Monday, July 9, 2018

The Journey to Bountiful and the Building of Nephi’s Ship – Part V

Continued from the previous post regarding the journey to the land of Bountiful and the building of Nephi’s ship.
    One final word on the reason Salalah and Khor Rori were not settled earlier than 400 BC was due, in part, to the hidden nature of this area that rendered it unknown to those from the north (desert) side, as well as those from the south (ocean) side.
Salalah and Khor Rori along the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, in the Sultanate of Oman near the Yemen border. Note the enclosure of 250-miles long Dhofar Mountain Chain that runs all around this bay and the extreme width of these mountains to have negotiated through without knowing a destination beyond

1. From the interior: The Qarā Mountains in Dhofar (Zufār) that separate the sand-dune and stony desert valley from the coast, are between 3000 and 4000 feet high, with one peak at 5000-feet, making the area appear mountainous and forbidding. There is only one pass through these mountains south to the coast and not easily found since no roads, paths or trails existed. On the north of the mountains, is a pebbly desert, beyond which lies the Rub’ al-Khali (Empty Quarter) desert. Along this pebbly desert plain are the Frankincense trees that drew attention into this area from the desert and opened up the Frankincense Trail that led along the northern side of the mountains to the Red Sea, where the road turned northward. There would have been no reason for anyone to move over these mountains to the coast since the only purpose of being in this desert was the Frankincense trade.
The Frankincense trees are located along a barren pebbly rock strip of desert north of the Qara Mountains between the mountains and the sand desert of Rub’ al-Khali

This area that became known as the Land of Frankincense along the Incense Road, was the ancient home of the Qara, Sheva, and Mahra peoples, who no doubt were trading in Frankincense on the desert side of the Qara as early as 2000 BC; a mural depicting sacks of frankincense traded from the Land of Punt adorns the walls of the temple of ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who died around 1458 BC. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote in the 5th century BC of frankincense and knew that it was harvested from trees in southern Arabia. Also mentioned by Theophrastus in the 4th century BC. All of which were understood coming from the trees in the Plain north of the Qara Mountains.
The coast of Salalah is often shrouded in fog, blocking view of the coat along Salalah and providing an uninviting view from the sea passing along the Arabian coast

2. From the coast: The coastal strip along the Salalah Plain and the Garbeeb, according to the ancient Periplus of the Erythraen Sea, a first century AD writing, is often wrapped in thick clouds and fog, which blanketed the shore along this area because of the Khareef and difference in temperature from the desert beyond. There was nothing inviting about this area to suggest an inlet existed there between the beach front cliffs, and little to recommend its interest to passing mariners. Not until the Romans mistakingly sent troops to Yemen to secure the frankincense production, did the southern coast of Arabia become of interest.
    Hadramite emigrants settled there with intent to take advantage of the Frankincense trade to the coast and to control the production of this valuable commodity. Pliny the Elder mistakenly claimed that Sumhruam had been founded in the 1st century AD, however, later discoveries have placed the time to the 2nd century BC. The khor (a sweet water inlet) became a port, eventually called Khor Rori, replacing the name of Sumhuram, which the original settlement had been called. Its purpose was to safeguard the trade of Frankincense abroad.
    In the 4th century BC, Nabataeans moved into this area, and in the 2nd century BC, the Hadramawt kingdom (descendants of Qahtan, one of Joktan’s sons), which occupied most of the southern peninsula and all of Oman and the southern section of Yemen, built a fortified town as an outpost at the inlet of Khor Rori called Sumhuram (His name is Great).

An isolated area along the coast behind a long range of mountains with only one pass through to the coast, this area, once discovered, became a center of trade for all of southern Arabia, to India in the East and Northeast Africa in the West

