• Keywords: Oman, Cultural Landscapes, Bahla Oasis, fortified settlement, defense wall, archaeological remains, Bahla castle, Friday mosque, Bahla souq, Banu Nebhan, Al Maitha Falaj, Bisya, Salut.

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

The entire oasis was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987, criteria (iv) and ref: 433, making it the first such site in Oman. It was put on the Danger List in 1988, mainly because of development plans that endangered the integrity of the site. Improved management and Oman’s decision to desist from using modern materials and construction techniques near the site led to its removal from the Danger List. The property of Bahla Fort and Oasis is protected administratively and legally by the Omani Law for National Heritage Protection (1980).

  • World heritage list of UNESCO
  • Protection Figures

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

In the Dakhliya Interior Region, Bahla Oasis, with its various Falajs and dense date palm farms, stands out between other oasis. It is characterised by a mix of environmental and defence and other components thus providing suitable living conditions for the population. It is a date palm oasis that extends along the banks of Wadi Bahla covering a large area. It is walled and fortified by a defensive rampart 12 kilometres long. There are eighteen archaeological quarters inside the oasis, ten of which have recently been categorised as Level 1 due to their architectural integrity and the preservation of architectural features. The oasis of Bahla owes its prosperity to the Banu Nebhan, the dominant tribe in the area from the 12th to the end of the 15th century. The ruins of the Bahla Castle, with its walls and towers of unbaked brick and its stone foundations, are a remarkable example of this type of fortification and attests to the power of the Banu Nebhan. Bahla Castle sits on a slightly rising hill, in the center of the oasis, which adds to its height and prestige. Some parts of the Castle were built in the Pre-Islamic Period. In 1987, the ruins of the immense Bahla Castle and Oasis was the first Omani site inscribed in the World Heritage List. This includes the entire Bahla Oasis, meaning everything within the ramparts of Bahla Oasis and wall, such as the architectural, archaeological and material or immaterial cultural landmarks. Bahla Oasis contains several elements appart from Bahla Castle as the mosque, the wall, Quran schools, Falajs and a the old market. In addition there are several ancient pottery factories in Bahla which are famous of their unique style of pottery known to archeologists as Bahla Style. Besides that, it is famous for its cotton and wool textiles together with cloth dyeing. Also, Bahla was used for many purposes due to the existence of its Qur’anic schools and mosques, and was renowned as a centre for intellectuals with many famous imams and scholars who influenced the political and intellectual scene in Oman. Bahla is an outstanding example of a fortified oasis settlement of the medieval Islamic period, exhibiting the water engineering skill of the early inhabitants for agricultural and domestic purposes. The pre-gunpowder style fort with rounded towers and castellated parapets, together with the perimeter sur of stone and mud brick technology demonstrates the status and influence of the ruling elite. For all these reasons, and according to UNESCO criteria (UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Article 1, 1972, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2008) Med-O-Med has considered reasonable to include the Bahla oasis and fort is this file as a Continuing Cultural Landscape

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination Bahla.
  • Current denomination Bahla.
  • Original denomination Bahla (Arabic: بهلا‎).
  • Popular denomination Bahla (Arabic: بهلا‎).
  • Address: Oasis of Bahla, 25 km west of Nazwa, Oman.
  • Geographical coordinates: N22 57 51.012 E57 18 3.996
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: The town is 40 km away from Nizwa and about 200 km from Muscat the capital. The old Bahla Fort with its 12 km(seven miles) wall is the oldest fort in Oman. Bahla City is located in Al Dakhlia region in the Sultanate of Oman. It is the old name of this area which extends from the southern part of the mountains, west of Bahla reaching Izki.

