Visiting the Tombs of al-Ayn in Oman

The tombs of al-Ayn are an iconic archaeological site in Oman. Though they are famous, they can be a bit tricky to find. This post will help you plan a visit to the tombs of al-Ayn.

Tombs of al-Ayn from a distance

Background

The site of al-Ayn consists of a series of tombs lined up on a rocky hill. The main part of the site consists of 19 well-preserved tombs that are almost in a straight line  1. The mountain, Jebel Misht, can be seen in the distance and often serves as the backdrop for photographs of the site.

View of Jebel Misht from al-Ayn

The tombs date to the Hafit period (ca. 3100-2700 BCE), which is the earliest period in Oman’s Bronze Age (ca. 3100-1250 BCE). The tombs are beehive-esque shaped cairn-like structures in which up to 30 people could be interred 2.

A peek inside one of the tombs at al-Ayn

These tombs can be found throughout Oman 3. There is subtle architectural variation among them. This has led to some scholars creating various terms based on architecture, region, chronology, etc. Some include:

  • Hafit-cairn tomb 4
  • beehive tomb 5 6
  • Hafit-beehive type 7
  • Hafit type cairn 8
  • tower tomb 9
  • regional types: Bat-type 10 & Tawi Silaim type  11
One of the tombs at al-Ayn

Why are these tombs important?

This kind of architectural feat was the first visible funerary markers on the southeastern Arabian landscape 12. The al-Ayn ones are noteworthy because they are a large well-preserved collection. The tombs at al-Ayn, along with the al-Khutm tower and Bat settlement and necropolis, were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 13.

A view of several tombs

Visting the Tombs of al-Ayn

The tombs of al-Ayn are significant and spectacular. This section aims to help you plan your visit so you can see them.

DISCLAIMER: While I am an archaeologist that works in Oman, these are simply my suggestions for visiting the site as of the publication of this post. While my suggestions are based on being respectful of the local community and the preservation of the site, I am not an official authority regarding entering the site via car or parking. As the official authorities in Oman prepare the site for tourism, I will be sure to include updated information as it becomes available. Thanks for your understanding!

The map below shows you where the site is located, key points, and key paths.

In terms of parking, if you do NOT have a 4WD vehicle, I would suggest parking on the main road (Wadi al-Ayn road) near the turn-off point I indicated on the map above. Be sure you are not blocking traffic flows. Once parked, you can walk the path indicated to reach the entrance of the site (~500m).

A view from the entrance of the site to the wadi

If you do have a 4WD vehicle, then you can easily drive into the wadi. Please keep in mind that people live around this path. While there is a slightly highlighted road in Google between the Wadi al-Ayn road and the wadi, people do live and farm in this area so the boundaries and roads could change. As you drive, please watch out for children playing and be mindful of other peoples spaces.

A view of the surrounding areas and community near the tombs of al-Ayn

If you drive into the wadi, I would suggest parking somewhere in the wadi and walk the path from the wadi to the entrance of the site.

Parking in Wadi al-Ayn and seeing a camel 🙂

This is a great site to roam around, explore, and take fantastic pictures. Each time I visit, I’m happy to see that visitors are respectful of the site and leave things as they found it. Thanks for doing the same 🙂

The leading up to the tombs

Closing Thoughts

The tombs of al-Ayn are one of my favorite archaeological sites in Oman. The setting and preservation are awestriking. I have visited this site multiple times and it never gets old. This background section of this post offers some archaeological context to what you are seeing. The points and paths in the map aim to help you as you plan your visit. I hope you enjoy the site as much as I do!

Have you visited the tombs of al-Ayn? Are you planning a visit? Do you want to know more about the archaeology? Let me know below!


 

  1.  Schmidt, Conrad, and Stephanie Döpper. 2014. “German Expedition to Bāt and Al ‘Ayn, Sultanate of Oman: The Field Seasons 2010 to 2013.” Journal of Oman Studies 18: 187–230: 223.
  2.  Salvatori, Sandro. 2001. “Excavations at the Funerary Structures HD 10-3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 4.2 and 2.1 at Ra./s Al-Hadd (Sultanate of Oman).” Rivista Di Archeologia 25: 67–77.
  3. Cleuziou, Serge, and Maurizio Tosi. 2007. In the Shadow of the Ancestors: The Prehistoric Foundations of the Early Arabian Civilization in Oman. Muscat: Ministry of Heritage & Culture, Sultanate of Oman.
  4.  Glob, P.V. 1959. “Arkæologiske Undersøgelser I Fire Arabiske Stater, Kuml.” Kuml, 238–39.
  5. Frifelt, Karen. 1975. “On Prehistoric Settlement and Chronology of the Oman Peninsula.” East and West 25 (3/4): 359–424.
  6.  de Cardi, Beatrice, Stephen Collier, and Donald Brian Doe. 1976. “Excavations and Survey in Oman, 1974-1975.” Journal of Oman Studies 5: 61–94.
  7. Vogt, Buckhard. 1985. “Zur Chronologie Und Entwicklung Der Gräber Des Späten 4.–2. Jtsd.v. Chr. Auf Der Halbinsel Oman.” Georg-August- Universität zu Göttingen.
  8.  Cleuziou, Serge, and Maurizio Tosi. 2007. In the Shadow of the Ancestors: The Prehistoric Foundations of the Early Arabian Civilization in Oman. Muscat: Ministry of Heritage & Culture, Sultanate of Oman.
  9.  Yule, P., and Gerd Weisgerber. 1998. “Prehistoric Tower Tombs at Shir/Jaylah, Sultanate of Oman.” Beiträge Zur Allgemeinen Und Vergleichenden Archäologie 18: 183–241.
  10.  Böhme, Manfred. 2011. “The Bat-Type. A Hafit Period Tomb Construction in Oman.” Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 22: 23–31.
  11. Vogt, Buckhard. 1985. “Zur Chronologie Und Entwicklung Der Gräber Des Späten 4.–2. Jtsd.v. Chr. Auf Der Halbinsel Oman.” Georg-August- Universität zu Göttingen.
  12.  Giraud, Jessica, and Serge Cleuziou. 2009. “Funerary Landscape as Part of the Social Landscape and Its Perceptions: 3000 Early Bronze Age Burials in the Eastern Ja’alan (Sultanate of Oman).” In Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, Vol. 39, Papers from the Forty-Second Meeting, 39:163–80. London: Archaeopress.
  13.  “UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage: Report of the World Heritage Committee, 12th Session.” 1988. Brasilia, Brazil; http://whc.unesco.org/archive/repcom88.htm#434.

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Smiti Nathan

I’m an archaeologist that travels around the world for both work and pleasure. I have a penchant for exploring ancient and modern places and the people, plants, and foods entangled in them. I write about archaeology, travel, and productivity.

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