Wadi Dawkah

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    Oman DHOFAR Wadi Dawkah The Frankincense Park near Salalah

    Posted on November 20, 2011 by kuwaitquilter

    On our drive back to Muscat from Dhofar at the end of the Eid Al Adha holiday, we stopped in at the

    Frankincense Park. It is one of four UNESCO sites in Oman.

    When we first pulled up, we didnt think that it was much at all. In a valley or wadi there were

    rows of small frankincense


    Several sets of stairs descended into the wadi and there was a small building that housed the

    lavatories. Letting the dog out of the car to get some exercise, we went down to take a look.

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    A young man in workmans coveralls approached us we werent sure if he would ask us to get the

    dog out of there or what. We were pleasantly surprised. He is a Pakistani Christian who welcomed

    our company. It turns out that he tends the whole area all alone, planting new trees, both by

    cuttings and seeds, and keeping them watered. He hasnt been in the country very long, I think, as

    he wasnt very fluent in Arabic counting out the numbers to get the right one. but between

    English and Arabic, we learned quite a lot.

    An eight year old tree is about 4 feet tall.

    That means that the few Ive seen here in Muscat must be quite old as they are probably 15 feet tall

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    with thick trunks. There were a few flowers showing on some of the trees, and also dead, black

    seeds that smell of incense when crushed. The new leaves grow right at the tip of the old wood.

    Come with me, Tariq said, and led us through the trees toward a tall chain link fence. Inside the

    locked gate, there were taller


    These, he said, are the old ones. He took us to one of the bigger ones, and showed us where the

    bark had been scraped away,

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    leaving a cut about the size of your palm where the sap of the tree was oozing out. He said that

    every two days, he had to go around and collect the beads of frankincense. There are 4000 trees

    altogether, young and


    Im not sure just how many of them they are harvesting from right now. The beads of sap were very

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    white the best frankincense of all.

    Back on top, we walked down to the signs.

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    Here, you can see the same trees in the background that are in the picture of the wadi on the sign.

    For more information about frankincense and its history, here is a really good site.


    Wadi Dawkah is a lage area of frankincense trees, which forms a central part of the Land of

    Frankincense UNESCO World Heritage Site. More than 5000 frankincense trees have been planted in

    the reserve, which covers and area of more than five square kilometres.

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    The Frankincense Route in the Governorate of Dhofar, which was listed by UNESCO in 2000. The

    Route comprises the ancient cities of Al-Blaid and Shasr, Khuwr Rori, and Wadi Dooka. These

    locations collectively contributed to the flourishing of the frankincense trade for many centuries

    throughout the Middle Ages.

    At the beginning of April, as soon as the temperatures start to rise, the frankincense gatherers cut

    the frankincense trees in many places. The first 'cut' is called the tawqii and consists of paring off the

    outer bark of the branches and trunk. This causes a milky-white liquid to ooze from the tree whichquickly solidifies and is left in this condition for 14 days or so. The second 'cut' which follows this

    period, produces resin of an inferior quality and the real harvest begins two weeks after the second

    'cut'. With this third 'cut' the tree produces frankincense resin of yellowish color which is sold

    commercially in the market.

    The 'cutting' of the frankincense trees calls for great skill. The harvest lasts for 3 months and the

    average yield of frankincense resin for one tree is around 10 kilos. The Governorate of Dhofar

    produces approx. 7,000 tones of frankincense annually

    Omani frankincense, which is considered to be the finest quality in the world, is still much in demand

    in many countries. It is an important ingredient in the manufacture of incense which is burned on

    social occasions, in the manufacture of medicines, fragrant, powders, perfumes, candles as well as inhalls of worship around the world.

    Eric Lafforgue


    The Arabian Peninsula is typically associated with arid desert landscapes, and while much of Oman

    falls into this category, the southern region of Dhofar is a stark contrast. Each year as the rest of the

    countrys temperatures soar during summer, the khareef brings monsoonal rains to Dhofar landscape.

    A carpet of lush green vegetation results, and both livestock and travellers flock to enjoy the

    markedly cooler temperatures.


