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INSTITUTE OF APPLIED SCIENCE
DEPARTMENT OF ARCHITECTURE

LAND 504: RURAL LANDSCAPE PLANNING

Research Title: Investigating on Heritage village and its
management plan in Oman, Bahla Harat al-‘Aqr.

Supervise: Dr. Ozge Ozden Fuller
Prepared by: Soran Saad Aziz
Student Number: 20174998
Spring Semester 2017-2018

NICOSIA
2018

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Abstract
Investigating in Heritage Management Plan for the settlement of Harat al -Aqr in the oasis of Fanja
builds upon the extensive fieldwork documentation brought out on site, as well as on the interim
field report proposed on December 17th, 2012. alongside offering comprehensive drawn
documentation ensuing from the survey administered in Oct 2012. This research is studying a
preliminary strategic master Plan which addresses issues of heritage management, conservation
and development, as well as approaches for its implementation.
The Master Plan illustrates zones and categories of development and conservation to be carried
out, which builds on a statement of significance, and assessment of the state of preservation and
the threats to heritage management at Bahla Harat al-‘Aqr, drawing on the experiences of
researching and developing Master Plan for Bahla Harat al-‘Aqr. The research also includes a
comprehensive inventory of structural and non-structural defects present at the settlement as well
as a study of the oasis context.
This research is studying the Master Plan that is informed by extensive documentation, analysis
and interpretation of the settlement structure. Morphology, constructing typology and social
situations of the present and the immediate past. On this basis, a culturally and technically
informed development plan is proposed, which advocates a sustainable revitalisation centred on
re-habitation, heritage tourism, education, training and skill development programmers with
emphasis on common knowledge of the built environment and the crafts. Here too the intention is
to move away from an entirely tourism-focused growth and towards a more sustainable alternative.
Key zones are identified m the Master Plan for protection, restoration, rebuilding, consolidation
and redevelopment.
Keywords: Heritage village, Oman planning, Heritage Planning, Sustainable communities,
sustainable managing of Omani heritage places, Bahla Harat al-Aqr.

Figure 1 Harat Bahla Al-Aqr

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Table of Contents
Abstract ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 2
Table of Contents ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 3
Table of Figures ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 4
Introductions ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 6
Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 6
Historical Background ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 11
Modern Bahla ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 12
Settlements ; Demographics………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 13
Morphology and Layout …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 15
Civic Structures ; Public Spaces …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 17
Communal buildings …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 17
Dwellings ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 18
Defence, Bahlafort …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 21
Water ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 26
Master Plan ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 26
Value and threat to the site significant ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 35
Urban and Architectural Values ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 35
Historical Values ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 36
Social (Symbolic, Spiritual and Political) Values ……………………………………………………………………….. 38
Scientific and Research Value …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 39
Heritage Management and Development Master Plan …………………………………………………………………….. 41
Buffer Zone …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 44
Settlement infrastructure …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 45
Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 46
Reference …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 48

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Table of Figures
Figure 1 Harat Bahla Al-Aqr ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 2
Figure 2 One of the Door of Harat …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 6
Figure 3 Bahla Harat al-‘Aqr………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 8
Figure 4 Bahla Harat al-‘Aqr………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 8
Figure 5 Harat aqrs watch tower …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 9
Figure 6 Oman,Harat Al-Aqr location. …………………………………………………………………………………………… 10
Figure 7 Aqra Citadel ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 11
Figure 8 Al-Aqr as seen from the Bahla Fort ………………………………………………………………………………….. 12
Figure 9 Bahla souq ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 13
Figure 10 Bahla souq ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 13
Figure 11 Bahla Al-Aqr settlement plan ………………………………………………………………………………………… 15
Figure 12 Al-Aqr and Jamma Mosque as seen from the Fort …………………………………………………………… 16
Figure 13 The Friday Mosque ……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 17
Figure 14 Al-Aqr, Sabah as seen from the East and west ………………………………………………………………… 18
Figure 15 al-Aqr, section of dwelling G8 in its projected original state ……………………………………………… 19
Figure 16 Dwelling …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 20
Figure 17 Dwelling water …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 20
Figure 18 Dwelling …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 20
Figure 19 Inside the dwelling ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 21
Figure 20 Citadel ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 22
Figure 21 Al-Aqr, oasis and defensive penmeter ……………………………………………………………………………. 23
Figure 22 Interior of the Bahia Fort after its recent restortilon ……………………………………………………….. 23
Figure 23 Master Plan ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 24
Figure 24 Inside the citadel …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 25
Figure 25 Water root in the village ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 26
Figure 26 Above View of al-aqr ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 27
Figure 27 Master Plan ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 28
Figure 28 al-Aqr, building types and components of this settlement ……………………………………………….. 29
Figure 29 al-Aqr, dwelling accesses ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 30
Figure 30 al-Aqr, settlement accesses ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 31
Figure 31 al-Aqr, usage status ofbuildmgs and dwellings ………………………………………………………………… 32
Figure 32 al -Aqr, types of construction ………………………………………………………………………………………… 33
Figure 34 al-Aqr, social stmcture and tribal mosaic ……………………………………………………………………….. 34
Figure 33 al-Aqr. partial survey of the water network …………………………………………………………………… 34
Figure 35 Master Plan and zones …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 35
Figure 36 al-Aqr, walls and harat towards zone D …………………………………………………………………………. 37
Figure 37 Mosque Door ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 37
Figure 38 Inside the Mosque ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 38
Figure 39 al-Aqr, decorated ceiling. ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 39
Figure 40 Settlement Structures ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 40
Figure 41 Master Plan ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 41
Figure 42 One of the Harat Door …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 42
Figure 43 The development in the Al-Aqr heritage area …………………………………………………………………. 43