3. LEGAL ISSUES

Property regime
  • Public
  • Owner: Oman's Government.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Ministry of Heritage and Culture.
  • Legal protection: The property of Bahla Fort and Oasis is protected administratively and legally by the Omani Law for National Heritage Protection (1980). The Fort and its environs are controlled by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture in Muscat, which has a regional office in the Dakhliyeh region and a site office at Bahla.
  • Public or private organizations working in the site: The site has a Management Plan dating from March 2005 (Ministry of Heritage and Culture), focused on the long-term care, conservation and use of the site's historic buildings, structures and spatial form. The plan also recognises the importance of maintaining the site as an integral whole and the need to manage modern uses and development in order to preserve the integrity of the architectural assemblage and its prominence within its setting. Several of the actions set out in the Management Plan have been taken forward and implemented, including conservation of the Friday mosque, the qasaba, the sur and gateways, development of guidelines for rehabilitation of the harats, diversion of through traffic, electrification of the fort and installation of a site museum in Bayt al-Hadith within the fort. The Management Plan is currently undergoing review and will be updated in 2009/2010 in order to be officially adopted. The reviewed and updated Management Plan will form the basis for the long-term management of the property. In another hand, The Virtual Experience Company worked with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to produce this reconstruction as part of an ongoing process to bring the ancient heritage of Oman before a world-wide audience.

4. HISTORY

Bahla’s long history goes back to 3000 BC, and in past centuries Bahla bore witness to many important historical events, some of which are recorded in historical accounts while others are still unknown. Bahla was used as the Nabāhina’s second capital city, after Nizwa, during the first period of their dynasty (549-906 AH / 1154-1500 AD) and then became the main capital during their second period (964-1034 AH / 1556-1624 A). The Omani civilization dates back thousands of years. In biblical times the country was the hub of the rich trade in frankincense, the aromatic gum which was once considered more precious than gold. Known for their seafaring tradition, the Sultans of Oman ruled over a wealthy trading empire that stretched from the coast of East Africa to the tip of the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to the 19th centuries. At the foot of Djebel Akhdar lie the fortresses of Rustaq to the north, and Izki, Nizwa and Bahla to the south. These have all been capitals at some time in their history, and as a consequence have played an important role in the history of Oman. It was here that the Kharijite communities resisted all attempts at ‘normalization’ by Caliph Harun Al-Rashid, and put into practice their religious concepts, which were at once radically puritanical and democratic. Not far from the capital of Oman, the oasis of Bahla owed its prosperity to the Banu Nabhan who, from the mid-12th to the end of the 15th centuries, imposed their rule on the other tribes. Only the ruins of what was a glorious past now remain in this magnificent mountain site. Built on a stone base, the adobe walls and towers of the immense fort probably include some structural elements of the pre-Islamic period, but the major part of the constructions dates from the prosperous time of the Banu Nabhan, with the latest reconstruction dating from the beginning of the 16th century. At the foot of the fort, to the south-west, lies the Friday Mosque with its beautiful sculpted mihrab (prayer niche) probably dating back to the 14th century.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Archaeological
  • Geography: Arid Mountain
  • Site topography: Natural
  • Climate and environmental conditions: The climate of Oman has two distinct periods: the cooler winter months when most rain falls in Northern Oman, especially in the mountains, and the hot summer when a southwest monsoonal airflow affects most of the country, with a significant deposition of fog moisture occurring in parts of the Dhofar highlands. The southwest trade winds begin to blow across the Indian Ocean in May, reaching the Dhofar coast as the warm moist monsoon. By July and August, these winds reach a peak of 20-30 knots parallel to the coast, setting up a strong current from Somalia to western India. Deep, cold water wells up, particularly off Dhofar, and, being several degrees colder than the air passing over it, cools the air to dew-point. A bank of fog and ragged cloud then forms over the sea and a temperature inversion tends to prevent its dispersal, though daily changes occur. Where the Dhofar highlands face the wind, the fog and cloud press against them, riding to the top of Jebel Al Qara’, but rarely over Jebel Qamar. The moisture condenses on objects (especially plants) and sometimes falls as drizzle.
  • Geological and Geographical characteristics: Bahla City is located in Al Dakhlia region in the Sultanate of Oman. It is the old name of this area which extends from the southern part of the mountains, west of Bahla reaching Izki. Wadi Bahla Bahla valley overlooks the west side of the Oasis, while the high mountains surrounds it from other sides.
Bahla has a number of Falajs and water springs.
Vegetation:

Palm groves.