This port city became a very important center for internal trade towards southeastern Arabia and the northern coast of Oman (along the Gulf of Oman) which was rich in copper. Sumhuram, which began as a city in the 1st century BC, became the heart of the world's Frankincense trade, shipping thousands of tons of Frankincense to Europe, China, India and Africa. This ancient city was once the hustle and bustle of Arabia, with merchants trading in other commodities such as silk, cotton, bronze, spices and copper.
    Many scholars have identified Khor Rori with the frankincense exporting port of Moscha Limen mentioned in this region in the Periplus Maris Erythraei. This fort and location was not discovered by westerners until the early 1950s.
    In the port there was a sea gate, a secondary entrance to the city used for goods being imported and exported. There was a vast store house complex composed of long chambers. This was where the Frankincense was stored awaiting loading on board the ships. Incense burners have been excavated in the area made from limestone, with images of Eagles, Goats, Lions and tribal patterns engraved in them. Inscriptions in the South Arabian alphabet give clues which indicate the city was built to reinforce its people’s control over the frankincense trade. Coins also found indicate it was the site referred to as Sumhuram and the port of Moscha in two Greek texts dating from the period between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.
    The great gate of the town indicates that the citadel had an outer wall with towers and three gates, and that its main entrance was protected by square towers. It contained an inner structure which may have been a temple or castle consisting of large frankincense stores, along with districts for commercial, religious and residential purposes. A little further inland, is a large lake, referred to as Lake Khor Rori, and inland further is the Falls Valley Darbat, a thousand-foot-high magnificent waterfall, where the Darbat river (wadi) flows over the upper ridges and down into the Khor on their way to the sea. This entire area was famed in numerous other countries, even Greece, who wrote about it, especially Paulinus and Osturabo, describing the importance of this port to the Frankincense trade between 100 BC and 1500 AD.
    It should be kept in mind, that all of this development came about long after Lehi left the area on the ship Nephi built for his promised land in the Western Hemisphere.
    As for the interior, the British scientist Bertram Thomas, the first documented westerner to cross the Rub ‘al Khali desert, described the “thickly wooded wadis” (Arabia Felix, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1932, p100). Sir Wilfred Thesiger (Mubarak bin London) the English explorer described Salalah as having “jungle trees…and on the hills great fig trees which rise above the wind-rippled grass like oaks in an English park (Thesiger, Arabian Sands, Longmans, London, 1959, p47). Actually, fig trees, which are small with soft wood, and not suitable for ship construction were not the trees Thesiger actually saw and described.
    According to Lynn and Hope Hilton, who traversed this area of Salalah for the Church states that the trees there and what Thesiger saw were the jumaise sycamore-figs (ficus sycamores of the Maraclae family), a hardwood that produces a sweet fruit. These trees are fifty to seventy feet tall, and the massive trunk is about six-feet around, and made of very strong wood that is resilient to seawater, and almost free from knots—it was anciently used for ships and is so even today (Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, Cedar Fort, 1996).
    There were also described two cliffs that flanked the entrance to the inlet, both 90 to 100-foot tall sheer cliffs that plummet straight down into the sea where the Salalah beach terminates abruptly in these magnificent cliffs, the top of which can easily be reached. In addition, there was a twelve-inch thick seam of coal six miles from Salalah, though of poor quality with 80% sah, but completely adequate in a forge to smelt ores. There was also a large deposit of dolomite manganese ore located in Salalah close to the summit of the Qara Mountains next to the ancient caravan road—dolonite being used as a flux in working with metals, both in extractive metallurgy and metal joining, as well as purging metals of chemical impurities, such as phosphorus and of rendering slag more liquid at the smelting temperature, and is also used in making steel and iron.
At the mouth of the Wadi Darbat is a 328-foot high limestone cliff over which the river, when it exists, cascades down in a waterfall. The years long influence of flowing water has adorned the cliff with "flowstone" formations and stalactites

Wadi Darbat is a natural park in the Dhofar region boasting lush vegetation, year-round lakes, numerous caves in the surrounding mountains, wild life and, in the rainy season a flowing river. At the mouth of the wadi is a 328-foot high limestone cliff over which the river, when it exists, cascades down in a waterfall. The millions of years long influence of flowing water has adorned the cliff with "flowstone" formations and stalactites. There are many caves in this area with old stalactites and stalagmites, and have colored paintings of animals on the walls. At the end of the Wadi, there is a cave which is considered to be the largest natural cave in Oman.
The huge waterfall that cascade over the natural rock wall form numerous streams and subsequent falls and rapids on their downward flow to the sea. The wadi is rich in vegetation and attracts animals to the water

This abundance of clear, crystal water, along with the idea that the meaning of “khor” is a fresh sweet water stream or river, should satisfy the need that Lehi would have needed for drinking water, as well as water for planting during the two years they would have been at Bountiful.
(See the next post, “The Journey to Bountiful and the Building of Nephi’s Ship – Part VI,” for the building of Nephi’s ship and their journey across the sea)

1 comment:

  1. I was paying and pondering the verse 1 Nephi 17:1 where Nephi writes they traveled nearly eastward from that point on wondering how- where they traversed the Arabian peninsula and where specifically they disembarked to start their seafaring journey across the many waters. After searching online across several days reading about Saudi Arabia thinking the shortest distance would be further north came to conclude they would need forest, tools, and food. This led my searching to Yemen. And this is when I found your blog, an answer to my pondering to be sure. Thank you for posting!!