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Figure 44 The development in the Al-Aqr heritage area …………………………………………………………………. 43
Figure 45 al -Aqr, projected visualization of the Sabah al-Nargila (A4) after restoration …………………….. 44
Figure 46 al -Aqr, projected visualization of the Sabah al-Nargila …………………………………………………….. 45
Figure 47 al -Aqr, projected visualization of the Sabah al-Nargila …………………………………………………….. 46

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Introductions
Introduction
Bahla is one of the most important ancient sites of Oman, having been inducted into the UNESCO
World Heritage Site (WHS) list in 1987 due to its unique architectural and cultural characteristics.
Recognizable from afar is the tremendous mud-brick fort which towers over the oasis and is the
largest of its kind in the world. Additionally, and also somewhat unique, is the 13 km defensive
wall (sure) which surrounds the entire oasis and the various settlements that lie within it.
All these factors, as well as the high antiquity of the site – more recently highlighted by the
extensive prehistoric archaeological finds discovered within the fort and under Masjid al- Jama’a
(the Friday Mosque), have made Bahla a World Heritage Site and one of the prime destinations
for national and foreign visitors to Oman. The expectation is that their number will rise
significantly over the next decades, which makes the planned development and management of
heritage clusters critical in Bahla. The oasis of Bahla lies at one of the essential points of
intersection along the old road to Nizwa and al-
Hamra and in part connecting these sites of
importance with the southern regions of the
Dakhiliyah Governorate. This region is in itself one
of the prime connectors of Oman’s interior with the
coastal areas and the capital at Muscat, located about
200 km to the east. About 10 km.
Nestled within a long narrow valley, the Bahla oasis
lies on the eastern banks of Wadi Bahla, which has
since antiquity been the primary source of water for
the oasis. The palm groves stretch along the valley
over a length of about 4 km, with the fort, the mosque
and main settlement core of Harat al-‘Aqr being
located on the eastern edge atop and surrounding a
series of low hills. This position allowed the
inhabitants and the garrison of the fort to survey the
surrounding countryside, while also putting them on
higher ground and safer from perennial flooding
events.
The oasis of Bahla received its supply of water from
a complex series of irrigation channels (s. falaj, pl.
aflaj), which are tapped from aquifers in the Wadi
Bahla and enter the oasis from the northwest. The
central falaj systems – al-Maytha, al-Mahdi, al-
Jizyayn, al-Maqil and al-‘Ayn al-Lamia – enter from
the north and the west, but many others appear to
have entered the settlements from the surrounding
territories. Figure 2 One of the Door of Harat

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Bahla is one of the most important ancient sites of Oman, having been inducted into the UNESCO
World Heritage Site (WHS) list in 1987 due to its unique architectural and cultural characteristics.
Recognizable from afar is the great mud-brick fort which towers over the oasis and is the largest
of its kind in the world. Additionally, and also somewhat unique, is the 13 km defensive wall (sure)
which surrounds the entire oasis and the various settlements that lie within it.
All these factors, as well as the high antiquity of the site – more recently highlighted by the great
prehistoric archaeological finds discovered within the fort and under Masjid al- Jama’a (the Friday
Mosque), have made Bahla a World Heritage Site and one of the prime destinations for national
and foreign visitors to Oman. The expectation is that their number will rise significantly over the
next decades, which makes the planned development and management of heritage clusters critical
in Bahla. The oasis of Bahla lies at one of the essential points of intersection along the old road to
Nizwa and al-Hamra and in part connecting these sites of importance with the southern regions of
the Dakhiliyah Governorate. This region is in itself one of the prime connectors of Oman’s interior
with the coastal areas and the capital at Muscat, located about 200 km to the east. About 10 km.
Nestled within a long narrow valley, the Bahla oasis lies on the eastern banks of Wadi Bahla,
which has since antiquity been the primary source of water for the oasis. The palm groves stretch
along the valley over a length of about 4 km, with the fort, the mosque and central settlement core
of Harat al-‘Aqr being located on the eastern edge atop and surrounding a series of low hills. This
position allowed the inhabitants and the garrison of the fort to survey the surrounding countryside,
while also putting them on higher ground and safer from perennial flooding events.
The oasis of Bahla received its supply of water from a complex series of irrigation channels (s.
falaj, pl. aflaj), which are tapped from aquifers in the Wadi Bahla and enter the oasis from the
northwest. The central falaj systems – al-Maytha, al-Mahdi, al-Jizyayn, al-Maqil and al-‘Ayn al-
Lamia – enter from the north and the west, but many others appear to have entered the settlements
from the surrounding territories.

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Figure 4 Bahla Harat al-‘Aqr.
Figure 3 Bahla Harat al-‘Aqr.

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The great age of the settlement and changes in the water table as well as in the urban/agricultural
development of the oasis make the evolution of the irrigation systems highly complex, with older
channels being abandoned and new ones dug, while others are either connected or divided
depending on the requirements. Harat al-Aqr, the central settlement cluster (s. harah, pl. harat) in
Bahla that grew over centuries centred on the fort and the mosque, is the principal focus of the
study undertaken by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MHC).
It was undertaken in collaboration with the UK-based research center, Architecture and Cultural
Heritage of India, Arabia and the Maghreb (Archie; www.archiam-centre.com), attached to the
Manchester School of Architecture. The historical account is followed by an overview of the
proposed strategic heritage management and development master plan with the explicit focus on
how heritage could remain meaningful for future generations

Figure 5 Harat aqrs watch tower

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Figure 6 Oman,Harat Al-Aqr location.

