Unesco has officially declared the ancient City of Qalhat as a World Heritage Site. The announcement was made on the organisation’s Twitter account on Friday. Qalhat has been on the tentative list since July 4, 1988 and this declaration was the result of the efforts made by the permanent delegation of the Sultanate of Oman to Unesco.
Covering a total area of 35 hectares and located between Shab and the main city of Sur, the ancient city’s imposing and the only surviving structure is the mausoleum of Bibi Maryam.
Historical records have shown that Qalhat was an important harbour city welcoming ships not only from Dhofar but also ships and traders from Yemen and India amongst other countries. The ancient harbour city was under the control of the King of Hormuz. Some believe the King of Hormuz, Bahauddin Ayez, built the tomb in the 13th century in honour of his wife Bibi Maryam. Others say it is the site of a mosque Maryam built herself, or is simply her final resting place.
After earthquakes and the eventual destruction of the city brought about by the Portuguese conquistador Afonso de Albuquerque in 1508, the city was eventually abandoned.
It’s inclusion to the list of world heritage site, as the delegation of Oman has proposed, is because the ancient city of Qalhat stands as a unique testimony of cultural traditions and an ancient civilization” and that it “is an outstanding example for an early typical city port representing important stages in the history of mankind.”
Oman delegation to Unesco also said that “There is no other harbour site on the Arabian Peninsula where remains of the 13th -15th century can be comparably comprehensively studied, neither at Al Balid, Muscat, Sur or Suhar.”