    Dhofars capital, the beautiful city of Salalah, is known as the southern capital of Oman. Facing south

    over the Arabian Sea, it boasts pristine white beaches to accompany its enviable climate. Its vibrant

    culture reflects its historical association with Zanzibar, a one-time colony of Oman. Beautiful hotels,

    colourful souks, and a stunning natural backdrop make Salalah one of the countrys favourite cities for



    Nearby Mirbat is a picturesque seaside town, complete with its own majestic castle, a captivating

    souk, and the ruins of an old town dating back many hundreds of years. Visitors will also enjoy the

    opportunity to see local fishermen bringing in the days catch down by the waters edge, and are then

    able to purchase the freshly caught seafood at the souk shortly afterwards.


    Taqah is another Dhofari town with a rich history, having been a major shipping port for both

    frankincense and myrhh. Both of these fragrances are harvested from locally grown species of trees

    and at one point were worth more than their weight in gold. This led to a prosperous local economy,

    with the towns impressive Taqah Castle museum revealing tales of its glorious past in a collection of

    fascinating exhibits. Taqah is a favourite destination for Omanis as it represents the birthplace of their

    beloved sultan, HM Sultan Qaboos.

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    East of Taqah, visitors will discover the remains of the ancient port of Sumhuram. Located at Khawr

    Rawri, Sumhuram is one of four sites on the UNECSO Land of the Frankincense Trade World

    Heritage List. Here, an impressive collection of ruins is still the focus for archaeological teams who

    seek to unearth more about this once thriving city. Sumhuram has commanding views over the

    waters of Khawr Rawri (sometimes spelled 'Khor Rori') and across to the ocean, a key consideration

    in the town's planning which allowed for the monitoring of shipping and also ensured its safety frommarauders.

    Al Balid

    Another UNESCO-listed site is Al Balid Archaeological Park, with ruins dating back well into pre-Islamic

    times. Like Sumhuram, it was also a trading port for frankincense; however, it was also a major port

    for the shipping of Arabian horses. References to Al Balid and its splendour date back millenia,

    including notable mentions by Marco Polo around 2000 years ago.


    The next site on the UNESCO World Heritage List is at Shisr: The Lost City of Ubar. This remarkable

    treasure was only discovered in 1992 with the aid of a NASA satellite, having been buried under theshifting desert sands for centuries. It is thought to be the famed Atlantis of the Sands proposed by

    Lawrence of Arabia, a major hub on the caravan route between trading cities of the region. The town

    was reported to be a paradise, a place of unparalleled opulence that thrived as a centre for trading

    local fragrances with exotic goods from the East. However, its ruin came suddenly when the

    limestone cave over which it was built collapsed, with the desert sands quickly shifting in to cover the

    remainder of the towns buildings above. As a result, it disappeared off the map - quite literally - for

    over a thousand years. Speculation remains as to whether or not the excavated ruins behind Shisr are

    indeed the famed Ubar of history, although the place is undisputedly of great historical significance.

    Artefacts dating back several thousand years have been uncovered by archaeologists who continue to

    take a keen interest in the site.

    Wadi Dawkah

    The last site of UNESCO World Heritage Listing is Wadi Dawkah, a protected stretch of over one

    thousand frankincense trees situated about 40km north of Salalah. The precious sap from these trees

    -and others across the Oman landscape - brought the country great wealth throughout history, and

    increased its connections with other nations as the fragrance was traded as far away as Europe and


    Salalah Museum

    Perhaps the best place to trace Omans prosperous path through history is the Museum of the Land of

    the Frankincense Trade. Located in Salalah, this fascinating museum hosts a range of interactive

    exhibits which take visitors on a journey through more than 10 000 years of human history. A vastnumber of ancient artefacts are on display, from the excavated columns of buildings built two

    thousand years ago to pieces of stone tooling used by fishermen two thousands years before that.

    This museum is perhaps the most complete and comprehensive in Oman - a must-see for any visitor

    to Salalah.