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Historical Background
The area of the current Bahla oasis is likely to have first seen settlement along the edges of the
wadi, closer to the perennial pools which allow for easy access to water without the need for
sophisticated infrastructure. The earliest form of artificial extraction is likely to have been the
sinking of wells into the wadi itself Pottery remains and ft.int flakes have been found both as
scattered surface spots as well as inclusions in the side -walls of gullies, along the northern area of
Bahla oasis, about 200m north of the current perimeter walls. This serves as a likely indicator for
an earlier phase of occupation which has left no evident architectural traces but probably pre-dates
the establishment of the Sur by several centuries.

Indeed, from the archaeology of the ad-
Dakhillyah region in general and the existence
of a substantial fort within the oasis, it appears
evident that Bahla was a large and thriving
community long before the advent of Islam. As
the Capital of the al -Atik tribe (Asad b. lmran
Azd) during the early period of Arab migration
into eastern Arabia Bahl a was often referred
to as al -‘Atik in the sources (Wilkinson 1977
188). The al-At1k were members of the Imran
Azd tribal confederation, the first Azd group to
enter into the territory from the northern
migration. The Atik tribe laid the seed for the
creation of two of Oman ‘s most impacting
dynasties that of the Nabahina (Bairn Nabhan)
and the Ya’ariba (Wilkmson 1988: 19).

In the aftermath of the first imamate and the
ensuing period of conflict the Nabahina, made
Bahla their capital and as such ruled over large
parts of what is now central Oman for almost
half a millennium. Among the most illustrious
residents of the oasis can be counted the
famous 10th century Islamic Scholar Abu
Muhammad Abdullah b. Muhammad, also
known as Ibn Baraka. He is said to be buried in
a small mausoleum that occupies the site of the
mosque at which he used to preach in Harat al-
Dhurudh.
Figure 7 Aqra Citadel

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While in general the documentation on medieval Oman is somewhat sparse, Bahla is mentioned
in the accounts of the Portuguese traveller and historian Joao de Barros (1496-1570) as being one
of the three central cities of the interior of Oman together with Nizwa and Manah. The constant
assaults and exploitative tributes by nomadic tribes which the oasis had to endure prompted the
inhabitants to construct the 12km enclosure wall which constitutes the Bahla Sur.

Modern Bahla
With the increased wealth of its population and demographic growth over the past 20 years, the
appearance of Bahia has changed fundamentally, from a once green oasis to a heavily urbanised
urban space interspersed by occasional green areas. There is no question that at the current rate of
development within the next 5-10 years there will be no more palm trees standing in the former
oasis.
The construction of the modem hardtop road through the core of the oasis has separated the souq
from al-‘Aqr and erased all traces of habitation around the northern and western sides of the Fort.
While this has eased access and transit for the region at large, it has also fragmented the community
and encouraged urban growth inside the oasis.
Increased affluence has also led to the abandonment of the traditional houses in favour of modern
buildings outside the ancient settlement perimeters, giving the oasis a profoundly derelict
appearance. The continued dereliction is a problem not only in so far as it affects the overall
appearance of the site and detracts from its touristic potential, but also in that it imbues traditional
settlement quarters as a whole with negative connotations.

Figure 8 Al-Aqr as seen from the Bahla Fort

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Settlements ; Demographics
The population structure of Dahl a is typical of al-Dakhiliyah as a whole. It is characterised by a
high proportion of young dependents (over half of the population 1s less than 15years old) and a
small percentage of older dependents (less than 5% of the population is aged 65 or above). There
is thus high dependency ratio, with the working age population having to support a relatively large
number of dependents, reflecting the traditional Omani household structure of large extended
families. The average household size 111 al-Dakhiliyah was 5.5 persons per household in 2003
In addition to the overall demographic structure, Bahla is characterised by several other socio-
demographic themes which require consideration in the Management Plan:
• The size of traditional dwellings 1s often not large enough to accommodate the average modern
Omani family without overcrowding;
• Many of the houses in Bahla, owing to the size of the rooms, the heights of the ceilings, the
difficulty in accommodating modem sanitation and domestic appliances and the maintenance and
cleaning requirements, are perceived by the majority of the local population as falling below
modem Omani standards of living;
• Local outward migration as the population seeks to move to areas offering more modem
accommodation available in New Bahla or elsewhere in the Oasis has led to an abandonment of
many of the traditional buildings;
•The creation of unbalanced residual populations within the old Harat has led to a decline in the
social fabric of the community and dereliction of the architectural structure,
• There is significance emigration from the region either to the capital area or the UAE for
employment reasons.
A growing number of dwellings within the old harah have been vacated by their owners and are
instead being rented to non-Omani workers and small-business owners who reside there Tuts
provides additional income to the owners while simultaneously providing cheap housing for the
working community. While this type of arrangement is beneficial to both sides and ensures a
degree of maintenance being carried out on the dwellings keeping them habitable, the lack of
sanitary infrastructure, waste disposal and basic utilities make the living conditions in the harah
less than attractive.The population structure of Dahl a is typical of al-Dakhiliyah as a whole. It is
characterised by a high proportion of young dependents (over half of the population 1s less than
Figure 10 Bahla souq Figure 9 Bahla souq

