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Shisr - Awbar

The ruins of Awbar lie in Dhofar Governorate. This city remained lost for centuries and was considered one of the mysterious archaeological secrets of the Middle East region.

Awbar, whose ancient history was a tale told by successive generations of Arab desert dwellers, was mentioned in a number of ancient books. Lawrence of Arabia called it “the Atlantis of the Sands". Researchers believe that this city was built 5,000 years ago and played a prominent role in ancient times.

Throughout the centuries, Awbar tantalised the minds of explorers and archaeologists. Ever since the 1930s, several campaigns have been initiated to search for the city. The search and exploration continued to the end of 1991, when help from the US space agency was sought for satellite imaging. An entire city was discovered sleeping beneath the sands. The news of the Awbar discovery travelled far and wide and was front page news round the world. Afterwards, it was named one of the most important ten discoveries of the year by publications such as Discovery, the Times and Newsweek.

Researchers have found ruins dating back to 1,000 BC. Apparently, the city was surrounded by warehouses to store the precious commodity of frankincense. Scientists have discovered that the castle walls were built over a huge limestone cave. The collapse of the cave resulted in burying the city under the sand.

For archaeologists, the period following Awbar constitutes a new understanding of the ancient past of the Arabian region. The discovery of this ancient city was followed by three years of exploration, during which researchers were able to determine a number of sites associated with Awbar’s prosperity and the frankincense trade.