The Frankincense road

According to Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer and naturalist of the 1st century, the journey consisted of 65 stages divided by stops for camels and payment points for traders.
The capital cities of the kingdoms were important stopping places for merchants.4a They were charged high taxes or duties upon entry into the country. They also paid substantial fees for the services offered to them.

Caravan routes

  • SHIR (Ubar)
  • SHABWA
  • TIMMA
  • MARIB
  • YATHIL
  • NAJRAN
  • YATHRIB
  • DEDAN
  • HEGRA
  • PETRA
  • GAZA
  • ROUTES de l'ENCENS
  • SHIR (Ubar)

    From Shisr, the frankincense was transported to the north by camel caravans.
    At Ubar, one-tenth of the cargo would be claimed as taxes
  • SHABWA

    Shabwa required mandatory taxation of all caravans carrying aromatics in the north.
  • TIMMA

    Timna', the capital of the Kingdom of the Qatar was an internal stop to trade Indian and extreme Eastern transported form the coast to Aden.
  • MARIB

    An oasis of greenery and trees, which were irrigated by the large dam Marib.
  • YATHIL

    Yathil was a prosperous small town surrounded by high walls and surrounded by fields and palm groves.
  • NAJRAN

    Najran offered the merchants an oasis where they would find food, shelter and water.
  • YATHRIB

    Yathrib, a trading town and a flourishing oasis known for its date palms, was an important stop for caravans and frankincense pilgrims.
  • DEDAN

    Dedan, capital of the Lihyanite Kingdom of Northern Arabia, was a commercial hub where several trade routes met.
  • HEGRA

    Hegra assured the safe passage of commercial caravans in exchange for a large tax which made his people extremely rich.
  • PETRA

    Petra, the Nabataean country was a gateway for the import and export of frankincense and other products much appreciated from South Arabia.
  • GAZA

    GAZA
  • ROUTES de l'ENCENS

    The Frankincense routes

Travel time

Trading areas

The archaeological sites of Wadi Dawkah, Shisr, Khor Rori and Al Baleed are an important testimony of the frankincense trade that has flourished in this region for centuries. Wadi Dawkah is one of the collection points, although in ancient times, when trade was at its peak, it was just one of many places in a vast area. From there, the frankincense was transported north by Shisr, the main step before entering the Rub Al Khali desert. To the south, there were two important ports for maritime trade: Al Baleed and Khor Rori

SHIR (Ubar)SHIR (Ubar)

SHIR (Ubar)

The Shisr fortification was built on an underground water source and sank under the sand. Shisr is some 180 km north of Salalah in the Rub Al Khali Desert.

This oasis, both agricultural site and caravan site, was also a very important stop for water on the road that brought the incense from the hinterland (Wadi Dawkah) to the ports of the coast: Al Baleed and Khor Rori


KHOR RORIKHOR RORI

KHOR RORI

The port of Khor Rori - The City of Sumhuram - belonged to the Kingdom of Hadramout, (Yemen) open on the Gulf of Aden, it has long been the starting point of the incense caravans that, for centuries, have crossed the deserts.

The remains of the fortress are located on a rocky hill and are part of a larger defensive system of which there are still traces.

The port was refounded at the end of the first century by LL'ad Yalut, king of Hadramaout, (as evidenced by an inscription still visible on the site) to control the trading of incense in the Dhofar.


AL BALEEDAL BALEED

AL BALEED

The history of the city of Al Baleed goes back more than 2000 years before our era and some archaeological research suggests that its prosperity dates back to the Iron Age..

Al Baleed has been one of the largest ports in the Indian Ocean. It has been an important trading post thanks to the export of incense to Rome and China. Objects from China (Ming period) and other countries show its importance on the Silk Road.

There are impressive archaeological remains (64 hectares), surrounded by a high wall on the west side. The wall is pierced by four doors.

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