The Ancient City of Qalhat - World Cultural Heritage in Oman

The property is located on the eastern coast of the Sultanate of Oman, including the ancient city of Qalhat, surrounded by inner and outer walls, as well as areas outside the ramparts where cemeteries are located. The city developed as a major port on the east coast of Arabia from the 11th to 15th centuries AD, during the reign of the princes of Hormuz. The ancient city bears unique archaeological evidence of trade links between the eastern coast of Arabia, East Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia.

Year of accreditation: 2018
Criteria: (ii)(iii)
Area: 75.82 hectares
Buffer zone: 170.09 ha

Outstanding Overall Value

The ancient city of Qalhat is located on the east coast of the Sultanate of Oman, about 20 kilometers north of the city of Sur. The property includes the entire old city of Qalhat, delimited by its inner and outer walls, spread over 35 hectares, as well as areas outside the walls where the cemeteries are located.

The city is an important port in the Arabian Sea along the eastern Arabian coast, enabling trade with the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean and thus acting as a center of commerce between India and the East, l Southeast Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. . Qalhat flourished from the 11th to 16th centuries under the rule of the princes of Hormuz, who coordinated large exports of horses, dates, agarwood and pearls. After Portuguese raids, the old town of Qalhat was abandoned in the 16th century and has since been preserved as an archaeological site. The remains and monuments of the site globally represent a port city of the Kingdom of Hormuz and reflect its heritage, architecture and urban design.

Criterion (ii): Qalhat represents the cultural and commercial exchange of values ​​within the commercial sphere of the Kingdom of Hormuz, extending to India and as far as China and Southeast Asia. The Qalhat archaeological site provides physical evidence of these interbreeding, recording architectural features that reveal artefacts, dates, Arabian horses as well as its own spices and pearls, but also incorporates the multicultural characteristics of a cosmopolitan medieval city, with homes influenced by the needs of different owners and residents of foreign cultural background. The old town also includes a number of very representative buildings mentioned in the accounts of historical travellers.

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Criterion (iii): The ancient city of Qalhat is a unique testimony to the Kingdom of Hormuz, which flourished from the 11th to 16th centuries AD. Ancient Qalhat bears exceptional testimony to a major trading center, which was ruled by the princes of Hormuz and took advantage of its geopolitical position in the region. It was a seasonal residence and refuge for the princes of Hormuz, who gave it the title of secondary capital of the great kingdom. The town planning and the excavated buildings of Qalhat reveal the specifics and characteristics of the kingdom of Hormuz and the archaeological remains are the most complete representation of it and offer additional potential to understand in more detail its way of life and trade.


All major elements of the old city of Qalhat are within the property boundary, including the entire city within the walls and structures just outside the city walls. The remains of walls and street structures provide representative evidence of the Kingdom of Hormuz, with archaeological finds adding to our understanding of how it functioned.

The ancient city of Qalhat poses no major threat, with the highway along the western side of the site being an unfortunate interference in the past. It is important that future infrastructure and other developments near the property avoid any negative impact on the general landscape quality of the site. In case the number of visitors increases in the future due to new tourism concepts, Qalhat needs the tourist flow to be controlled and managed to avoid pressure and behavior.


The ancient city of Qalhat has since been abandoned in the 16th century as an archaeological site. Its architectural and urban textures and forms remain original, almost intact, as does its context. The abandonment of the old city of Qalhat has played an active role in preserving its authenticity. The site has been uninhabited since the 16th century and therefore retains all the organizational, functional and architectural characteristics corresponding to the Islamic period in general and the period of the sultanate of the nation of Hormuz in particular. Site conservation, visitor management and development plans aim to maintain this condition as far as possible.

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Similarly, the archaeological excavations have been well planned, thorough and minimal, an approach that should be commended and continued. Conservation work carried out after the excavation will also be guided by minimally invasive methods. The location of the old city of Qalhat among mountains, deep valleys and the sea is essential for much of its authenticity retained in context. Authenticity in meaning relates both to the authenticated history of the site and to the stories and myths associated with it, which will be respected in the overall management approach.

Protection and management requirements

The ancient city of Qalhat is designated as a National Cultural Heritage Site of Oman and is therefore subject to national heritage protection at the highest legal level under Royal Decree No. 2019-2019. The same royal decree also ensures the protection of the buffer zone around the heritage sites concerned. Law protection is effectively enforced by fencing and security guards patrolling the archaeological area. Before the property was closed to the public for conservation, the part of the site around Bibi Maryam was protected by the inhabitants of the neighboring village, this was broken when the site was closed and visitation visits are interrupted. This tradition of guardianship will be reactivated within the framework of the future visitor concept.

The administrative body responsible for protection and management is the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. The General Department of Archaeology, which is part of the administrative structure of the ministry, oversees the day-to-day management of the site. A management plan was finalized and formally adopted in June 2018, which will guide the establishment of a strengthened management unit and system in place. Faced with the possible risks of earthquakes or other natural disasters, this management system should integrate disaster preparedness and management strategies.

The property is currently closed to visitors due to ongoing excavations and conservation measures and there is no visitor infrastructure. While reopening is expected and with it the need for visitor infrastructure, concrete plans for visitor infrastructure and services have yet to be developed. Therefore, Heritage Impact Assessments should be carried out prior to the approval of any visitor infrastructure in or around the site to avoid possible negative impacts on value.

Map of the ancient city of Qalhat

Video of the ancient city of Qalhat