Qalhat city added to World Heritage Site list

File photo of Bibi Maryam Mausoleum (Source: Ministry of Heritage and Culture)

Muscat - 

Oman’s Ancient City of Qalhat has been added to the Unesco’s World Heritage List. The announcement was made on Friday at Unesco’s 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee meeting in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahsa Oasis has also been added to the list.

Qalhat city dates back to pre-Islamic times. The port city on Oman’s Indian Ocean coast was once a key hub for trade in goods including Arabian horses to Chinese porcelain, according to the Omani submission. The case of Qalhat also demonstrates the power women could hold in Arabian society at the time. 

“In the 13th century... the governor Ayaz split his presence between Hormuz and Qalhat, which in his absence was ruled by his wife Maryam,” the submission reads. 

“She, Bibi Maryam, is said to have built the Great Friday Mosque and a mausoleum for her late husband. She continued ruling after her husband’s death until at least 1319.”

The site, which is located on the east coast of Oman, includes the ancient city of Qalhat, surrounded by inner and outer walls, as well as areas beyond the ramparts where necropolises are located. The city developed as a major port on the east coast of Arabia between the 11th and 15th centuries CE, during the reign of the Hormuz princes. Today, it bears unique archaeological testimony to the trade links between the east coast of Arabia, East Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia.

Oman had made an official nomination to the Unesco World Heritage Committee for inscription of Ancient City of Qalhat in 2016.

For inclusion on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. Oman has nominated Qalhat site under criterion number III, V and VI.

Under Criterion III, a site must bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared.

Criterion V relates to an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.

While under Criterion VI, a site must be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.

Saudi Arabia’s lush Al Ahsa oasis is dotted with yet-to-be-excavated archaeological sites, and carries traces of human occupation dating back to the Neolithic times. Al Ahsa ‘was a commercial centre for the Hajar territory of Bahrain,’ reads the Saudi submission to Unesco. 

“Archaeological evidence shows that it exchanged products from southern Arabia and Persia as well as throughout the Arabian Peninsula.”

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