Shisr the location of Ubar Oman

Over 170kms by road north of Salalah is Shisr, an unremarkable settlement on the edge of the Empty Quarter Rub’ Al Khali in southern Oman. It, however, gained fame as the site of Ubar Oman – (the Oman Government prefers the term Wabar which appears to be the name used locally).

Ubar Tower
Ubar Tower

The archaeological re-discovery achieved front pages position on the 5th February 1992 in the New York Times, alongside news from Iraq. This re-discovery  was as a result of a search for it by Ranulph Fiennes and Nicholas Clapp and they settled on Shisr as being the location of Ubar which was a city described in the Quran  as Iram, a “many-columned city whose like has not been built in the entire land”.’ Bordered by Wadi Ghadun and the vast sand desert of the Rub’ Al Khali, Shisr was a key water source in a region renowned for its aridity.

Ubar Oman Sinkhole
Ubar Sinkhole

The archaeologists re-discovered a fortified settlement with a citadel that was constructed during the late Iron Age (200 BC – 350 AD), and the archaeologist responsible for the excavations, Juris Zarins, believes that it was built on an earlier settlement. The objects found at Shisr have been eclectic and, includes part of a chess set from 8th-10th centuries AD. Today, the remains at Shisr are as enigmatic as they always have been. The two dominant features at the site is a sinkhole, into which a substantial part of the fortress collapsed and a more modern whitewashed fort built in 1955 AD using stone from the older fort.

Ubar Oman 20th c Fort
Ubar 20th c Fort

Shisr is such a long way from Salalah that few people visit, but a stop can add interest to the journey if you are going farther into the main sands of the Empty Quarter.

New entrance charges are introduced from July 2018 at the rate of
Rial Omani (OMR) 2 per car – Small buses: (OMR)20 Medium buses: OMR50  Large buses: OMR100.

Author: Tony Walsh

Book author including the current Bradt guide to Oman – edition 4