Qalhat was once a shining jewel along the Omani coastline. The Indian Ocean trade route brought many people through the ancient city, which Italian explorer Marco Polo described as having “fine bazaars and one of the most beautiful mosques.”
In the late-Middle Ages, when it was Oman’s first capital, the city was notably encircled by a fortified wall and was bustling with shops, bazaars, and houses. But when trade in the area shifted to Muscat, Oman’s current capital, Qalhat began its decline into obscurity. It was eventually captured by the Portuguese in 1507.
Today, a single mausoleum is all that bears witness to the city’s former glory. Some say the lonely tomb was built by Baha al-Din Ayaz, king of the Hormuz Empire, for his wife, Bibi Maryam. But others maintain that it was indeed her who built it for him.