In the northeast parts of the country of Oman is a marvellous spread of desert land that boasts some of the most splendid archaeological treasures not just in the area but also in the world. The second of Oman’s entries to be inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list is here in Ibri, the millennia-old Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn dig site. While these are technically three separate places as considered today, archaeologists have decided that they constitute a single, coherent civilisation possibly represented by several settlements and a necropolis. As such, since their discovery, they have been more or less treated as a single tourist location for those visiting Oman as well as on the UNESCO list.
Bat is just about two hours’ ride away from the town, and the only reason one cannot get there faster is that a large part of the territory has no paved roads. 4-wheel-drive vehicles are par for the course for tourists coming here, and it bears mentioning that travellers should be very careful about how and where they drive their autos: the site is fairly large and open, and one needs to stick to following the tracks of other vehicles that have gone before in order to avoid causing damage to the archaeological site itself.
Bat was discovered in the late 1970’s. Ever since then, though, it is the tombs found around it that have occupied the popular imagination as well as the scientists themselves, not least because of the beauty of the tombs. The ones south of the site are particularly appealing, and make for some stunning photography: superbly preserved and huge beehive tombs of the same shape stand in an orderly line that extends pretty far across the site, and there are even a few that are considered “complete”. The tombs, also known as the tombs of Al-Ayn, are about 22 kilometres to the southeast of the Bat site itself, but more people probably end up visiting them than the central dig site: they have the oldest verified age here, after all, having been dated to 3000BCE. After visiting them, one can also head for the tower in Al-Khutm, which is about 22 kilometres west of the central site.
Ibri has more than this dig site, though. Businessmen are probably more familiar with it for its oil fields, which include the ones of Fahud, Al Huwaisa, Al Khuwair, and Safah, but locals are more inclined to thinking of castles when Ibri is mentioned. The Wilayat has an impressive concentration of them, from the Al Aynain Castle to others like the Fort of Ibri, Al Mamour, Al Aswad, and Al Sylaif. These are also worth stopping by for those interested in emirate and old Omani architecture.
There are people who say that Ibri comes from the Arabic “abr”, which signifies a passing. It is not difficult to believe: this place has long been known as a stopover for those engaging in trade between other parts of the continent and Oman, after all. Nowadays, many people are coming again to pass by this ancient place and see the beauty of the relics of old that exist even today.