Oman's cultural heritage includes frankincense trees, irrigation channels, forts, and the ancient Bat settlements. The irrigation schemes utilized the Aflaj innovative works to facilitate the flow of water from underground springs in faraway lands to the wells and underground water channels. The Aflaj Irrigation Systems in Oman bear witness to this technology. The Bahla Fort is a unique ensemble of the influence of an elite people that dominated Central Omani by establishing a trading capital. There is an archeological complex site that has managed to retain most of the necropolises and settlements dating back to 3rd millennium BC. The Frankincense Trees and Spice Trade Heritage illustrate the Silk Road trade routes in details more especially frankincense trade along the coast of Oman.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites In Oman
Aflaj Irrigation Systems
The Aflaj Irrigation Systems in Dahiliya, Batinah, and Sharqiya, Oman are water channels dating back to 500 AD. The site has five aflaj irrigation schemes, representatives of about 3000 similar systems still in use in the country. Archeological evidence, however, suggests that the ancient irrigation systems existed in Oman as early as 2500 BC. The scheme rationed water efficiently among all its inhabitants. The water flowed from the sources to croplands and homes through the use of gravity. There were also numerous watchtowers built to protect the water systems, mosques and other structures in the compound. The water system attests to a historic community that depended on the aflaj system for water management and equity needed to survive in the extremely arid area of Oman. The mutual dependency and mutual values sustained the Oman community and their system of survival. UNESCO declared this scheme a World Heritage Site in 2006. The main threat facing the cultural site is the falling level of underground water.
Bahla Fort is a fascinating structure of walls and towers built of mud brick laid on stone foundations. The adjacent Friday Mosque has uniquely decorated sculpted Mihrab-prayer niche. The monument is a historical fortress situated in Djebel Akhdar highlands located in the Omani deserts. The Banu Nabhan tribe, Nabahina constructed the fort and settlement in the 12th century making Bahla their capital until the 15th century. With Bahla as the capital, and the community dominating Central Omani, the people established connections with more tribal groups in the interior. The capital city became the center of a branch of Islam called Idadism, where the Omani Imamates lived. The great sur-wall had sentry walks, numerous watchtowers all around the labyrinth mud fortress, cultivated lands, and several gateways. The oasis was watered by wells and underground channels using the Falaj system. Bahla Fort is an outstanding monument of a fortified oasis settlement dating back to the medieval Islamic era, which used the falaj system for domestic and agricultural purposes. The fortress symbolizes the influence of ruling elite. UNESCO declared this fort as a cultural world heritage site in 1987. The Omani Law for National Heritage Protection protects the site. Management plans concentrate on maintaining the site integrity through long-term care and conserving the monuments, spatial and structural forms of the property.
Bat, Al-Khutm, and Al-Ayn Archaeological Sites
Bat, Al-Khutm, and Al-Ayn form a group well preserves ensembles of ancient necropolises and villages rising from the 3rd Millennium BC. Bat located in a palm grove in Wadi Sharsah is the core part of the site. The necropolis comprised of about 100 graves and circular structures about 20 meters in diameter. These buildings had no doors, and as such, they might have served as tanks. The most modern tower in Bat dates back to ca. 2200-2000, which is the Late Umm- an-Nar era. There are a lofty tower and necropolis in al-Khutm and al-Ayn respectively. These monuments, settlements, irrigation schemes, and necropolises constructed in the Bronze Age form an outstanding example of cultural relics preserved in an exceptional state. The archeological complex enjoys protection from the National Heritage Protection, a Sultanate of Oman decree. The Ministry of Heritage and Culture which performs under the Sultanate of Imam decree aims at protecting the compound from destruction by regulating any developmental plans and access to the site. UNESCO declared the complex a cultural World Heritage Site in 1988.
Frankincense Trees and Spice Trade Heritage
The Frankincense trees in Wadi Dawkah region and the remnants of Shisr/Wubar caravan oasis plus the ports of Al-Baleed and Khor Rori is a distinctive illustration of the frankincense and spice trade that flourished in the regions during the medieval periods. Khor Rori lasted from the fourth century BC to the fifth century AD. The fortress served as a natural harbor due to its proxy to the sea. The monument is located on a rocky spur, stretching east to west in a defensive mechanism. Al Baleed, a harbor lying on the Indian Ocean beaches started in the eighth century till 16th century AD. Artifacts from Ming, China, and the world beyond portray the fortress as an important harbor in the Silk Road to the Sea where frankincense was also traded. Although heavily fortified, the monument faced may attacks and an almost annihilation in the 13th century. In the 15th century, the Portuguese and the European countries changed the trading patterns and soon the fortress died. There was an outpost in the Great Desert of Rub Al Khali, lying approximately 170 kilometers inland. The three sites were heavily fortified. Shisr was an agricultural oasis where caravans came for supply along the Nejd routes heading to the hinterland. The Royal Decree No. 6/80 protects this site. There is a fence enclosing the site and all buffer zones. All visitors must use paths laid on Geotextiles to access the site. In the ruins conservation of the monument is facilitated by the sacrificial stone layers on the stone walls.
The Need To Protect The World Heritage Sites In Oman
Some of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Oman are threatened due to population growth and encroachment of settlements near the World Heritage Sites. As such, the government of the country has set up bodies to protect and preserve the sites. The World Heritage Sites in the country are major crowd pullers and attract history and heritage lovers from across the globe to Oman.
What Are The UNESCO World Heritage Sites Of Oman?
Oman has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are Aflaj Irrigation Systems, Bahla Fort, Bat, Al-Khutm, and Al-Ayn Archaeological Sites, and Frankincense Trees and Spice Trade Heritage.
|UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Oman||Year of Inscription; Type|
|Aflaj Irrigation Systems||2006; Cultural|
|Bahla Fort||1987; Cultural|
|Bat, Al-Khutm, and Al-Ayn Archaeological Sites||1988; Cultural|
|Frankincense Trees and Spice Trade Heritage||2000; Cultural|
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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