Land uses and economical activities:
-Comerce and tourism: According to its strategical location, Bahla Oasis contains one of the most important traditional old souqs that have maintained its activity and unique architectural style. Bahla Souq consists of a number of closely built shops in rows on straight lines with wooden roofed alleys in between, giving the visitors a taste of the old eastern markets, so rare nowadays. It contains several traditional handicrafts still pursued by the local community, like smithery, tannage and weaving. The Souq also has a shop for cloth dyeing, which is one of the rarest industries in the Oasis, and in Oman in general, connected to the indigo industry. There are other activities like silversmith, spices dry goods and pulses adding a certain charm for this kind of oriental market. In the Market Square, the sheep market is held every morning. The market has 4 main gates and one small door, and maintains its age-old system in management, regulations and legislations, and is under the supervision of the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, considering that the Bahla Souq is public property.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:
Palm groves and other crops.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

This is the Oasis of Bahla, or the Walled City. A Castle, a wall, a mosque, world famous crafts, Al Maitha Falaj and many old ruins surrounding the city, as mysterious as the history of most of these structures with its many legends. All these elements have interacted to emphasize the historical significance of Bahla Oasis, and indicate its unique individuality between the Omani cities. All these information and the continuous discoveries make us realize the reason behind listing this oasis on the world heritage list. In addition to the special care and attention given by the Ministry of Heritage & Culture to maintain its original identity that have made Bahla one of the most important cities in the world that still pulsate with the old social and natural life. Looking carefully at the way this city was fortified, the unique Castle in the center of its oasis , the mosque and other elements which have been discovered, make us realize the reason why it is one of the three most beautiful cities in the world.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

Architectonical elements /Sculptures:

-General Overview: The remaining mud brick family compounds of traditional vernacular houses (harats) including al-Aqr, al-Ghuzeili, al-Hawulya and the associated mosques, audience halls (sablas), bath houses, together with the dwellings of the fort guards (askari) demonstrate a distinctive settlement pattern related to the location of the falaj. The importance of the settlement is enhanced by the Friday mosque with its highly ornate mihrab and the remains of the old, semi-covered market (souq), comprising a complex of single-storey shops fronting onto narrow lanes, the whole enclosed by an outer wall. The location of the souq placed it within easy surveillance from the fort on its rocky outcrop nearby. Remains of carved and decoratively incised timber doors, shelves and window screens testify to a rich, thriving craft tradition. -The Friday Mosque (details): The old mosque of Bahla is on a solitary hill near the Castle. It was the city’s main mosque and some attribute it to the time of Khalifa Omar bin Al Khattab although no evidence to this was found. The oldest date found so far is on a column inside the mosque in 528 (AH). This date is the oldest written date ever found on architectural structure in Oman , after the date in the Sa’al Mosque (650 AH). Over the centuries, numerous scholars and philosophers had graduated from this mosque. The Ministry of Heritage & Culture carried out several research works and explorations to read the inscriptions over all the mosque’s walls and columns, which have revealed many important dates of events that have taken place in Bahla, and in Oman in general. Many dates have been found, for death of many important figures in the history of Oman. These inscriptions have a historical, cultural and social dimension, and will definitely lead to changes, additions and amendments to many concepts. The latest discoveries under the mosque’s floor may yet add another dimension to Bahla Oasis, and will highlight its importance as one of the world’s heritage site. Several discoveries were made. The first one was a circular structure buried in one corner, built of baked bricks or burned mud-bricks, after examination and comparison with a few similar structures in Oman, it was found that the structure represents a minaret or a tower. Under the mosque’s ground, a bundle was found containing a new and rare collection of silver coins dated to the of Imam Al Khalil bin Shazan reign (407-425 AH) and Imam Rashid bin Said who had succeeded him, together with other currency of the Buyid Period. The discovery of these coins is of great importance, for it sheds important light on that period of the Omani history, and the social and economic conditions during that time. Archeological discoveries are continuing in this site. From the following facts we can conclude that the newly discovered mosque also dates back to early Islamic era, where as the existing mosque under renovation was built alost one thousand years ago. These facts are the nature of the blocks used to build the newly discovered mosque similar to the one used during the early Islamic era , the construction method , the inscription on the walls , columns of the existing mosque and the rare dates on the discovered coins. In general term, we can say that the site where the mosque is built dates back to the third millenniem B.C. By comparing several facts, it is thought that in terms of the nature of the mud-bricks used to build the newly discovered mosque, similar to the one used during the early Islamic Period, or in term of the architectural method or the inscription on the walls and columns of the existing mosque, and the rare dates on the discovered coins, we can conclude that the newly discovered mosque also dated to Early Islamic Period, whereas the existing mosque was built almost one thousand years ago. The oldest date in the mosque is dated to the third millennium BC.

