Friday, June 23, 2017

The Frankincense Trail Lehi Followed

There seems to be some misunderstanding in the Frankincense Trail Lehi followed to the area he called Bountiful and the fact that in that area the Frankincense trade had not yet spread to the Salalah Plain or the Garbeeb (that fertile strip of land between the Qara Mountains and the seashore. That is, the area of Salalah known today as Khor Rori and Sumhuram, which were not settled during Lehi’s visit there and did not become settled until at least 500 B.C. and Sumhuram not built until around the last century B.C., yet Lehi followed that Frankincense Trail to the Qara Mountains and then down into the Garbeeb Plain.
The misunderstanding comes in not knowing that the Frankincense Business during the time of Lehi was centered in the area Shisr and Uber, and more specifically Dawkah, an area 25 miles north of Salalah, on the way to Shisr, which are on the desert side of the Garbeeb Plain, beyond the Qara Mountains. In old Sumarian texts, Uber is believed to have been a remote desert outpost from about 2800 B.C. (or sometime after the Flood) where caravans were assembled for the transport of the very valuable frankincense across the desert, some caravans going north toward the Persian Gulf, others going west toward the Red Sea, with the Dawkah and Shisr-Uber the center or hub of the frankincense trade.
Thus, while the Frankincense Trail existed between these settlements and north of Jerusalem, which Lehi followed down along the Red Sea dn then across the Rub’al Khali from water hole to water hole, the settlements of the time did not extend south of the Qara Mountains into the area now known as the Garbeeb Plain and communities of Salalah and Khor Rori/Sumhuram.
Frankincense trees along a belt between the Qara mountains and the Rub’al Khali where they are somewhat protected from both the rains and winds, but also the extreme heat

In fact, the best resins from the frankincense trees was thought to be from a belt in the arid zone just behind (north) of the Qara mountain range, beyond the reach of the monsoon rain, but within reach of cooler winds. Today, the current Boswelia belt stretches about 18 miles beyond the jebels. It is also believed that the frankincense trade was already in effect during this third millennium B.C., when a scarce resource in high demand in the ancient civilizations resulted in prices higher than gold and a booming trade in the trading centers along the caravan routes such as found at Shisr in Oman.
    This belt, to the north of the Qara Mountains is best understood by the following image:
From the (Top Left) coast of the Sea of Arabia, which Lehi called Irreantum, the Khareef (monsoon winds) blows into land that Lehi called Bountiful, from the sea, turning the plain into a lush green garden (Top Right) as it continues to blow north toward the distant mountains (Middle Left), which 3,000-foot Jabal al Qara Mountains (Middle Center) blocks the further movement of the Monsoon winds, keeping them from passing on beyond to the (Middle Right) desert, where is seen the sporadic growth of the Frankincense trees, and then further northward beyond the belt of trees, is the (Bottom) Rub’al Khali desert, the famed “Empty Quarter” where the Monsoon winds do not reach

This belt of Frankincense trees beyond the Qara, as well as in the foothills, is where the original trail ended and where the harvest of frankincense was started, long before Lehi. This is where the trading hub of Dawkah, Shisr-Uber were located and where the trail, had Lehi continued eastward would have taken him.
Frankincense Trees being harvested near the location of Shisr north of Salalah near where the original trading hub was located before moving southward toward the port of Khor Rori once Greek and Roman trading vessels entered the sea of Arabia

However, Lehi turned south into the mountains at this point, led no doubt by the Liahona, and emerged along the Garbeeb Plain above Salalah, at which event Nephi wrote: “And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters” (1 Nephi 17:5).
    Thus, while Lehi basically followed the Frankincense Trail from the Wadi Arabah south of Jerusalem all the way to the area of the Qara Mountains and the Garbeeb Plain, the Old Trail during Lehi’s time did not drop down into the Garbeeb, but ended in the area of Shisr, a settlement that was already playing a major role at the time, an important outpost providing traders with water before they entered the desert of the Rub al-Khali.
    In fact, the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting in November 2000 in Cairns, Australia, attached world Heritage Site status to the Frankincense Trail in Oman, with the official citation reading:
    “The frankincense trees of Wadi Dawkah and the remains of the caravan oasis of Shisr/Wubar [Uber] and the affiliated ports of Khor Rori and Al-Balid vividly illustrate the trade in frankincense that flourished in this region for many centuries, as one of the most important trading activities of the ancient and medieval world” (World Heritage Committee Inscribes 61 New Sites on World Heritage List; Land of Frankincense, UNESCO).
When Lehi reached the Frankincense Trail where it veered toward Shisr, he was directed into the pass that led onto the Garbeeb Plain and down into Khor Rori


Thus, while Lehi traveled the trail all the way to the Qara Mountains, the Liahona obviously directed him into the pass that led him through the Qaras and onto the Garbeeb Plain, a marvelous paradise-appearing area during Kareef season after spending some much time in the extreme heat and endless monotony of the Rub’al Khali sand desert.

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