• Keywords: Yemen, Cultural Landscape, Balhaf Oasis, Burum, Bir Ali, extinct volcano, Bronze age, circular tombs, funerary sculptures.

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

The Cultural Landscape of Balhaf oasis and the Burum Coastal area (named: Balhaf/Burum coastal area) is in the Tentative List of UNESCO, with date of submission: 08/07/2002, category: mixed, and ref.: 1724.

  • Tentative List of UNESCO

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

The Cultural Landscape of Balhaf oasis and the Burum Coastal area is recorded in the Tentative List of UNESCO in the mixed category, because of its natural and cultural values. Med-O-Med has considered the site as a Cultural Landscape (basis on the UNESCO definition of Cultural Landscape: 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), that shows an good sample of interaction between human being and nature, composing a living continuing landscape illustrated by especific agricultural and irrigation systems. Balhaf is an oasis in an area of coastal dunes in the Burum Coastal Area of Yemen. It has palm trees and white sand, which gives way to fields of black lava and to the fishing port of Bir-Ali. This oasis shows an unique sample of interaction between human being and nature. In general, oases are considered by UNESCO and Med-O-Med as sample of the human genius in action. Skills, and particularly traditional know-how in coping with a hostile environment that is scarce in resources, appeared in the development of techniques enabling water (and land) to be used more judiciously, whether available permanently or cyclically. Qana, a major point of departure of the Route I’Encens, was the main port of the ancient kingdom of Hadhramaut, and is dominated by a hill, Husn al-Ghurab, or remains of the ancient vestiges. A widespread sample of “Bronze Age” funerary structures on the western area of the site. A I’écart is located on an extinct volcano, a crater lake with turquoise waters. The “Corniche” road leads to the coastal port of Burum. Burum, a typical fishing port, is an old village surrounded by a gypsum kilns. Close by, one can see the large bay of Mukalla, whose wetlands are populated by migrant birds from India or Africa.

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination Balhaf, Burum.
  • Current denomination Balhaf, Burum.
  • Original denomination Balhaf, Burum.
  • Popular denomination Balhaf, Burum.
  • Address: Balhaf belongs to Shabwa of Yemen, located about 150 km from Al Mukalla-the capital of Hadhramaut.
  • Geographical coordinates: Coordinates: 14°00'/14°30' - 48°20'/48°55' E
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: Balhaf belongs to Shabwa of Yemen, located about 150 km from Al Mukalla-the capital of Hadhramaut.
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The Cultural Landscape of Balhaf oasis and the Burum Coastal area (YEMEN)

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The Cultural Landscape of Balhaf oasis and the Burum Coastal area (YEMEN) 14.000000, 48.200000 The Cultural Landscape of Balhaf oasis and the Burum Coastal area (YEMEN) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

Property regime
  • Public
  • Owner: Yemen's Goverment.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Yemen's Goverment.
  • Public or private organizations working in the site: The Centre Français d'Archéologie et de Sciences Sociales de Sanaa (CEFAS) and the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI), in cooperation with the Yemeni General Organization of Antiquities and Museums (GOAM), carried out a preventive archaeological survey along the route of a projected pipeline that will transfer the natural gas from Сāfer deposits (Governorate of Mārib) to the future Yemen LNG facilities in the village of Bālhāf (Governorate of Shabwa). This survey took place along theroute in order to identify all archaeological sites in danger of partial or total destruction due to the future construction of the pipe-line. Archaeological remains are from very different time periods, which stretch from the earliest prehistoric times to recent Is-lamic occupations. A total of 171 archaeological sites have been individualized and documented by preliminary plan drawing, photography, and material sampling. The use of a Geographic Information System (GIS) enabled a precise localization of thearchaeological occupations along the studied area.