Art pieces, artesany, furniture and other elements:

Bahla is also famous for its pottery, popular since ancient times. Bahla Oasis is considered an ancient pottery center, Bahla pottery was very popular and the archeologists have dedicated a special technique, known as the Bahla Pottery Technique, in order to distinguish it from the other types of local or imported pottery within Oman. The archeologists trace this pottery to identify the cultural connections between the centers of old civilization. This industry remains popular until now and Bahla Oasis is one of few locations, where the pottery industry maintained its original style and characteristics since Early Islamic Period till present time. This is a unique feature enriching the significance of this oasis.

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
Man-made elements related to water management:
  • Public
The oasis is watered by the falaj system of wells and underground channels bringing groundwater from distant springs, and by management of the seasonal flow of water. Al Maitha Falaj is the largest and most famous which has no confirmed date exists for its construction. There are almost (73) Falajs in Bahla and surrounding villages, some have disappeared while others continue to serve this area, along with the water springs spreading all over the area.
Domestic, industrial ensembles, energy related systems:

Falaj irrigation system.

B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    -General overview: Bahla contains a number of archaeological sites, like the one in Bisya, on the banks of Wadi Bahla, where archaeological surveys and studies revealed some circular defensive structures dated to the third and first millennium BC. In addition, a defensive structure was discovered dated to the first millennium BC. Salut site, near Bisya is considered as one of the most important sites in the history of Oman, where remnants of an old Castle on top of a high hill. The Castle is thought to have been inhabited from the first millennium BC up to the 18th century AD- (12th century AH). The history of Salut has three main periods: 1- The early settlers during the Achaemenid Period. 2- The Banu Nebhan rulers used it as a Castle. 3- It was used as a Castle during Al Ya’reba dynasty ruling reign. -Bahla Castle: Bahla Castle sits on a slightly rising hill, in the center of the oasis, which adds to its height and prestige, almost triangular shaped structure, the southern façade extends to approx. 112.5 meters, eastern façade 114 meters and the northwestern arched wall, from the North Tower to A’Reeh Tower (Wind Tower) extends to 135 meters. Bahla Castle was built over various times, starting from the Pre-Islamic Period, like the east northern side known as Al Qasaba. The southern east side was built during the Al Nabahina dynasty that had ruled Oman for almost five centuries. Bayt Al Jabal (the Mountain House), at the corner near the northern part of the Castle was built in the last decade of the 12th century AH (18th century AD) while Al Bayt Al Hadeeth (Modern House) was built in mid 13th century AH (19th century AD). The Castle itself is built of earthen brick and foundations of stone, while the Sarooj (local gypsum) was rarely used on some parts. The Bahla Castle is unique, in term of its large space and the hill it covers, making it the largest and oldest Castle in Oman. The center of the Castle is an open area surrounding a large hill with some ruins of unknown date. The architectural history of the Castle is a mixture of several historic periods, from the Pre-Islamic Period to recent times. The architectural blend and external impact on the Bahla Castle, and the archeological discoveries therein, have given this Castle a distinct importance from the other Omani forts. The Castle has seven water wells , five towers and consists of three main parts, as it is generally agreed, although there are different opinions in locating these parts even in the best-published studies on the Castle. After researching, inquiries and direct appraisal, we can specify these parts as follows: First: The old part, or the old Castle, known as Al Qasaba which is the oldest part of the Bahla Castle. It is in the southeastern corner, almost rectangular in shape. Viewed separately, we can see its independent defenses. It is fitted on three sides, with towers and has a gate on the eastern side, which is the Castle’s old gate and has been closed in the Nabahina era, as per the local stories. Some say that the Al Nabahina built this part, and many others say that it goes back to the Persians’ existence in Oman , before the Islamic Period. The second part of the Castle is Bayt Al Jabal extending over the southwestern corner, built in the 18th century AD – (12th century AH). A’ Reeh Tower is on the southern side. The third part is the Al Bayt Al Hadeeth (New House) extending between Al Qasaba and Bayt Al Jabal. Al Bayt Al Hadeeth was built in the mid 19th century AD- (13th century AH). The renovation works by the Ministry revealed more rooms completely buried in the lower floor. This part consists of several rooms, halls and utilities. The current gate, known