    Wadi Darbat

    Only thirty minutes drive from Salalah, Wadi Darbat is one of the natural treasures of Oman, an oasis

    of wildlife and lush green vegetation at the base of the Dhofar Mountains chain. Travellers will marvel

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    at the vibrant contrast to the vast regions of desert to the north; during the height of the khareef,

    waterfalls cascade over the wadis rocky slopes and into the river below. Camels, cattle, and other

    livestock graze the abundant grasses on the banks, while birds nest in the wetland areas. Families

    from all around the region come to share in the magic of the annual summer rains, creating a festival

    atmosphere. During the khareef, Wadi Darbat showcases the richness and colour of both the Dhofar

    landscape and the Omani culture. It will undoubtedly rank as one of the highlights of any Oman

    holiday.Wadi Shuwaymiya

    Above Salalah, on the northern side of the Dhofar mountains, travellers descend into Wadi

    Shuwaymiya. Here, they are greeted with richly coloured rock formations which curve and flow in

    remarkable patterns. Every so often, the wadi floor is punctuated with the vibrant green of acacias

    and the occasional palm tree, while limestone stalactites hang from cliff faces in the background. The

    majesty of Wadi Shuwaymiya has an other-wordly quality about it, its landscape distinct from the

    many other wadis to be found across Oman.

    Al Mughsayl

    Lastly, Al Mughsayl is located about an hours drive west from Salalah. On a strikingly beautiful

    section of the Omani coast, the seawater pounds against the cliff faces and rushes up through a small

    opening to create an impressive blowhole. Of even greater attraction is the breathtaking vista looking

    west towards Ras Sajir, where the beautiful charcoal mountains terminate in precipitous white faces

    which plunge into the turquoise sea.

    A visit to Dhofar will provide many of the highlights of an Oman holiday with its offer of stunning

    scenery, incredible history, and various unique elements of Omani culture.


    Wadi Dawkah: Land of the Frankincense

    Wadi Dawkah is a natural park in Dhofar Region bearing copious growth offrankincense trees

    (Boswellia Sacra). It is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. Wadi Dawkah is a protected

    stretch of over one thousand frankincense trees situated about 40 kilometer north ofSalalah.

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    The landscape of Wadi Dawkah, Dhofar Region, Oman

    The precious sap from these trees brought Oman great wealth throughout history and increased its

    connections with other nations as the fragrance was traded as far away as Europe and China.

    Wadi Dawkah stretches over the wadi (dry riverbed) approximately 4kilometer from northwest to

    southeast. Additional frankincense trees are being planted in Wadi Dawkah, in an effort to increase

    the tree population.

    Boswellia sacra tree from which frankincense resin is obtained

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    The trunk of Boswellia sacra tree

    The usual time of harvest starts in April as soon as the temperatures start to soar. The frankincense

    gatherer makes several incisions in the trunk of a tree. The first slash is to strip the outer bark of the

    branches and trunk. This causes a milky white fluid to ooze from the tree which quickly solidifies. It is

    left in this condition for 14 days or more. The second slash after the stripping period, produces a

    resin of inferior quality but the real harvest starts two weeks after the second slash. The third incision

    is the penultimate; it is at this instance when the tree produces frankincense resin of yellowish color

    which is sold commercially in the market.

    Frankincense resin dripping from the tree

    Harvesting the precious resin lasts for 3 months. The average yield of frankincense resin for one tree

    is around 10 kilos. The Governorate of Dhofar produces approximately 7,000 tones of frankincense


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    The frankincense from Oman is considered to be the finest quality which garners high demand in

    many countries. Frankincense is an important ingredient in the manufacture of incense which is

    burned on social occasions like nuptials and venerations; it is similarly used in the manufacture of

    medicines, fragrant, powders, perfumes, and candles.

    The aromatic frankincense resins

    - See more at: http://whitedogleader.blogspot.com/2011/11/wadi-dawkah-land-of-


    Fahud Oil Field - A Humble Beginning

    The Sultanate of Oman's dramatic economic development over the past 40 years was brought about

    by the revenues from oil, gas and petroleum products.

    Oil was first discovered in the interior near Fahud (where I am presently based), in the western

    desert in 1964. Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) began production in August 1967. The Omani

    Government owns 60% of PDO, and foreign interests own 40%; Royal Dutch Shell owns 34%; 4% is

    owned by Compagnie Francaise des Petroles, known today as Total and Partex owns 2% interest.

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    A typical pumpjack used to produce the remaining recoverable oil afternatural pressure is no longer sufficient to raise oil to the surface.

    Oman's growth into a successful oil- and gas-producing nation had humble beginnings. In fact, it was

    so humble that it originated from a miserable failure. A geological survey of the country in 1925 found

    no conclusive evidence of oil. Twelve years later, however, when geologists began intensively

    searching for oil in neighboring Saudi Arabia, Oman's Sultan Said bin Taimur granted a 75-year

    concession to the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC).