4. HISTORY

Qana, a major point of departure of the Route I’Encens, was the main port of the ancient kingdom of Hadhramaut, and is dominated by a hill, Husn al-Ghurab, or remains of the ancient vestiges. A widespread sample of “Bronze Age” funerary structures on the western area of the site.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Rural
  • Geography: Coastal area
  • Site topography: Natural
  • Climate and environmental conditions: -General Overview of the country: The climate along the Red Sea coast is hot and humid, with a mean annual temperature of 29°C. Precipitation is very low, the average annual rainfall at Al-Hudaydah being 85, mm, with rain falling on only about 11 days a year. The climate along the south coast is similar, with maximum temperatures exceeding 40°C in July and August. Average temperatures at Aden range from 24°C in January to 32°C in July, and the average annual rainfall is 46 mm. Despite the low rainfall, the humidity is very high. By contrast, the highlands are mild with summer maxima around 29°C. Winters can be cold and frosts are not uncommon. The average annual rainfall over much of the highlands is 380-500 mm, decreasing to less than 120 mm in the east.
Water resources:
  • Public
-General overview of the country: The relatively high annual rainfall in the western and southern highlands feeds a large number of rivers and streams which descend rapidly in steep-sided wadis towards the coastal plains. Many of these have permanently flowing water in their upper reaches, and retain water throughout the year in deep pools along their middle and lower reaches, but in most cases, surface flow only reaches the sea during periods of exceptionally heavy rainfall. In some wadis, this may be as infrequently as once in 50-100 years. The seven most important wadi systems in the western highlands, from north to south, are Wadi Mawr, Wadi Surdud, Wadi Siham, Wadi Rima, Wadi Zabid, Wadi Rasyan and Wadi Mawsa. Scholte (1992) gives details of the major hydrological characteristics of these wadis, all of which drain west into the Red Sea. Major wadi systems draining south into the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea include Wadi Warazan, Wadi Jahr, Wadi Hajar and the impressive Wadi Hadramawt. The latter, which is some 240 km in length, is the largest natural permanent river in Arabia, and contains five of the nine indigenous freshwater fishes of the Arabian Peninsula, including three of the six Arabian endemics.
Vegetation:

-General overview of the country: The richest coastal mudflats are found at the mouths of the main wadis, where sub-surface seepage creates richer habitats compared to intervening stretches of coastline. Mangroves are widespread on the Red Sea coast and on some islands, particularly north of Al-‘Urj. Well developed mangrove is found along 84 km or 12 % of the Red Sea coast, and less well developed mangrove along a further 38 km (5 %). The mangrove communities are extremely simple, consisting of only one species of mangrove, Avicennia marina.

Fauna:

-General overview of the country: Coral reef formations in the Red Sea have been described by UNEP/IUCN (1988). Fringing coral communities have developed on remnant fossil reef rock substrates in some areas, mainly immediately north of Al-Mukha and between Al-Mukha and Dhubab. However, unlike further north in the Red Sea, raised reef rock features and other consolidated substrates are rare, and in general coral reefs are limited in extent. Seagrass beds are also limited in extent because of a relative paucity of sheltered locations and the strong seasonal winds. The diurnal tidal range in the Red Sea is about 0.5 m, and the seasonal variation from 1.33 m in January to 1.03 m in July. Yemen’s coastal waters are rich in fish and crustaceans of commercial importance including the lobster Palinurus sp. and the swimming crab Portunus pelagicus, and support an important artisanal fishery. The great productivity of the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and southern Red Sea, caused by upwellings of cold, nutrientrich waters during the summer monsoon, together with the presence of numerous offshore islands, create ideal feeding and breeding areas for many seabirds, notably Buiweria fallax, Puffinus persicus, Phaethon aethereus, Sula dactylatra, S. leucogaster, Phalacrocorax nigrogularis, Phalaropus lobatus, Larus hemprichii, L. leucophthalmus, Sterna bergii and S. repressa.

Land uses and economical activities:
Balhaf is now considered one of the main ports of Yemen, particularly after the success of Yemen LNG project for constructing a liquefied natural gas in 2006. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. Most farming is at a subsistence level. Fishing is also a major industry, particularly in the south. The industrial sector is small and is based on the manufacture of cotton textiles, cement, aluminium products and handicrafts. Oil is now the chief export.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:
Most farming is at a subsistence level, the staple crops being millet, sorghum, wheat, barley, pulses, dates, fruit and vegetables. Cotton is widely grown on the coastal plains as a cash crop.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

