Arrivals & Departures Our Favourite Travel Moments: In search of ancient Oman

Photo of Niall McIlroy

Far from being an arid dustbowl, the Arabian nation of Oman has widely varying landscapes. And at Salalah, in the south, the yearly monsoon ensures that a very valuable tree flourishes.

The searing Omani desert doesn't sound so alluring but under a hot sun I stood fascinated as my Bedouin guide, Musallam Hassan, chipped away at the wiry trunk of Boswelia sacra, the frankincense tree.

Thousands of years ago, this part of modern-day Oman grew rich on the export of frankincense, which is thought to have been sold as far afield as China.

A few days later, I'm standing again in the burning desert sun near Thumrait. Before me a yawning chasm in the sand is all that's left of the ancient city of Ubar. 

Mentioned in the Koran and the Bible, it was mysteriously lost until images taken from space showed camel tracks converging at this spot on the desert.

Read more about the secrets of the desert... Oman, where wealth drips from the trees


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