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15years old) and a small percentage of older dependents (less than 5% of the population is aged
65 or above). There is thus high dependency ratio, with the working age population having to
support a relatively large number of dependents, reflecting the traditional Omani household
structure of large extended families. The average household size 111 al-Dakhiliyah was 5.5
persons per household in 2003
In addition to the overall demographic structure, Bahla is characterised by several other socio-
demographic themes which require consideration in the Management Plan:
• The size of traditional dwellings is often not large enough to accommodate the average modern
Omani family without overcrowding;
• Many of the houses in Bahla, owing to the size of the rooms, the heights of the ceilings, the
difficulty in accommodating modem sanitation and domestic appliances and the maintenance and
cleaning requirements, are perceived by the majority of the local population as falling below
modem Omani standards of living;
• Local outward migration as the population seeks to move to areas offering more modem
accommodation available in New Bahla or elsewhere in the Oasis has led to an abandonment of
many of the traditional buildings;
•The creation of unbalanced residual populations within the old Harat has led to a decline in the
social fabric of the community and dereliction of the architectural structure,
• There is significance emigration from the region either to the capital area or the UAE for
employment reasons.
A growing number of dwellings within the old harah have been vacated by their owners and are
instead being rented to non-Omani workers and small-business owners who reside there Tuts
provides additional income to the owners while simultaneously providing cheap housing for the
working community. While this type of arrangement is beneficial to both sides and ensures a
degree of maintenance being carried out on the dwellings keeping them habitable, the lack of
sanitary infrastructure, waste disposal and basic utilities make the living conditions in the harah
less than attractive.

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Figure 11 Bahla Al-Aqr settlement plan
Morphology and Layout
The settlement of Al-Aqr is, in fact, comprised of three urban nuclei (Hawuiya, Al-Aqr, Ghuzeili)
known collectively as al-harah and which gradually coalesced into one more or less homogeneous
sickle-shaped village which warp around the mound below the mosque and at the foot of the Fort.
On the downhill side, it is hemmed in by the palm groves, and the falaj channels which irrigate
them The magnificent monument of the finds at the mosque makes it likely that the area today
occupied by al-Aqr also stretched far into the pre-Islamic ages.

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While without invasive excavation techniques it is impossible to determine the precise age of the
settlement, the reputed Persian origin of Bahla’s afiaJ network and Fort hint at the existence of a
significant population in the area Indeed, the creation of the falaJ and the associated agricultural
surplus would have been prerequisites to urban development within the Oasis.
The Harah Quarter forms a ring around the Great Mosque and extends in two prongs to face the
eastern and southern boundaries of the fort. The Jamma Mosque. Has been described and
documented by Costa in some detail (Costa 2001: 73-80) in which he notes with interest the
isolated prominence of the artificial platform, raised above the surrounding harat and facing the
towering mass of the citadel (Costa 2001: 73).
Topographic features were surrounding the fort, such as the steep slope on the eastern edge, are
carefully engaged with to produce distinct architectural results. Towards the south and the west of
the Great Mosque, however, the public buildings and dwellings of Harat al-Hawuiyah virtually
attach themselves to the mosque, leaving almost no space between The ring of structures
comprising the Harah Quarter varies in depth, being the deepest towards the east (al-Aqr). South
(al-Aqr), southwest (al-Hawmyah and al-Aqr) and west (al-Hawuiyah). As the ring branches out
towards the fort the two settlement arms reduce in depth, to the extent that at the far northern end
the arm (Harat al -Ghuzeili) contains no more than a single strip of dwellings. The far western
edge (Bostan Dar), likewise, reduces to a double loaded lane of small single-storied houses for the
guards (askaris).
There seems to be some confusion m the minds of the local inhabitants, especially amongst the
younger generation, as to where al-Aqr ends and al -Ghuzeili begins. Al-Hawu1yah and al-Aqr,
again, do not have any specific architectural features clearly defining their boundaries.

Figure 12 Al-Aqr and Jamma Mosque as seen from the Fort

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Civic Structures & Public Spaces
Communal buildings
Mosques
Bahla counts with one of the most important mosques of the ad-Dakhiliyah region. The Jamma
Mosque, situated on the summit of the hill around which al-Aqr grew, stands on the site of an
essential pre-Islamic sacred space. Human remains and artefacts unearthed there and dating to the
Umm an-Nar period (3rd millennium BC) highlight the at tunes astounding degree of naturalistic
continuity that one can still observe in Oman’s sacred places (Cleuziou ; Tosi 2007;122). The
mosque’s richly decorated mihrab dates back to 917 AH/ 1511 AD, designed by one of the foremost
exponents of this craft tradition in the 16th century, Abdullah b. Qasim b. Muhammad al-Humaimi
of Manah (Baldissira 1994).

