Salalah: Part B - Frankincense

Oscar White Muscarella

Research Fellow - Retired

Ancient Near Eastern Department

Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York, New York


Dear Dr. Muscarella,

Cc: Family and Friends

Oscar, I am sure that you are familiar with the Biblical passage from the Book of Matthew referring to the Gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. But perhaps it is puzzling for the modern mind to understand that two plant products, two dried resins, were once equivalent in value to gold. 

Frankly, I was not familiar with the properties of frankincense.  But apparently, from ancient times (8000 years ago?) until today, the medicinal as well as religious uses of frankincense (and myrrh) are well-known and well-respected. 

To the Empty Quarter - Ayn Sahalnoot

The Empty Quarter


Hello from the Arabian Desert,

En route to the Empty Quarter and the Desert Camp, my guide Mohammed makes three unscheduled stops.

Ayn Sahalnoot is a delightful spot – a spring and a perfect place for a picnic and a swim in the pools and streams in a lush valley beneath the desert floor.   Cedar and fig trees!

The Camel Race Track is closed.   But I do have a chance to get acquainted with several of the “thoroughbreds.”

The Empty Quarter

The Empty Quarter


January 22, 2015

The Rub' al Khali (Arabic: الربع الخالي‎) or Empty Quarter is the second largest sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. 

The desert covers some 650,000 square kilometers (250,000 sq miles – about the size of Texas or France).  It includes parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.  It is part of the larger Arabian Desert. 

Shall I attempt to describe the Empty Quarter?  I’ll leave that to my guide Mohammed and to my photographs.  (Mohammed also did a photo shoot of Mr. Jan.)

Duqm: The Mountains and the Sea



January 25, 2015

Dear Fellow Drivers,

On the road from Salalah to Duqm, across mostly flat and nondescript desert, I encounter a canyon of inspiring beauty and grandeur.    

In Duqm, Abdullah, my host at the Duqm City Hotel, recommends I make a day trip along the coast to Ras Madrakah.  Ras-Al-Madrakah – a wondrous combination of jagged rocks, rough seas and vigilant sea birds.

So, fill up your tank.  Travel with me across the desert and through the mountains to the sea.


The Sinaw Souk

The Souk



January 29, 2015

On my drive to the north coast of Oman, I stop in the city of Sinaw.   The guidebook lists the population at about 10,000, but on this Thursday Market Day, the city explodes into a multi-colored array of buyers and sellers from around the region.

Unlike the Nizwa Goat Market where the participants are all men and boys dressed in the traditional white dishdasha,  the souk here in Sinaw is crowded with both men and boys and women and girls. 

Bahla: Two Castles and a Souk


Sultanate of Oman

January 30, 2015

As I drive through the mountains on my way to the north coast beach resort  of Sohar, I visit two castles and a market.

The castles are described in my guidebook and clearly marked on my map.  I find the market (souk) by “accident.”   It is the best site of the day.