Blog: WHS #657: Bat and Al-Ayn

The Archaeological sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn include a settlement and tombs in northern Oman, dating from the Bronze Age. This area was part of the Magan empire, which supplied raw materials such as copper to the Sumerians (in present-day Iraq). Although getting there has become easier over the years, it still is a nice off-the-beaten-track site seldom touched by non-WH travellers.

Qasr A'Rojoom tower at Bat

At 3 pm I hit the road from Nizwa, planning to be at Al-Ayn at the fabled ‘golden hour’ for good photos. I brought print-outs with me of the instructions given on this website to reach the locations of Bat and Al-Ayn. I skipped the even more obscure Al-Khutm in advance. Finding the excavations at Bat proved to be pretty straightforward. I used the approach via Ibri, where the biggest hurdle is avoiding the Pakistani/Bangladeshi men on bicycles riding against the traffic flow. Maps.me, which I used for navigating around Oman, knew a place called ‘Bat. Village. Oman’. This is the modern town, the archaeological site lies just one left turn away right before it.

I found the site strictly fenced off, there was no way to get closer to the round structures on the hills or the ruins by the road. Apparently the site is still being excavated, and there seems to be no visitor policy. Earlier reviewers have reported getting behind the fences, but that seems not to be possible anymore. There is so little to see now that it was hardly worth it getting out of the car for. On the right side of the road an intriguing, somewhat larger building is being restored: the square tower Qasr A'Rojoom (castle 1145 on the map in the UNESCO site documentation).

Al-Ayn surroundings

Getting to Bat had taken me more time than expected: I arrived at 5.15 pm. From here I had planned to continue directly to Al-Ayn, which lies 25km further along the same unpaved road. I tried it for one km, but did not dare to go on: the ground was sandy and uneven. It would take me at least another hour to get to Al-Ayn, permitted that I would not get stuck. That way I would not be able to make it before sunset at 6.22 pm. So I saw no other option to turn back to the main road via Ibri, and try again for Al-Ayn tomorrow.

The next day, after first having visited the entertaining goat market in Nizwa, I was back on track at 9 a.m. Thanks to the very detailed and spot on instructions by Brian Baum, I found the tombs at Al-Ayn easily this time (using the tarmac road exit from the Bahla-Ibri motorway). In true Omani fashion, there’s no sign, no information and no one to bother you. There was a man working his field but he did not blink an eye while I was traipsing through the dry riverbeds and up to the hill.

Beehive tombs of Al-Ayn

The tombs consist of 'dry' stacked flat stones. There are still piles of the same material lying around it, so perhaps there used to be more. They are in such a good condition that they appear to have been recently rebuilt. Each tomb has one small entrance. It’s a bit hard to look inside, but they seem to be empty.

Published 14 April 2018

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