The other unique feature of the mosque is its structural organisation (Bandyopadhyay 2003). and
the manner in which the spatial planning negotiates the topography; while the access to the mosque
terrace will have altered with the changing nature of the harat Further excavation and research
would, no doubt, establish the importance of this character zone of Bahla in Omani history

Figure 13 The Friday Mosque

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Sablahs
There were several structures within the settlement referred to as ‘sablah’ (pl. sbal) or the semi-
public male reception halls (majalis, amm), a term which Bonnenfant et al. believe, is unique to
Oman (Bonnenfant et al. 1977 115). While in many settlements of ad-Dakhiliyah most sbal were
designated for the use of a particular tribe in Bahla these appear to be more communal. It is this
semi-public nature which distinguished these from the more private reception rooms (majalis
khass) of the dwellings of, the more affluent.
Many sbal had a slightly more extended function, serving as the official reception room and office
for the wall (Sablat al-Wali), or acting as Quranic school (madrasah) for young children during the
mornings and as a Sabah during the days of the week. In other settlements, a Sabah was also the
venue for the auctioning of falaj water rights.
Figure 14 Al-Aqr, Sabah as seen from the East and west
Dwellings
The residential architecture of al -Aqr stands testament to the importance and wealth of this once
great town. The vast majority of the dwellings hold at least 2 stories high, some indeed, rise to a
3rd level, count with cellars and underground storage facilities and are accessible from street level
in terms of materiality all traditional structures are built from mud brick which, though very

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perishable and requiring constant maintenance, afforded the buildings with an extraordinary
thermal mass that kept their interiors temperate throughout the year.
Complex ventilation systems are in evidence in most buildings, relying on narrow slits near the
ceilings which would encourage the interior convection of air without letting in sunlight and
maintaining privacy Roof terraces are also common in most dwellings, and these could be used for
the drying of dates as well as spending the colder parts of the day during mornings and evenings.
The architectural genotype is that of the Omani townhouse, characterised by large entrance lobbies
with stairwells stretching off into the various upper levels, which tend to be placed at different
heights from one another. This is partially due to the complex terrain which needed to be
negotiated, but is also indicative of the gradual expansion of these residences, which expanded and
became more elaborate with the increased wealth of their owners in isolated cases, particularly in
zones B and D, some of the dwellings had private access to the falaj channel which passed straight
through the entire quarter.
Apart from being a feature which would likely have reflected the wealth of the owners of these
houses, it may also serve as an indicator of social status within the community The wealthiest
individuals of al-Aqr appear to have resided around the central square known as Rahbat al-Ghilah
Figure 15 al-Aqr, section of dwelling G8 in its projected original state

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(initially used for the manufacture of mud-bricks), with dwellings such as G8, E 1, E and D7
taking center stage with decorated facades and large wooden doors of exquisite craftsmanship.

Figure 18 Dwelling Figure 17 Dwelling water
Figure 16 Dwelling

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Figure 19 Inside the dwelling
Defence, Bahlafort
Initiated toward the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1987 the Bahla Fort is likely to be one of the
oldest standing structures in the oasis. While there is evidence of successive expansions taking
place during the Islamic Era, in particular during the Nabahina and the later Ya’aribah periods,
there is little doubt that the fort continued building on an early defensive installation established
during the pre-Islamic Persian phase of influence that extended across the Omani interior.
The site is also said to have been one of the main locations of resistance during the reign of Harun
al-Rashid (786-809 CE) together with the other great Omani centers of Rustaq, Izki and Nizwa. In
its current form, it is the most massive pre-gunpowder fort in Oman and one of the largest in
Arabia.
Standing on a hill some 50 m above the wadi floor, overlooking the surrounding countryside with
an ample visual horizon, it is an imposing sight. It rests upon solid stone foundations which in
specific locations rise to some 10 m above ground level and provide support for its most significant
towers.
As for the settlement quarters lying at the base of the fort, the dominant axis of Harat al-Aqr lies
east-west. The three extant gateways, all lying on the south and southwestern edge of the harah,
although dilapidated are recognizable from their features.
Also, gateways in central Oman have traditionally had certain functional elements associated with
those; the ones in al-Aqr are no exception to this rule. While we are aware of at least two earlier
positions of gateways and a still extant narrow emergency access passage on the eastern end of the
settlement, there is no evidence of gateways on the northern edge, at all. While this may well be

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due to the absence of gateways altogether from that direction, as the earlier phases of settlement
saw no such need, the obliteration of gateway positions due to successive expansion of the harah,
cannot be discarded.

Figure 20 Citadel

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Figure 21 Al-Aqr, oasis and defensive penmeter

Figure 22 Interior of the Bahia Fort after its recent restortilon
The best preserved of all three gateways is the Sabah al-Jassah, orientated northwest-southeast,
with a sablah of the same name located above the entrance passage on the first floor. Flanked by
seating benches on either side, the gateway still retains one leaf of a stable wooden door (bab) on
its southern end. An arch marks the other end of the passage leading into the settlement. Within
the passage, immediately south of the entrance door, a narrow opening and a few steps give access
to a small open-air mosque its floor slightly raised above the entrance level and recognisable solely
through the shallow recess of a niche against the wall flanking the entrance door outside the
settlement.
The arche opening on the inside of the settlement has another rectilinear opening beside it with an
enclosed staircase running up against the southern wall of the gateway to the first floor sablah. The
stairs and the sablah are possibly later additions to the gateway structure. The staircase leads up to
a first-floor landing with a beautiful balcony overlooking the open space leading up to the mosque
located between the dwellings and the gateway.

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The sablah, the roof of which has already collapsed, has many windows on two external facades
and two prominent niches on the inside. The southwest corner of the sablah has been ingeniously
manipulated to access a small room for coffee preparation, which sits above now-disused access
to a falaj channel. The sablah would act as a guest room during visits from friendly groups but are
also useful positions to conduct surveillance of adjoining terrain. The isolated nature of the
gateway suggests a possible later phase of settlement development.

