The Empty Quarter

The Empty Quarter

Oman

January 22, 2015

The Rub' al Khali (Arabic: الربع الخالي‎) or Empty Quarter is the second largest sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. 

The desert covers some 650,000 square kilometers (250,000 sq miles – about the size of Texas or France).  It includes parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.  It is part of the larger Arabian Desert. 

Shall I attempt to describe the Empty Quarter?  I’ll leave that to my guide Mohammed and to my photographs.  (Mohammed also did a photo shoot of Mr. Jan.)

To the Empty Quarter - Ayn Sahalnoot

The Empty Quarter

Oman

Hello from the Arabian Desert,

En route to the Empty Quarter and the Desert Camp, my guide Mohammed makes three unscheduled stops.

Ayn Sahalnoot is a delightful spot – a spring and a perfect place for a picnic and a swim in the pools and streams in a lush valley beneath the desert floor.   Cedar and fig trees!

The Camel Race Track is closed.   But I do have a chance to get acquainted with several of the “thoroughbreds.”

Salalah: Part B - Frankincense

Oscar White Muscarella

Research Fellow - Retired

Ancient Near Eastern Department

Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York, New York

USA

Dear Dr. Muscarella,

Cc: Family and Friends

Oscar, I am sure that you are familiar with the Biblical passage from the Book of Matthew referring to the Gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. But perhaps it is puzzling for the modern mind to understand that two plant products, two dried resins, were once equivalent in value to gold. 

Frankly, I was not familiar with the properties of frankincense.  But apparently, from ancient times (8000 years ago?) until today, the medicinal as well as religious uses of frankincense (and myrrh) are well-known and well-respected. 

Salalah: Part A. Copper

Oscar White Muscarella

Research Fellow - Retired

Ancient Near Eastern Department

Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York, New York

USA

Dear Dr. Muscarella,

Cc: Family and Friends

Oscar, I found the copper!

In 2007, I wrote to you and told of my visit to Lothal in India, the site of the Harappan Civilization (3300-1300 BCE).   

Located in the Indus Valley, in what is now the Indian State of Gujarat, and neighboring Pakistan, and into Afghanistan, this advanced civilization of more than five million was known for its navigational prowess, city planning, art, astronomy, metallurgy and the manufacture of delicate copper jewelry.

The copper jewelry was traded around the ancient world across the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea to East Africa, Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Where did the Indus Valley obtain the copper? 

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