Why Qalhat becomes part of UNESCO World Heritage

Muscat: News of the entry of the City of Qalhat history through its inclusion in the list of UNESCO world heritage has gone viral on local and international media as the fifth Omani site on the list after Bahla Castle (1987), Bat, Al Khatam and Al Ain (1988), Frankincense Land (2000), Aflaj Irrigation System (2006), which includes five Aflaj; Daris, Al-Khatmeen, Al-Maliky, Al-Mayser and Al-Jeila.

Sultan bin Saif al-Bakri, Director General of Antiquities at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture pointed out that this indicates the global exceptional value of Qalhat as a significant cultural and economic connection point in the thirteen century. “The city is characterized by fusion of cultures and this is evident through buildings, tombs and mosques inspired by the Persian Safavid architecture.  In addition to Ottoman baths which depends on steam, indicating the extent of prosperity that this city enjoyed in ancient times” al Bakri stated.

Many international travelers and historians talked about their visits to Qalhat in their books.

Marco Polo, the famous Italian traveler, who visited Oman in 1272 wrote “Qalhat was distinguished by its harbour which was a stopping port for many trading ships from India”.  He further described it “Qalhat is a great city located on a bay called Qalhat. It is an important coastal city 600 miles north-west of Dhofar and its people are Arab subject to Hermes who whenever found himself in a war with a stronger king, he would resort to the city of Qalhat for its fortification and strategic location. Its people do not farm grains, but import them from outside the country on commercial boats. The port is very large and good.  From this city, spices and other goods are distributed to interior cities.  They also export to India many of original Arabian horses”.

Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan traveler, visited Qalhat in the fourteenth century. He noted in his book that it had fine bazaars and one of the most beautiful mosques.  He describes it saying “Its walls are tiled with qashani, which is like zilij, and it occupies a lofty situation which commands a view of the sea and the anchorage. It was built by the saintly woman Bibi Maryam, bibi meaning in their speech ‘noble lady”.

He further said, “And I ate in this city fish that I did not eat like in any region, and I preferred it to all other meat. They grill it on tree leaves, then eat it with rice. And rice is brought to them from land of India.  They are people of trade and live on what comes to them from the Indian Sea.”