Figure 23 Master Plan

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Figure 24 Inside the citadel

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Water
Besides the topography of the terrain, it was the layout of the settlement’s water supply which had
the most significant effect on its evolutionary patterns and eventual urban morphology.
Scholars have pointed out that the inherent rigidity of irrigation systems, determined by
topography, flow rate and head, often transforms them into the meta-structure or skeleton along
which an associated settlement evolves al -Aqr is an excellent example of this, as is visible in the
gradual expansions of the settlement downhill, eventually spilling over the boundary drawn by the
channels. As these could not be redirected, they were functioning ally integrated into the urban
fabric of al-Aqr
Water is today brought into the settlement from the east via the main channel of the Falaj al-
Maytha, surrounding what is now an enormous parking lot built into the former palm groves. Its
construction has unfortunately completely obliterated any evidence of the other jalaj which entered
the settlement slightly further to the north. from that direction, as the earlier phases of settlement
saw no such need, the obliteration of gateway pos1tions due to the continuous expansion of the
harat (see below), cannot be discarded.Besides the topography of the terrain, it was the layout of
the settlement’s water supply which had the most significant effect on its evolutionary patterns and
eventual urban morphology.
Scholars have pointed out that the inherent rigidity of irrigation systems, determined by
topography, flow rate and head, often transforms them into the meta-structure or skeleton along
which an associated settlement evolves al -Aqr is an excellent example of this, as is visible in the
gradual expansions of the settlement downhill, eventually spilling over the boundary drawn by the
Figure 25 Water root in the village

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channels. As these could not be redirected, they were functioning ally integrated into the urban
fabric of al-Aqr.
Water is today brought into the settlement from the east via the main channel of the Falaj al-
Maytha, surrounding what is now an enormous parking lot built into the former palm groves. Its
construction has unfortunately completely obliterated any evidence of the other jalaj which entered
the settlement slightly further to the north. from that direction, as the earlier phases of settlement
saw no such need, the obliteration of gateway pos1tions due to the continuous expansion of the
harat (see below), cannot be discarded.

Figure 26 Above View of al-aqr

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Figure 27 Master Plan

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Figure 28 al-Aqr, building types and components of this settlement

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Figure 29 al-Aqr, dwelling accesses

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Figure 30 al-Aqr, settlement accesses

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Figure 31 al-Aqr, usage status ofbuildmgs and dwellings

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Figure 32 al -Aqr, types of construction

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Figure 34 al-Aqr, social stmcture and tribal mosaic
Figure 33 al-Aqr. partial survey of the water network

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Value and threat to the site significant
Urban and Architectural Values
? Due to the excavation carried out at the Friday Mosque, it has become clear, that the earliest
phases of occupation settlement of al-Aqr are likely to date back to the 2nd-3rd millennium
BC. This great antiquity warrants further study and archaeological intervention within and
around the settlement
? The hillside location of al-Aqr required a complex negotiation of the terrain which resulted in
distinct ownership patterns as dwellings grew closer in distinct clusters
? The antiquity of the settlement is likely to be accompanied by the antiquity of the falaj
irrigation system which hems substantial parts of the urban space against the hillside.
? The extraordinary complexity of the falaj, which splitters, pools, side branches, etc., hints at
the gradual growth and expansion of the system, a more detailed study of which is necessary
? Many of the down-hill dwellings of al-Aqr are located along and atop the falaj as it winds
around the hill. The inclusion of the falaj into the interior of houses exciting sting feature which
must be preserved and may be showcased
? Public access point to the water channels via mosques, bathing areas and water collection
points are intrinsic meeting points which articulate essentials aspects of the settlements social
life.
? The grand architecture of many of Bahla’s houses, in particular, those located within zones B,
C, D, G and E are an expression of the once-great past of the quarter and require attention
Figure 35 Master Plan and zones

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? Due to the excavation carried out at the Friday Mosque, it has become clear, that the earliest
phases of occupation settlement of al-Aqr are likely to date back to the 2nd-3rd millennium
BC. This great antiquity warrants further study and archaeological intervention within and
around the settlement
? The hillside location of al-Aqr required a complex negotiation of the terrain which resulted in
distinct ownership patterns as dwellings grew closer in distinct clusters

? The antiquity of the settlement 1s likely to be accompanied by the antiquity of the falaj
irrigation system which hems substantial parts of the urban space against the hillside.

? The extraordinary complexity of the falaj, which splitters, pools, side branches, etc., hints at
the gradual growth and expansion of the system, a more detailed study of which is necessary.

? Many of the down-hill dwellings of al-Aqr are located along and atop the falaj as it winds
around the hill. The inclusion of the falaj into the interior of houses exciting sting feature which
must be preserved and may be showcased
? Public access point to the water channels via mosques, bathing areas and water collection
points are central meeting points which articulate essentials aspects of the settlements social
life.
? The grand architecture of many of Bahla’s houses, in particular, those located within zones B,
C, D, G and E are an expression of the once-great past of the quarter and require attention
proximity of the palm groves to the dwellings, especially in zones D and K are a relatively
unusual feature of a settlement in such an advanced state of decay. The form an essential buffer
zone between the old harat and the unchecked modern developments which have destroyed
much of the oasis’ original lush appear once.

? Bahla incorporates a series of defensive features such as large gates mighty walls which, in
addition to the proximity of the Bahia Fort and the Sur, provided the settlement with an
additional defensive perimeter.
? The Jama’ Mosque, placed atop the hill overlooking al -Aqr and the Bahla oasis.it is one of the
most significant sites of the whole ad-Dakhilryah governorate. Its size, age and emplacement
above an important archaeological site afford this building a strong link with Oman’s great pre-
Islamic past.

