Towns on the journey
This is the old town of Ait Bennhadou in Morocco... very similar to how I imagined Teloum.
This is a village in Yemen. The nations of Arabia, Yemen, and Oman didn't exist at the time of the story; the region was made up of several smaller kingdoms (see maps below). The journey begins near the border of present-day Yemen and Arabia, and one of the towns Alia passed through might have looked like the one below. The buildings (which really are ancient) and the mountain setting are how I imagine her first sight of Samhar.
This one doesn't really look like anywhere in the story, but the photo is so gorgeous, I had to include it!
A street like the one Alia wanders up in Samhar:
For all the times that I could spend days searching for the one right photo, there are also times when there are dozens that fit the story.
The caravan arriving:
What the tents would have looked like:
There is some life in the desert, but not much...
The pond on Alia's journey. The last image is probably the closest to how I pictured it.
These photos are of the real region of Dhofar (Zufar) in Oman. When Alia gazes from the temple across to the mist-shrouded mountains, they could be these ones:
Dhofar extends south all the way to the coast:
Alia's journey doesn't go to Petra, but Kardal mentions that he has gone there often. Petra was an important trading crossroads. Caravans from Egypt, Asia, the Roman empire, and the Arabian peninsula all passed through Petra. It is located in Jordan and can only be accessed through a narrow canyon (siq). All the buildings are carved out of the cliff rocks.
Petra was part of the Nabataean kingdom; today, still not much is known about he Nabateans.
A map of the world during the time the story is set:
For comparison, how the world looked 300 years later, after the growth of the Roman empire:
The kingdoms of Arabia, during Alia's time:
The modern-day Arabian peninsula... some of the political divisions aren't very different from the map above!
The incense-growing regions — these are the only places in the world where the frankincense tree grows.
The incense trade routes:
Illustrated by Elizabeth Monahan