    Lacking and with very limited infrastructure to assist survival in Oman's hostile desert environment,

    the early exploration confronted hard times. Problems were compounded by political unrest. Vital

    route to the interior from Muscat was often made impassable by the hostilities between warring

    tribes. As a consequence, the logistics of supply were problematic.

    Western Desert of Oman

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    Table Cliff Near Fahud 1

    A Water Pit

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    Flaking Salt Flat

    Fahud Anticline

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    A Typical Desert Floor Scene

    When IPC finally decided to drill its first well in Fahud in early 1956, supplies had to be transported

    from Duqm in the south of the country, across more than 300 kilometers of some of Oman's most

    deserted and inhospitable terrain. The hardships endured were a total waste because the well was


    Fahud is PDO's oldest and largest field in northern Oman. The Fahud structure was first recognized

    from the air in 1948 but was only explored on the ground in 1954. Geologist started Stratigraphy

    investigation work and field mapping the area.

    Natural Gas Well

    With large oil discoveries in neighboring countries naturally the hopes for success in Fahud-1 were

    high. One can imagine the disappointment of all parties involved when the well tested a bit of gas

    and saw only a few traces of oil. At the time the geologists realized that although they had drilled

    near the crest of the surface anticline, they had probably drilled close to a possible fault and

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    suggested to move the rig a few hundred meters and restart the well. If they had done so they would

    have discovered the big Fahud oil field. Fahud oil field is a big tilted fault block at Natih levels, just

    offset to the northeast from the surface anticline, and missed by some 200 meters by the Fahud-1


    Fahud-1 SE (left) - NE (right) schematic cross-section illustrating the unlucky near-miss

    Because of continuing disappointments in the exploration quest for oil most IPC partners in PDO

    withdrew from the venture. Shell, a member of the group, formed another consortium with

    Compagnie Francaise des Petroles and Partex and continued the exploration.

    The first oil well, Fahud-1, was spudded on January 18, 1956 but abandoned 18 months later with

    only minor oil shows. IPCs prime target was the Jurassic Arab zone. But because Fahud-1 was dry,

    neighboring anticlines were avoided. From 19571960, three further unsuccessful deep explorationwells were drilled at Ghaba, Haima, and Afar.

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    Fahud 1 Oil Well Memorial

    In 1963 the Fahud-2 oil well, 1.5 km from the Fahud-1, hit a pay zone. The field is roughly 17

    kilometers long by 2.5 kilometers wide, with an estimated 6 billion-plus barrel of oil, making it the

    largest field in Oman. Fahud 2 is producing from the Natih fractured carbonates.

    Fahud 2 Oil Well Memorial

    Later on in 1964 oil was discovered at Fahud on the other side of a fault line from the location where

    IPC had sunk Fahud-1.

    Following the discovery of the prolific Fahud and Natih fields, facilities and a pipeline were built and

    oil exports began in 1967. To date, there are more than 400 wells drilled in Fahud field.

    Gas Flare at Fahud

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    A Drilling Rig Site in Fahud

    A Drilling Rig Site in Fahud

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    A Typical Rig Camp in Fahud

    An Oil Rig Preparing to Move

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    An Oil Rig on the Move

    The new and modern Fahud Airport which begun operation in 2009

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    Permanent Accommodation for Contractors

    How to get there: Fahud is about 335 kilometer from Muscat, mostly over concrete-paved roads.

    From Muscat take the national highway to Nizwa and subsequently the main road south to Salalah. At

    33 kilometers after turning onto the Salalah road turn, take the junction right at Izz signposted to

    PDO's main oil fields, PDO Concession Area, Natih, Fahud andYibal. Please be aware upon

    entering PDO Concession Area, the speed limit for light vehicle is 100 km/hr only and similarly; be

    aware of heavy oilfield traffic or rig moves. While en-route you will be impressed by the whaleback of

    Jebel Salakh dominating the southern horizon. The tarmac road will take you to the Natih roundabout

    some 92 kilometer further. Follow the left route to Fahud, which is somewhere 24 kilometers. The

    memorial of Fahud 1 Oil Well can be reached by taking the graded road to the left (southwest and

    southwards) before reaching Fahud Camp while the memorial for Fahud 2 Oil Well can be foundvery close to Station Bravo.

    - See more at: http://whitedogleader.blogspot.com/2011/11/fahud-oil-field-humble-