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Historical Values
Bahia represents a story of continuing historical development, from the prehistoric period of the
3rd millennium BCE to the main phases of development of the Fort of 9th, 17th and 19th centuries
CE.
Bahla – The Former Capital of Oman
The Fort and the wall, Sur, are surviving testimonies to the former status of Bahla as the capital
and political centre of the Omani state, located within a historically significant conflict zone. They
are surviving indications of the past prosperity of the town and remnants of the influence that Bahla
had on the region, Oman and
Arabian Peninsula as a whole.
The periodic concentration of
power within a fort m such
proximity to the harli.t had a
substantial effect on the manner in
which the collective settlement
quarters of al Aqr developed.
Bahla’s association as a traditional
and influential bed of learning can
be traced back for many centuries
and many famous Omani scholars
and poets have worked and taught
here, including Ibn Baraka (also Figure 37 Mosque Door
Figure 36 al-Aqr, walls and harat towards zone D

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Known as Abu Muhammad Abdullah b. Muhammad). He is acknowledged as having established,
during the 11th century CE, a conservative view of thought on the collapse of the First Ibadi
Imamate, which gave rise to the Rustaq School. It is believed that a small partially collapsed
mosque within Harat al-Dhurudh, south of al-Aqr, is where he regularly preached and is al so
where he is said to have been buried.
The richly decorated and ornate mihrab of the Great Mosque dates back to 1511 CE, designed by
one of the foremost exponents of this craft tradition in the 16th century CE, Abdullah b. Qasim b.
Muhammad al-Humaimi of Manah.

Social (Symbolic, Spiritual and Political) Values
The intangible elements that contribute to the universal value of the World Heritage Site are less
easily identified. But these elements whether experienced as a resident or visitor are no less
essential than the physical or tangible significances.
IBADISM AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF ISLAMICTHOUGHT
Bahla is recognised as one of the most likely locations associated with the birthplace of Ibadism,
one of the oldest schools of Islamic philosophy. The ideals of Ibadism, which have had influences
throughout parts of the Arab world, are reflected in the fabric of the WHS through the simple and
quiet dignity of many of the mosques.
Figure 38 Inside the Mosque

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Social Cohesion
Like many other core settlements of the
ad-Dakhiliyah region, the core
settlement complex illustrates a mixture
of tribes of complementary and opposed
political affiliations The three settlement
quarters, Hawuiyah, al-Aqr and
Ghuzeili, evolved socially retaining a
degree of tribal cohesion and spatial
integrity.
All settlement quarters, although
autonomous, had their communal
meeting halls, and the residents worked
together at a supra-tribal settlement
level. This is evident in the continuous
disappearance of defined boundaries and
gateways to virtually merging the three
settlement quarters although edges
appear to be present in the erstwhile
residents’ minds
The settlement quarters are indicative of
division of labour, for example, the tribal
groups residing in Harat al Hawuiyah
were in the main engaged in the
activities of the souq.

Scientific and Research Value
Bahla Fort and Oasis have considerable potential to contribute to the archaeological, historical and
anthropological understanding of human occupation in the region as well as the development and
spread of Islam throughout the world.
Pre-and Early-Islamic Activity
Excavations at the site of the Friday Mosque have already identified the site as potentially one of
the earliest mosques m Oman and perhaps the Arabian Peninsula. Other, perhaps earlier
archaeological remains are believed to survive at various locations within the Oasis.

Figure 39 al-Aqr, decorated ceiling.

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Settlement Structure and architecture
The settlement quarters have provided a wealth of information regarding the architectural and
urban character that evolved at Bahla. It offers excellent cross-settlement (involving Nizwa,
Manah, IzkI and Adam) research potential for understanding traditional settlement structure, tribal
pattern and relationships including migratory designs, architecture and water utilisation.
Hydrological Systems
The oasis is an excellent source of information on the complex hydrological systems in use in
traditional central Omani settlements. Such systems ingeniously combined falaj irrigation system
with wells and wadi surface Bows. While the present documentation project has attempted to
establish the routes that the complex falaj system has taken through the settlement quarters, there
is a need for urgent research in this regard.
Figure 40 Settlement Structures

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Heritage Management and Development Master Plan
Figure 41 Master Plan

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The strategic master plan for heritage
management and development
proposes a holistic approach to the
potential development and
conservation in Harat al-Aqr.
Keeping in mind the broader context,
there is also the need to consider the
oasis as a whole, adequately
including the entire area
encompassed by the extensive oasis
defensive wall (sure).

However, to optimise the use of
resources, the strategic master plan
emphasises a phased approach to
address and safeguard essential
development and conservation needs
of Harat al-Aqr. The phasing method
takes into account the established
priority action areas and structures.
Furthermore, a key consideration is
the physical state of individual
structures, their ownership and the
diverse approaches to conservation
and development those would
demand.