as Bab A’ Sabah, is between the two parts of Bayt Al Jabal and Al Bayt Al Hadeeth. It is fitted with chutes for pouring boiling oil, honey or water, with benches for the guards to rest on. There are also other installations towards the northern side, where you can see walls supported by two towers, and other buildings that used to be the prisons and horse stables. Al Nabahina rulers used this Castle for their residence when Bahla was the capital city of Oman during their reign. The proximity between the Castle, the houses made all subject to common dangers when the Castle was under attack during the wars. Ministry archaeological excavations in 1993 and 1997 revealed important findings, in term of the age and importance of the discovered pieces, or the brilliant results revealing the floors on which the Castle was built on. The excavation results will definitely lead to new studies on the chronological periods of the Castle. Various settlements layers have been revealed, broken pottery statues of horsemen from the which revealed a Sassanid influence in it and a decorated steatite object, in addition to a large pottery jar used to store dates or collecting honey, pieces of local pottery and china porcelain. The Castle witnessed four periods of restoration works. The first restoration was during the Banu Nebhan ruling reign, probably by their latest rulers. The second restoration was during the rule of Imam Nasir bin Murshid Al Ya’rubi (1624-1649 AD / 1034-1059 AH), some accounts relate that in 1610 AD the Castle was ruined, before Imam Al Ya’rubi restored it. The third restoration took place during the rule of Imam Azzan bin Qais Al Busaidi in 1868 AD and the latest one was when the site was inscribed in the World Heritage List. The Castle, with its wonderful shape and high towers and walls, perching on the high rock, is the most beautiful reinforced structure in Oman. -The oasis wall: The most visible feature of Bahla Oasis is its wall, which distinguish it from other Omani oasis. The ramparts of Bahla’s seven-mile wall surrounds the oasis with a unique defense fortification, provided with towers and room for the soldiers , places for the archers and riflemen. The wall is so old no one knows when it was built exactly. Some opinions say it was built when the Persian where in the area while others believe it was built at the time of the Nabhani’s era. The wall has seven main gates built by them while Bahla was their capital such as “Bab Al Badi, Bab A’Sili, Bab A’ Sabah, Bab Al Batha and Bab Al Khorzoban”. By following the direction of the wall and how it surrounds the Oasis, you can see the precision and creativity in reinforcing the oasis’ defenses in a unique way, through the hills and wadis, making any attempt to invade it very difficult. The wall had a specific maintenance system. The concept of reinforcing the oasis makes it one of the three most beautiful walled cities in the world. This in addition to the one in Croatia and the other in France. -The mosque: Archeological discoveries are continuing in the mosque. On the eastern side of the mosque, a cemetery was found dated to the Umm an Nar Period during the third millennium BC. A large number of limestone vessels pottery jars of various shapes and precious stones like carnelian were found, besides a large number of smashed skeletons, some of which show traces of burning. This graveyard has been cut in the rocks of the mountain where the mosque is built. Another unique discovery in the same mosque, revealed during the archaeological excavations conducted by the Department of Antiquities where the remains of walls for another mosque within the parameters of the current mosque were discovered. The walls of the newly discovered mosque are on the same line as the current mosque, but smaller in size. In the center of the discovered mosque pieces of palm trunks were found, indicating that the mosque’s roof was supported by columns of palm trunk, known as the awing system, widely spread in the Pre-Islamic Period .

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: Archaeological remains. Palm groves. Falaj system.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Population, ethnic groups: Banu Nebhan was the dominant tribe in the area from the 12th to the end of the 15th century.
  • Languages and dialects: Arabic and other dialects.
  • Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: Bahla was used for many purposes due to the existence of its Qur’anic schools and mosques, and was renowned as a centre for intellectuals with many famous imams and scholars who influenced the political and intellectual scene in Oman. Among these were Abu ‘Ubaidah Abdullah bin al-Qāsim (2nd century AH/8th century AD), al-Ṣalt bin Khamis al-Kharūṣi (3rd century AH/9th century AD) and Sheikh Mohammed ibn Barakah (4th century AH/10th century AD). In fact, historical accounts indicate that ibn Barakah’s school attracted students from the Arab Maghreb countries. Among Bahla’s famous intellects were Mohammed bin Sulaiman bin Ahmed bin Mfarraj (9th century AH/15th century AD) and Aisha bint Rashid bin Khaṣīb al-Riyami (12th century AH/18th century AD).

