From my Oman files.
Dhofar coast: the type of coastline Freya Stark would have seen and described in the book I am now reading, also the one from my previous post – see below..
From the big encyclopædia in the sky:
Dame Freya Madeline Stark. DBE.
In 1934, Stark sailed down the Red Sea to Aden and began a new adventure. She hoped to trace the frankincense route of the Hadhramaut, the hinterland of southern Arabia. Only a handful of Western explorers had ventured into the region but never as far or as widely as she. Her goal was to reach the ancient city of Shabwa, which was rumoured to have been the capital of the Queen of Sheba.
Click cover for Amazon link and note how rare and expensive most of her hardback books have become. Ex-library or well used books can be got at reasonable cost: many of her First addition, Mint & Fine used copies are not easily found.
More from Tawi Atayr – unfortunately it was the wrong time of day, so shadows in the sinkhole were very dark. It was also before the monsoon hits, so everything is brown & tinder dry.
The metal rusted & broken frame seen on the last image, was for taking water from the bottom of the sinkhole during the summer months. During severe monsoon periods, this place can fill with water, then join the deluge that pours down Wadi Darbat towards the sea; such as when Cyclone Mekunu caused flash flooding earlier this year.
Getting there & seeing the place was great fun (even if rather precarious when venturing near the edge and away from the installed viewing area) but needs must for photography, as long as one is sensible.
Two images of a water run-off channel that drops into the Tawi Atayr sinkhole. The one on the right diffused, because I liked the look when printed. On the left I used a lens that has a slight softness around the edges: not everything needs to be ultra sharp.
Tawi Atayr: A sinkhole located in Al-Qarāʾ Mountains Dhofar.
The name roughly translated from Arabic means the “well of the birds” appropriate because it is populated by many birds whose song can be heard seemingly from all directions, when approaching the area of this sinkhole.
Its surface measurement is approximately 130m in a NE-SW direction and about 90m in NW-SE direction with a vertical depth of around 210m. Halfway down it narrows to an almost circular hole of about 60m in diameter.
Opinions differ as to its formation, either erosion exacerbated by fissures opened when the rock freezes or a collapsed cave system.
At the bottom there is a cave passage in a north-eastern direction, located at groundwater level and half-filled with water. To my knowledge, this passage has not yet been explored, it is possible that it leads to Wadi Darbat and the sea which is only 10km to the south.
Dhofar camel – I think I have only ever posted two other images of a camel, thought I should add one more 🙂
I prefer the horse, but once one gets familiar with the sideways motion of a walking camel, it’s a very comfortable ride.
A rather dilapidated building in Mirbat.
From my colour files
No amount of work will repair this boat – beached at Mirbat Dhofar.
These stalls are on the side of the coastal road out of Salalah and have traded in one form or another for many years. It may look a little rough & ready, but no one seems to mind as their fruit is always fresh and inexpensive. For anyone who may not recognise the bamboo like poles, it’s Sugarcane: cut and sold as a sweet chewing stick.
It may look nice but the water might contain the Schistosomiasis parasitic worm; giving a disease commonly known as bilharzia. The way to avoid this nasty little critter is by not going into the water with bare feet, swimming, washing & certainly not drinking it. I will add here that due to the work of the Ministry of Health its prevalence in the only risk area here in Oman, Dhofar; now ≤ 1% according to the latest reports I can find, but better safe than sorry.
A small step into history.
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.
Wadi Darbat travertine waterfall.
A 500ft high Travertine Curtain blocking the exit from Wadi Darbat. It should really be referred to as Tufa, a precipitate of water containing dissolved carbonate minerals. As the water evaporates it deposits the carbonates that form this spectacular cliff face. During the monsoon period, this can quite often be hidden behind a deluge of water.
From my book ‘Plants of Dhofar’ this is Adenium obesum (name corrected to ‘Obesum’ the error pointed out by Spinosina – thanks. Mea culpa for not reading the whole description on page 30 of the book) more commonly known as Desert Rose.
A plant that was treated with fear and a lot of respect in days gone by: 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.
Big old tree -Wadi Darbat.
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.
Plant on rock.
Fuji Xpro 1: Velvia setting.
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.
Al Baleed Archæological site.
Windows in abandoned house.
Tree roots over rock.
Looking again at this image, the bottom right was not desaturated, it is a thick film of dust & grey dirt.
Both of these found in a deep overhang at the top of a wadi in the mountains above Mirbat.
A young Frankincense bush – they do not produce the sap that is used (& at one time, more valuable than gold) until about the 8 or 10 year mark.
This is the sort of place where Dhofar Rock Art can be found.
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.
Coconut palm – Salalah.
Cannot visit Dhofar (Salalah) without at least one Coconut Palm picture. 🙂