Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lost in the Past

Published January 5, 2010 - Muscat Daily

Many of you live in Dhofar or have been here at least once or twice, and a good number of you may have visited the ruins at Khor Rori (Sumhuram) just outside Salalah. One of the more significant pre-Islamic settlements in Dhofar, excavations at Khor Rori have been going on since the 1950’s. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of touring the site with some archaeologists who have been working there on and off for several years. What I learned in those short hours blew me away and stunned me into realizing how little I knew about the history of Dhofar. I had been to the site several times before, but on those occasions there were no brochures available at the gate, and although the site has been open to the public for at least two years, there are still no signs posted around the ruins with explanations. Anyone who visited Khor Rori would enjoy the architecture and pre-Islamic writings on the walls, but would leave with no information on its history. During my tour I learned about the great kings, the wars, the frankincense trade, the people, the Semitic gods they worshipped, the temples, the sacrifices, the graves, and much more. I mean it when I say I was ‘blown away’. The ruins sit on a cliff overlooking the ocean. You can actually feel the history. Truly majestic and awe-inspiring. Where had I been all these years? Why didn't I know about all this?
I asked the archaeologists if there were any Omanis working on the site and their answer was a quiet 'one or two’. Apparently Omani archaeology graduates are either very superstitious or prefer office jobs and aren't willing to tackle excavations. I know it's much easier to have a comfortable job, but when working on something as important as unearthing the history of this region, I'd probably do it for free!

The next day I met with a group of friends and brought up the subject of Khor Rori. To my dismay, half of them hadn't even heard of it and the other half didn't care, or had strong superstitions about the place. I was sad, but not surprised. I've seen similar reactions from young people of my generation, especially during my years at university. They may have university degrees but very few of them are interested in the history of the region, and most of them have never taken the time out to visit any of the archeological sites, the caves with ancient writings, the tombs, or even the museums.

There seems to be very little interest in history that isn't tribal. Dhofar is such a fascinating place, and there's so much to be explored. If such sites were advertised well and information was easily accessible, I'm pretty sure the level of interest would increase. The Ministry of Tourism should cater to the locals, not just the tourists. There should be educational signs at every site as well as brochures, and even a website. Why not?
To conclude on a very positive note, I was pleased to discover that as of last month, a book published by the Office of the Advisor to His Majesty for Cultural Affairs on the reconstruction & restoration of Khor Rori is being sold at the gate. I read the book in one sitting and was fascinated. I will definitely visit again and spread the word. If you live in Salalah, grab a picnic and go and visit the site on the weekend! If you're from outside Dhofar, make sure to add Khor Rori to your ‘to do’ list when you come to Salalah. I can promise you, you won't be disappointed!


  1. موضوع جميل جداً
    نحن بحاجة لزرع ثقافة الاهتمام بالتراث والآثار.
    أنا أتوقع أن عزوف الشباب عن الاهتمام بالأماكن الاثرية هو بسبب العرض السيء بمعنى أن الجهات المعنية لم تقدم المواقع كما يجب
    كما أن المبالغات طاغية على الكتابات إنت تمت دون وجود دلائل واضحة على ذلك
    هناك تراث كبير جداً ولم يتم تنقيحة أو تنظيمة بالشكل الطلوب الذي يمكن أن يسحب الشباب عن قناعة لمثل هذه المواقع
    مقالاتك جميلة واسمحيلي علقت بالعربي

  2. I read your article on yesterday's paper :P I just hope I could get the chance to visit Salalah and I'm sure that I'll pay this place a visit as well.

  3. Way to go, Toot. You're carrying yet another banner. Grams

  4. I am very interested in learning about the Dhofari History. Although whenever I mentioned Khor Rori to my family, they laugh at me and tell me the place is haunted. So I never got a chance to visit the place. Is there any other place I could acquire the book you spoke of?