al Baleed (Zafar, the city where the name Dhofar comes from) was an ancient port located near what is now Salalah. Recent excavation has shown that the site was inhabited from around the 5 millennia BCE. It continued its development in the late Iron Age through the Middle Ages until it fell into decline for a number of reasons; the reduced need for trade in Frankincense & then its horses. The silting-up of the harbour didn’t help: As the deep water receded, the big trading vessels were not able to dock. Arab and European historical references indicate that it was rebuilt several times from the early 10th century CE until its decline around the middle 1200s CE.

The city & its ‘Great’ mosque with over 140 pillars, minaret & associated outbuildings was still in use until the 17th centenary CE.

Marco Polo described the city as prosperous and one of the main ports on the Indian Ocean trade route. Although like a lot of other places (Masirah for instance) that he is supposed to have visited, it could be just word of mouth as the saying goes. Ibn Battuta visited this site in 1329 and commented on its beauty. In 1846, HJ Carter wrote about the city, pointing to its architecture and grand mosque, which he described as exceptional; he is now questioned for being rather ‘picturesque’ with his description of what was there when he visited. Reports from Miles (1880) and Bentes (1890) are also available describing their visit to Al Baleed.

Considering that the site was robed of stone for many years; it is only because of H.M the Sultan and his desire for the protection of Oman’s heritage, that there is anything left of the site. Fortunately, a lot of building structures and artefacts lay beneath mounds of rubble & sand; so with the on going archæology, more is being discovered every year.

 

 

Pictographs – Dhofar.

All images have been colour shifted to try & enhance the art for viewing – several being very faint and smudged through weathering & age. As can be seen, these pictographs are a form of rock art that is totally different from that found in northern Oman. It portrays images of the camel interspersed with horses and their rider: there are clusters of dots & lines seen as well; the significance of these is not known, although it has been suggested by some, probably notational.
Domesticated by humans in southern Arabia, the Camel seems to have arrived around 3,000 BCE and following a 2010 discovery of artefacts dated between 6590 and 7250 BCE in south-western Saudi Arabia, which appeared to portray horses, they arrived much earlier.
The age of this art is not really known but probably first or second millennium BCE.
This is only a small representation of the art found in Dhofar: it would need more time than I had available for a comprehensive presentation.

Ubar ?

Ubar ?
Ubar again.I have another post somewhere about this place they claim is The lost City of Ubar: known by various other names (Wubar, Wabar, Iram of the Pillars and Atlantis of the Sands mentioned by Lawrence of Arabia) but the more I visit, the more I think it lives by reputation & reality is something quite different.

It certainly held some significance for the Frankincense trade route but; looking at the site with mark one eyeball, it is small compared to Khor Rorī or Al Balid on the coast: a lot of wishful thinking going on me thinks.
Freya Stark sums it up.

When the explorer Freya Stark consulted the works of Arab geographers, she found a wide range of opinions as to the location of Wabar: “Yaqut says: “In Yemen is the qaria of Wabar.” El-Laith, quoted by Yaqut, puts it between the sands of Yabrin and Yemen. Ibn Ishaq… places it between “Sabub (unknown to Yaqut and Hamdani) and the Hadhramaut. Hamdani, a very reliable man, places it between Najran, Hadhramaut, Shihr and Mahra. Yaqut, presumably citing Hamdani, puts it between the boundaries of Shihr and San’a, and then, on the authority of Abu Mundhir between the sands of B.Sa’d (near Yabrin) and Shihr and Mahra. Abu Mundhir puts it between Hadhramaut and Najran.”

I paraphrase:   With such evidence, it seems quite possible  to find Wabar in opposite corners of Arabia.

Bronze Age Trilith – Dhofar.

Trilith - Dhofar.Bronze Age Trilith – Dhofar.

