YERU EBUEN –
Salut has gone under the radar for most of these years only generating interests from hardcore archaeology fanatics and history buffs.
Understandably so, it is yet to be fully recognised as a world heritage site and while it has been submitted for consideration on September 24, 2014 to Unesco, it remained in the Tentative Lists limbo waiting to be fully noticed for its historical and archaeological values.
While thousands of people make it to Nizwa and Bahla for historical visit, only very few of these trickles and find their way to Bisya where Salut is located.
Located right where two major wadis converge — the Wadi Seyfam to the west and Wadi Bahla to the east — it’s barely a 30-minute drive south of Bahla.
Upon driving to its location, one will be welcomed by a massive land area tinted with red as if this place has seen war and all the blood spread into the land and soaked the mountains and rocks that makeup Salut’s former domain.
It is also off the main road and one has to drive through rough, unpaved roads to get to its location.
To an untrained eye, one will only see ruins on the ground and the little bit of renovation here and there is enough that through the power of imagination, one will have an idea of how it looked like in the past.
It’s not grand and it’s not memorable if one has to look at it from the structures alone but to fully understand what it’s all about, one has to retrace the past upon fully understanding its function and creation, one will concur that it is a testament to the genius of ancient people.
The layout of the land
Salut is a city where people continuously lived and died. The reports from researchers and the technical jargons used sometimes can be confusing but in layman’s term, here people came, built, lived, moved away and rebuilt on the same spot.
The study and research is still ongoing with the Director of the Salut Archaeological Park, Waleed bin Sultan al Muzaini, sharing in March of this year that while earlier speculation put the city during the Iron Age, recent evidence through radioactive carbon dating actually testified that it dates back to the first half of the 2nd Millenium BC or the Middle Bronze Age.
The Italian mission of Pisa University headed by Professor Alessandra Avanzini has been working on the site for years now in partnership with Omani archaeologists and more recent discoveries yielded narrow streets, rocky terraces, rainwater drainage systems, fortified buildings and dozens of earthenware painting a picture that Salut was a civilised centre so massive and large that Salut can be called the heart of the Majan Civilization in historic Oman.
Here, they found pieces of evidence that people of the past had been in contact with other great civilisations — from those of the Indus Valley and of Mesopotamia. There are also graves here robbed in antiquity but whatever contents remained spoke of Salut’s far-reaching trade network spanning Mesopotamia, Persia, Yemen and as far as the Roman Empire.
From the necropolis to the tower
While the remains of the past spoke of the majestic rise and demise of the grand city of Salut, modern Salut is a time-withered barren land with but a few structures protruding from the ground.
From the top of the castle, one will have a sweeping view of the city’s former domain. Far into the distance are the new cities rising and the farms, which the falaj system constantly feed, remained green the technology of which probably passed on by the very ancient people who lived in the area.
The breeze is quite nice and cold on top of the castle, now but a few stones piled after one another to give a semblance of order to its former formidable self. The walls of the castle were built high and strong and if properly restored, one can easily tell that it’s easy to get lost in its narrow halls and mud-covered walls.
On the opposite hill, the lonely beehive tomb lies silently with a structure reminiscent of Grecian columns. There’s nothing inside the tomb, just stale air and dust of whatever was placed there a long time ago.
Spending an afternoon in Salut needs an in-depth immersion into the past but if one is armed with the knowledge of archaeology, Salut is a fascinating place to be at.
Other than the science, it’s also quite fascinating to imagine Salut as the place built by Sulaiman (or Solomon of the Bible) as shared in the Quran — of how he ordered some mystical being to do his bidding of creating the falaj and building the castle.
While about 700 people visited Salut in the first quarter of 2019 interested to see Salut as an Archaeological Park, the people of the area believes in the tale of Sulaiman. To visit Salut for whichever story one believes makes the place all the more extraordinary.