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L.Srikumar Pai
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Tourist spots: Al Baleed Park , Salalah, Oman

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Al Baleed park offers battery-run cars for children , while others love to wander around to have a look at  the Arab culture many hundreds of years old.

Boating is another attraction for the tourists, especially the children. The ROP-managed motorboats take the tourists for a tour in the natural lake inside the park. The lake is well maintained and boating in it gives the tourists great relief after having a long tour of the park. The history of Al Baleed dates back to 2000 BC when it had its main settlement at the eastern outskirts of Salalah. During the late Iron Age it was an active central city and was prosperous during the Islamic era. It has been mentioned in the memoirs of 13th century Moroccan Explorer Ibn Battuta that the city of Al Baleed, situated in the immediate vicinity to the Indian Ocean, was one of the important Omani harbours, which traded not only the Arabian gold and the frankincense, but also horses and other goods to Indian harbours.

Since 2001 the three archaeological sites  — Al Baleed, Khor Rori and Sisr, as well as the Frankincense Park Wadi Dawka — have been registered on the Unesco list of World Heritage sites. The park is clearly separated into two parts. One entrance area north to the site and separated by a water arm of the old harbour and the site itself, well protected as in old days by its moat on three sites. An elegant bridge connects both areas.  The entrance area being free of any archaeological remains consists of a frankincense centre as exhibition ground with administration, sufficient parking and a refreshment zone.  The site has a 2.2-kilometre long access path built on protective geo-textiles on top of the archaeological surface. Along this path several excavations took place, the great mosque, the citadel, a graveyard mosque and some residential houses.

According to experts, the city overlooks the sea. It was rectangular in shape and was surrounded by a fence with three gates, which were used as entry points. Excavations were conducted into two phases in 1978 and focused on the greater mosque which was a high rectangular building surrounded by balconies from all sides. This type of balconies was used in most of Dhofar Governorate. From its large wall and strong forts it is clear that the city was renovated in the style of other contemporary Islamic cities during Al Habudheen era (13th century AD). The city benefited from the prosperous frankincense trade and was commercially linked to ports in China, India, Yemen, East Africa, Iraq and Europe.

Chinese traveller Jan Jokao wrote that frankincense was one of the main commodities produced by the city, and research has revealed that at one time the Chinese city of Quanzhou imported approximately 174.337 kilograms of frankincense from Al Baleed. The famous traveller Marco Polo (1285) described the city as prosperous and one of the main ports on the Indian Ocean, and said it was a booming commercial centre.  In 1846, traveller HJ Carter wrote about the city, pointing to its architecture and grand mosque, which he described as exceptional. Records of Miles (1880) and Bentes (1890) are also available regarding their visit to Al Baleed. According to Italian trader Boli (1903), “It is a great and beautiful city overlooking the sea” and that ships from many places called at it.

( Courtesy : Kaushalendra Singh, Oman Observer. Read the full article )

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