Balhaf is an oasis in an area of coastal dunes in the Burum Coastal Area of Yemen. It has palm trees and white sand, which gives way to fields of black lava and to the fishing port of Bir-Ali. Qana, a major point of departure of the Route I’Encens, was the main port of the ancient kingdom of Hadhramaut, and is dominated by a hill, Husn al-Ghurab, or remains of the ancient vestiges. A widespread sample of “Bronze Age” funerary structures on the western area of the site. A I’écart is located on an extinct volcano, a crater lake with turquoise waters. The “Corniche” road leads to the coastal port of Burum. Burum, a typical fishing port, is an old village surrounded by a gypsum kilns. Close by, one can see the large bay of Mukalla, whose wetlands are populated by migrant birds from India or Africa.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

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

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    Qana, a major point of departure of the Route I’Encens, was the main port of the ancient kingdom of Hadhramaut, and is dominated by a hill, Husn al-Ghurab, or remains of the ancient vestiges. A widespread sample of “Bronze Age” funerary structures on the western area of the site. Aproximately 140 funerary structures have been documented in the site. Most of the circular tombs were found in a poor state of preservation. The funerary structures discovered are of three different types. These include one main tomb type characterized by a circular tomb structure with an orthostat-lined funerary chamber. The second type of circular tomb discoveredis characterized by a circular tomb with a quadrangular funerary chamber. A last type was isolated: the wall-tomb.

  • Historical routes:

    Qana, a major point of departure of the Route I’Encens, was the main port of the ancient kingdom of Hadhramaut

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: -Palm groves and other crops. -Ancient remains.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Languages and dialects: Arabic

5.3. Quality

Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:
Most of the circular tombs were found in a poor state of preservation. The oasis is relatively well preserved.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

-Balhaf Oasis. -The extinct volcano, a crater lake with turquoise waters. -Bir-Ali port. -Burum coastal area. -Bay of Mukalla.

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Archaeological
The main tangible values of "The Cultural Landscape of Balhaf oasis and the Burum Coastal area" are: -Aesthetic: Balhaf is an oasis in an area of coastal dunes in the Burum Coastal Area of Yemen. It has palm trees and white sand, which gives way to fields of black lava composing a magical landscape. A I'écart is located on an extinct volcano, a crater lake with turquoise waters. -Archaeological: Qana, a major point of departure of the Route I'Encens, was the main port of the ancient kingdom of Hadhramaut, and is dominated by a hill, Husn al-Ghurab, or remains of the ancient vestiges. A widespread sample of "Bronze Age" funerary structures on the western area of the site. -Ecological/Zoological: The bay of Mukalla is populated by migrant birds from India or Africa.

Intangible

  • Historical
  • Mythical
The main intangible values of "The Cultural Landscape of Balhaf oasis and the Burum Coastal area" are: -Historical: Qana, a major point of departure of the Route I'Encens, was the main port of the ancient kingdom of Hadhramaut. -Mythical: An oasis could be considered (according to UNESCO) as an image of the garden of Eden. It is the practical expression of a mythical idea. -Social significance: Balhaf oasis enjoys a unique cultural heritage and a society rich customs and traditions with social significance. The living heritage is composed of practices that are the result of slow, patient adaptation to the hostility of the environment and the scarcity of its resources.
Universality:
According to UNESCO criteria for Cultural Landscape, Med-O-Med describes the universality of "The Cultural Landscape of Balhaf oasis and the Burum Coastal area" as follows: iv) A widespread sample of "Bronze Age" funerary structures on the western area of the site show the way of living of the population of the area in ancient times. v) Balhaf oasis is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement and land-use. It is represented in the traditional way of farming and irrigation. vii) Balhaf oasis and Burum Coastal area, including the extinct volcano, are of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance. x) The site contains important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
The traditional way of farming and irrigation come from the islamic culture. The funerary structures found on the western area of the site show the way of living of the population of the area in ancient times. Qana, a major point of departure of the Route I'Encens, was the main port of the ancient kingdom of Hadhramaut.

7. ENCLOSURES

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

The Cultural Landscape of Balhaf oasis and the Burum Coastal area is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Yemen which is included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.

Bibliography:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/1724/ http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://www.academia.edu/1026670/From_Safer_to_Balhaf_rescue_excavations_along_the_Yemen_LNG_pipeline_route -Crassard, R. et al (2007). From Сāfer to Bālhāf —rescue excavations along the Yemen LNG pipeline route. -Scott, D. A. (1994). Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East. ISBN: 2831702704. IUCN, WWF, IWRB, BirdLife International and RAMSAR. -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.