The best way to secure sustained
reuse of the settlement quarter is
through making the settlement
meaningful to the present and the future generations. The key to this is approaching reuse from an
integrated economic, social and cultural perspective that is of relevance to all stakeholders
concerned. The proposed developments should generate significant economic activity and social
capital while ensuring appropriate and sensitive interpretation of cultural and historical values of
the past. It is the intention to achieve the minimum destruction and limited intervention based on
a careful consideration of the state of preservation of the structures within the settlement.
Figure 42 One of the Harat Door

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Figure 43 The development in the Al-Aqr heritage area
Figure 44 The development in the Al-Aqr heritage area

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With the recently completed restoration of the Bahla Fort and tourism in general on the rise in
Oman, a significant increase in foreign visitors can be expected to be visiting Bahla and al- Aqr in
the forthcoming years. While this interest in Oman’s heritage and the associated influx of capital
are to be welcomed in general, it should be stated that the over-reliance on tourism inevitably leads
to limited economic diversification, and low resilience against market fluctuations. It cannot be in
the interest of Bahla’s residents to merely present their culture and architecture as mere
commodities for touristic consumption. Instead, tourism should be regarded as complementary to
a functioning local economy based on trade and production.
Buffer Zone
This would ensure that the settlement retains its traditional context or limits and prevents any
further damage to it. Additionally, all significant visual corridors need to be conserved, preserved
and opened up to visitor experience to optimise the essential character of the settlement. The
further detailed survey needs to be undertaken to identify all significant structures (mosques, sbal,
dwellings, water and agricultural infrastructure, etc.) located within the Buffer Zone. Conservation
and developmental policies and guidelines established for the settlement will apply to the Buffer
Zone to retain integrity.

Figure 45 al -Aqr, projected visualization of the Sabah al-Nargila (A4) after restoration

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Settlement infrastructure
Development of an integrated new infrastructure provision of water and electricity supply, and
waste management system is crucial to elevate environmental standards within the settlement and
to attract and manage tourism. It is proposed that all new and existing infrastructural elements
related to electrical and water supply provisions are to be laid underground or buried within walls.
Appropriately located and concealed solar panels are envisaged to provide for at least part of the
electricity demand. Given the presence of fresh water in the falaj no significant piped water supply
system is envisioned.
However, new programmatic insertions will require water storage and purification facilities. A
new infrastructure of ecological toilets and waterless urinals are to be installed for individual
properties and public toilets, as and where necessary. Removal of all debris and waste (organic
and inorganic) and the creation of defined points of waste disposal along the streets, passages and
civic spaces will be a priority. Appropriate collecting and channelling measures should be put in
place to divert stormwater from the settlement into the gardens and to prevent falaj water
contamination.Development of an integrated new infrastructure provision of water and electricity
Figure 46 al -Aqr, projected visualization of the Sabah al-Nargila

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supply, and waste management system is crucial to elevate environmental standards within the
settlement and to attract and manage tourism. It is proposed that all new and existing infrastructural
elements related to electrical and water supply provisions are to be laid underground or buried
within walls. Appropriately located and concealed solar panels are envisaged to provide for at least
part of the electricity demand. Given the presence of fresh water in the falaj no significant piped
water supply system is envisioned.
However, new programmatic insertions will require water storage and purification facilities. A
new infrastructure of ecological toilets and waterless urinals are to be installed for individual
properties and public toilets, as and where necessary. Removal of all debris and waste (organic
and inorganic) and the creation of defined points of waste disposal along the streets, passages and
civic spaces will be a priority. Appropriate collecting and channelling measures should be put in
place to divert stormwater from the settlement into the gardens and to prevent falaj water
contamination.
To retain the urban layout and spatial appearance, the internal streets of Harat al-Aqr will remain
pedestrianised with no direct vehicular access. The large already existing car park at the western
end of the harah would act as the principal vehicular parking area, providing access on-foot through
the west gate, Sabah al-Nargila. Vehicular access is also present to the eastern gate, Sabah al-Aqr,
and such access could also be provided to Sabah al-Hawashim. Also, and to aid the transport of
Figure 47 al -Aqr, projected visualization of the Sabah al-Nargila

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supplies and raw materials, a hard-top road is to be given along the eastern edge of the Friday
Mosque, extending the present track providing access to the mosque. Wherever necessary, the
paths will be paved in locally available stone, aiding stormwater drainage and safe access. It may
be required to shape the existing bedrock appearing on the surface to provide accessible steps and
ramps.
To protect the architectural values of the settlement, some measures will need to be carried out. It
is proposed to define the boundaries of the constituent settlement quarters of al-Aqr by applying
differing conservations techniques. It is proposed to conserve and partially rebuild the gateway
structures into the harah: Sabah al-Nargila, Sabah al-Hawashim and Sabah al-Aqr, along with their
associated structures such as mosques, ablution (wudu) facilities, aflaj, sablah and defensive
features.
Conservation and partially rebuilding of the wall enclosing the quarters is also necessary.
Restoration of the highly complex falaj network of Harat al-Aqr, not only within the settlement
but even beyond its walls, is also a priority. Associated features, such as wudu and water access
points on streets and within buildings, must be conserved and restored.

Conclusion
Through the study of the restoration process of the Omani Al-aqr village, it was very obvious that
in Oman-as in most of the developing countries-the conservation of historical buildings with its
complex nature and its requirements of planning, this paper aims to study the importance of the
full support and participation of related institutions and societies in developed countries in the
conservation of traditional and historical buildings in developing countries as human heritage.
The tremendous lack of efficient technicians, planning policy, and decision making is affecting a
lot the ability to developing countries to do such a critical mission alone. Authentic idea of
historical buildings, such as original materials, technical and esthetical appearance is essential.
However, there should be some room to manoeuvre to suit the new function, the level of comfort,
and the contemporary standards of safety. Modern techniques could be used, but with great
concern for the true spirit of the original environment.

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