5.3. Quality

Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:
The Ministry of Heritage & Culture carried out several procedures to preserve this unique landmark and the active elements, that made this oasis an international cultural reserve. Certain committees were formed to follow up and preserve the oasis’ cultural identity. Legislations have been enacted to guarantee maintaining the original characteristics and balance between the development works within the Oasis. This in a way that guarantees non disturbance of the architectural or environmental properties, or other cultural aspects like the community’s handicrafts and inherited customs. All of this to maintain balance between all these elements and consider all the problems related to water and its impact on agriculture, related industries within the oasis.
Quality of the night sky, light pollution and possibility to observe the stars:
Oases are privileged sites to breath in silence, to find ourselves and to observe the pure beauty of nature, including the stars that are brighting in the night sky, free of light pollution.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

-Bahla castle -The oasis wall. -Friday mosque. -Bahla Souq. -The Palm groves. -Other archaeological sites. -The falaj irritation system.

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Archaeological
  • Architectonical
  • Living heritage
The main tangible values of "Bahla Cultural Landscape" are: -Aesthetic: In the Dakhliya Interior Region, Bahla Oasis, with its various Falajs and dense date palm farms, stands out between other oasis. It is characterised by a mix of environmental and defence and other components thus providing suitable living conditions for the population. It is a date palm oasis that extends along the banks of Wadi Bahla covering a large area. Looking carefully at the way this city was fortified, the unique Castle in the center of its oasis, the mosque and other elements which have been discovered, make us realize the reason why it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. -Architectonical/Archaeological: Bahla is an outstanding example of a fortified oasis settlement of the medieval Islamic period, it is walled and fortified by a defensive rampart 12 kilometres long. There are eighteen archaeological quarters inside the oasis, ten of which have recently been categorised as Level 1 due to their architectural integrity and the preservation of architectural features. Bahla contains a number of archaeological sites, like the one in Bisya, on the banks of Wadi Bahla, where archaeological surveys and studies revealed some circular defensive structures dated to the third and first millennium BC. In addition, a defensive structure was discovered dated to the first millennium BC. Salut site, near Bisya is considered as one of the most important sites in the history of Oman, where remnants of an old Castle on top of a high hill. The Castle is thought to have been inhabited from the first millennium BC up to the 18th century AD- (12th century AH). -Living heritage: The oasis is watered by the falaj system of wells and underground channels bringing groundwater from distant springs, and by management of the seasonal flow of water. Al Maitha Falaj is the largest and most famous which has no confirmed date exists for its construction. There are almost (73) Falajs in Bahla and surrounding villages, some have disappeared while others continue to serve this area, along with the water springs spreading all over the area.