This unusual row of stones is one of Oman’s more enigmatic archaeological finds: found in eastern Yemen & South West Oman,  C.400 B.C.E – 300 C.E.
The stones are usually found in groups of 3 to 15 (although longer rows have been seen) about 2 or 3 foot high and standing on end, forming a tripod structure with sometimes a capstone. Placed along side & parallel with Wadis or tracks; mostly stood on bedrock.
They are not burial places because they seem to be always placed on a hard rocky surface and that is about all anyone can be certain of. The construction period has been reasonably well confirmed by Carbon-14 dating, from ash remains of wood fires that seem to have been used within the structures.

The fence has been placed for their protection; a lot of sites can get damaged through ignorance or just basic theft of the stone as building material.

P.S I can thank Freyja my daughter who noticed these while we were driving some way off on the main road.

My Nikon 35Ti camera.

Nikon 35Ti Quartz Date compact camera, introduced in 1993. giving the ultimate in analogue technology (almost) more of this later

The titanium metal casing covers the motors and camera’s microelectronics, the top incorporates a unique, analogue display system. It shows all the important camera settings and the scales give a quick and easy guide during use. The Command Input Control dial, full 3D matrix metering and a superb f2.8 35mm lens, all add to the control over picture making that this camera gives. There is one caveat to this statement: the Iso is only set by the film canister coding (not changeable by the user, unless modification of the films DX coding) why this was done I have no idea.

There was another problem on early models of the 35mm but not the later 28mm cameras: the flash was difficult to control as it only had two buttons ‘on or fill’ switching off permanently meant a menu function needed to be selected (a forerunner of the nightmare found on some digital cameras) mine has the newer three button selection method not often seen when looking for one of these cameras in the used market.

A couple of other things it can do (not used by me) it will imprint data on the film !! not in the space between frames as seen with most professional SLR data backs. It can modify the framing for a form of panoramic image (crops top & bottom of the 35mm frame) a novelty and not worth using.

It also looks nice – like a well crafted piece of 50’s engineering, the Weston Euromaster meter from the 70’s is another; if you have not seen or used one then Google it.

Ruins – Birkat Al Mouz.

Enough of the sarcasm about the new WordPress reader: back to what passes as normal on this blog.

Ruin

Ruins hidden behind some of the modern houses in the main thoroughfare of Birkat Al Mouz.

Ruins that most people miss when they visit this town: there was not two as I have seen mentioned, but three occupied areas until modernity arrived.
In his book “Across the Green Mountains of Oman” Colonel S B Miles says that in 1876 the population was about 3000 & the settlement is divided into three distinct hujrahs (sic) sections, Belonging to Sezzid Hamad and the other two to the El Amair & Beni Riyam tribes respectively.

 

The Jebel this morning.

the-jebelA quick stop on my way to Birkat Al-Mawz (Birkat Al Mouz) this morning.
I’m afraid there are going to be more posts about ruined villages in the next few days: I spent this morning going around the three abandoned areas of Birkat Al Mouz.

 

These abandoned villages were important stopping places on the camel route between Muscat and Al Buraimi. A camel In caravan can make about 20 miles a day and Al Buraimi was at least 350 miles by dirt track from Muscat; a long trip of many days, needing plenty of rest stops en-route.
The village (now town) of Al Buraimi was an important juncture between Oman proper & the Persian Gulf  ‘Arabian Gulf for some – depending on which map you look at and its age.

Concierto by the Jim Hall sextet.

A great jazz version of the well-known  Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo: taken from the album Concierto by the Jim Hall sextet.
With a glass of Chateau Musar:  A red wine from grapes grow in the Beqaa Valley Lebanon.
Please click the link for the wine & get an interesting insight into a family run vineyard that has gone through great travails keeping this wine in production.

Testing a Nikon Df at night – Muttrah.

I have been testing a Nikon Df with its D4 sensor: these images were taken with the Nikkor 50mm f1.8AF G lens set @ f5.6.
All hand held at Iso 3200 apart from the water feature which was 10000 Iso (that is the correct number of zeros !) other than a little noise reduction & a small amount of sharpening, nothing else was done.
Raw NEF images converted to Tiff Adobe RGB then Jpeg s.RGB but no colour correction; the white balance was set on Auto 1.
All taken last night and never again, far more people than I like when out with my camera.

I don’t think I could do this using a film camera without many trials & tribulations.