Saudi Arabia, Oman sites added to UNESCO World Heritage List

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(Manama) – UNESCO added Saudi Arabia´s Al-Ahsa Oasis and Oman´s ancient city of Qalhat to its World Heritage List, the world cultural body said.

Authorities in Riyadh, as well as Muscat, have put tourism high on their economic agendas as Gulf states look to diversify their oil-dependent economies.

Saudi Arabia´s lush Al-Ahsa oasis is dotted with yet-to-be-excavated archeological sites, and carries traces of human occupation dating back to Neolithic times.

Al-Ahsa “was a commercial centre for the Hajar territory of Bahrain,” reads the Saudi submission to UNESCO.

“Archaeological evidence shows that it exchanged products from southern Arabia and Persia as well as throughout the Arabian Peninsula.”

Riyadh´s tourism drive, backed by reformist young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not shied from highlighting pre-Islamic heritage in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Oman´s Qalhat also dates back to pre-Islamic times.

The port city on Oman´s Indian Ocean coast was once a key hub for trade in goods including Arabian horses to Chinese porcelain, according to the Omani submission.

The case of Qalhat also demonstrates the power women could hold in Arabian society at the time.