Intangible

  • Historical
  • Religious
The main intangible values of "Bahla Cultural Landscape" are: -Historical: Bahla’s long history goes back to 3000 BC. Bahla was used as the Nabāhina’s second capital city, after Nizwa, during the first period of their dynasty (549-906 AH / 1154-1500 AD) and then became the main capital during their second period (964-1034 AH / 1556-1624 A). -Religious: Bahla was used for many purposes due to the existence of its Qur’anic schools and mosques, and was renowned as a centre for intellectuals with many famous imams and scholars who influenced the political and intellectual scene in Oman. In fact, historical accounts indicate that ibn Barakah’s school attracted students from the Arab Maghreb countries. Among Bahla’s famous intellects were Mohammed bin Sulaiman bin Ahmed bin Mfarraj (9th century AH/15th century AD) and Aisha bint Rashid bin Khaṣīb al-Riyami (12th century AH/18th century AD). -Social significance/cultural: The oasis of Bahla owes its prosperity to the Banu Nebhan, the dominant tribe in the area from the 12th to the end of the 15th century. The ruins of the immense fort, with its walls and towers of unbaked brick and its stone foundations, is a remarkable example of this type of fortification and attests to the power of the Banu Nebhan. Also, Bahla is an outstanding example of a fortified oasis settlement of the medieval Islamic period, exhibiting the water engineering skill of the early inhabitants for agricultural and domestic purposes. The pre-gunpowder style fort with rounded towers and castellated parapets, together with the perimeter sur of stone and mud brick technology demonstrates the status and influence of the ruling elite.
Authenticity:
At the time of inscription, the fort was dilapidated and decaying rapidly after each rainy season. It was put on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1988. Consolidation works to some sections of the fort including Bayt al-Jabal, the entrance hall (sabah), and north-west and south-west walls using inappropriate materials were carried out in the early 1990s, and an audience hall (sabla) in the courtyard was demolished in 1992. From 1995, following training and advice on earthen structures, conservation using only earthen-based materials has included courtyard drainage, new roofs and consolidation of collapsing walls and towers including to the citadel (qasaba), courtyard mosque, Bayt al-Jabal, Bayt al-Hadith and horse stalls, and capping of tops of ruined walls to impede further collapse. The sabla was reconstructed in 1999 in the courtyard of the fort. Accurate records have been kept of the work and full documentation of the fort has since been carried out including a photogrammetric survey. The form, design and materials that convey the Outstanding Universal Value can be said to have largely retained their authenticity. The property was taken off the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2004. Bahla remains a thriving settlement. However the authenticity is vulnerable to the abandonment of traditional vernacular houses within the harats. The souq is also vulnerable to lack of conservation and maintenance and changes in materials and methods of construction (UNESCO, 2010).
Universality:
Bahla’s was the first archaeological site in Oman to be acknowledged and added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, in 1987. This did not only relate to the fort but extended to all the area’s components within the fortified wall, which include architectural, archaeological and cultural monuments, both tangible and intangible. Med-O-Med agrees the criterion proposed by UNESCO in the World Heritage List (iv), adding two more (i, v): i) Bahla Oasis, with its various Falajs and dense date palm farms, stands out between other oasis, representing a masterpiece of human creative genius. iv) The Bahla Fort and oasis settlement with its perimeter fortification are an outstanding example of a type of defensive architectural ensemble that enabled dominant tribes to achieve prosperity in Oman and the Arabian Peninsula during the late medieval period (UNESCo, 2010). v) The oasis of Bahla is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, farming and land-use, which is representative of its culture, and the human interaction with the environment, exhibiting the water engineering skill of the early inhabitants for agricultural and domestic purposes (falaj irrigation system).
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
The main values linked to the Islamic culture are: -Architectonical/archaeological/historical: Bahla is an outstanding example of a fortified oasis settlement of the medieval Islamic period. The mosque was built on the early Islamic era (third millenniem B.C.), and the islamic style can be observed in its construction method, the inscription on the walls, columns of the existing mosque and the rare dates on the discovered coins. The Bahla Castle is unique, in term of its large space and the hill it covers, making it the largest and oldest Castle in Oman. The center of the Castle is an open area surrounding a large hill with some ruins of unknown date. The architectural history of the Castle is a mixture of several historic periods, from the Pre-Islamic Period to recent times. -Cultural/historical: The oasis of Bahla owes its prosperity to the Banu Nebhan, the dominant tribe in the area from the 12th to the end of the 15th century. The ruins of the Bahla Castle, with its walls and towers of unbaked brick and its stone foundations, are a remarkable example of this type of fortification and attests to the power of the Banu Nebhan. -Religious: Bahla was used for many purposes due to the existence of its Qur’anic schools and mosques. -Social significance/ living heritage: Bahla is an outstanding example of a fortified oasis settlement of the medieval Islamic period, exhibiting the water engineering skill (falaj irrigation system) of the early inhabitants for agricultural and domestic purposes.

7. ENCLOSURES

Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):

Bahla Cultural Landscape is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Oman which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.

Bibliography:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/433 http://whc.unesco.org/en/activities/21/ http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/70 http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://www.mhc.gov.om/arabic/tabid/81/Default.aspx http://www.omanwhs.gov.om/english/Bahla/Bahlaenclosure.asp http://www.history.com/classroom/unesco/bahla.html http://www.mhc.gov.om/tabid/389/Default.aspx http://www.bahlaoasis.net/vb/index.php http://www.nizwa.net/heritage/wonderloop/wonderloop.html http://virtualexperience.co.uk/?page=projects&sub=bahla -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara, Italy.

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.