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Mirbat: Dhofar Governorate

Mirbat: Dhofar Governorate

Salim M. almahruqi Undersecretary for Heritage Affairs

MINISTRY OF HERITAGE SULTANATE OF OMAN COMMITTEE FOR THE REGISTRATION HISTORIC BUILDING CLUSTERS

AND

AND

LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY

Mirbat: Dhofar Governorate

This Heritage Management Plan contains a complete vision for the sustainable redevelopment and revitalization for the coastal settlement of Mirbat in the Dhofar Governorate. Extensive fieldwork campaigns, detailed documentation and analysis of the built environment, as well as in-depth study of historical sources and anthropological data, have been brought together to provide a high-quality multidisciplinary examination of the settlement’s past, present and possible future. Drawing on previous experience and cooperation between the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Liverpool University, this study is to set the potential for future public-private partnerships in the field of heritage management.

CULTURE

PROTECTION

MINISTRY OF HERITAGE SULTANATE OF OMAN

OF

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COMMITTEE FOR THE REGISTRATION OF HISTORIC BUILDING CLUSTERS

LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY

AND

AND

CULTURE

PROTECTION


Commissioned by MINISTRY OF HERITAGE AND CULTURE SULTANATE OF OMAN COMMITTEE FOR THE REGISTRATION AND PROTECTION OF HISTORIC BUILDING CLUSTERS

Developed by LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF ARCHITECTURE AND CULTURAL HERITAGE OF INDIA, ARABIA AND THE MAGHREB

Mirbat: Dhofar Governorate


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Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

Š Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Sultanate of Oman 2016 All rights reserved. No part of this report may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the copyright holder.


Introduction 3

RESEARCH TEAM PROF. SOUMYEN BANDYOPADHYAY Principal Investigator and Project Director (Currently at University of Liverpool) DR. GIAMILA QUATTRONE Research Fellow and Project Coordinator (Currently University of Liverpool) DR. MARTIN S. GOFFRILLER Research Fellow and Project Member (Currently at University of Liverpool) DR. HAITHAM AL-ΚABRĪ Associate Researcher DÉSIRÉE CAMPOLO Research Assistant (Currently University of Liverpool) KONSTANTINA GEORGIADOU Research Assistant (Currently University of Liverpool) CLAUDIA BRIGUGLIO Research Assistant (Currently University of Liverpool)

ASSOCIATE RESEARCHERS MUSALLAM AL-MASHANI Ethnographic Research & fieldwork support ALI AL-KATHIRI Fieldwork support

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1 INTRODUCTION

3.6 Typological distinctions 3.7 Statement of significance

2 RECONNAISSANCE AND FIELDWORK

3.8 Analytical drawings

2.1 Introduction 2.2 Preparatory work

4 STRUCTURAL FAILURES AND STATES OF PRESERVATION

2.3 Reconnaissance

4.1 States of preservation and failure analysis

2.4 Fieldwork in Mirbāt

4.2 Guiding principles to conservation and rehabilitation

2.5 Photographic and aerial documentation

4.3 Guiding principles to repair actions

2.6 Capacity building and outreach

4.4 Structural and non-structural failure types

2.7 Desk work and master planning 5 PRINCIPLES AND APPROACHES TO HERITAGE MANAGEMENT 3 URBAN AND ARCHITECTURAL ANALYSIS

5.1 Philosophy of development and conservation principles

3.1 Dhofar: society and culture

5.2 Approaches to development and conservation

3.2 Mirbāt: region and history

5.3 General policies for development and conservation

3.3 The residential quarter

5.4 Guidelines for development and conservation

3.4 Morphological evolution 3.5 Construction techniques


Introduction 5

6.PRIORITY MEASURES

Appendix A1, Bibliography

6.1 Introduction

Appendix A2, Photographic and drawn documentation

6.2 Challenges and opportunities 6.3 Buffer zones 6.4 Clearing and safing 6.5 Essential maintenance and infrastructural measures 6.6 Signage

7 PRECEDENT STUDIES

8 MASTER PLAN 8.1 Introduction 8.2 Regional Master Plan 8.3 Notes on a tourism strategy for Dhofar 8.4 MirbÄ t Master Plan 8.5 Sustainability and green energy

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STATEMENT OF INTENT The primary goal of this development plan is the sustainable preservation and continued habitation of the vernacular quarters of Mirbāt in the Dhofar Governorate of Oman. If responsibly carried out the proposals presented here will result in the retention of the local identity, a greater appreciation of the value of heritage, and the diversification of the local economy by providing greater employment opportunities and a greater resilience to economic change. Under sustainability the authors understand not only the ecological and cultural aspects which form the principal appeal of the site and must therefore be protected, but also the financial concern of investing in Mirbāt’s future. Continued use and habitation are the most efficient ways to achieve the sustainable preservation of the architectural heritage, which requires the reversal of abandonment and decay. In the early stages Capital for the maintenance and investment in the maintenance and restoration of vernacular quarters will necessarily require external (i.e. ministerial) input, with additional investment into local SME’s to encourage job-growth and economic opportunity. All measures here proposed are in accordance with international conventions and ICOMOS guidelines and it is expected that all future interventions at Mirbāt will continue to uphold these values.


Summary 7

SUMMARY The following document proposes a detailed and comprehensive strategy for the preservation and development of the coastal town of Mirbāt, in the Governorate of Dhofar. The aims are, as agreed with the Sultanate’s ministry of Heritage and Culture (MHC), to carry out the in-depth documentation of the site in order to ascertain its heritage value and determine the primary threats affecting the heritage. The detailed analysis of the site, together with its social and historical context forms the backbone of the heritage management and development plan proposed for the site. The plan was produced on the premises of the University of Liverpool, UK, by the members of the ArCHIAM Research Centre. The interdisciplinary team of researchers, comprised of architects, archaeologists, anthropologists and tourism experts, has substantial experience working in the sultanate of Oman with past projects including the Bahla WHS, Birkat al-Mawz, Harat al Yemen in Izki, Fanja, Ibri, Al-Mudayrib and several others. In addition to a substantial amount of fieldwork by a team of eight people over the course of three weeks, this proposal draws substantially on past studies and plans drafted for Mirbāt by a range of international researchers. A complete and detailed bibliography of the sources consulted and cited is included at the end of this document.

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1 INTRODUCTION

1.1 LOCATION The town of Mirbāt is located on the shores of the Arabian sea, on the north-eastern edge of the bay of Salalah, within the Governorate of Dhofar, southern Oman. While it is still one of the larger towns in the region is it now second to Salalah, the capital of Dhofar. The settlement itself is situated along a rocky shoreline which shelters a beach which was traditionally the port of Mirbāt. This maritime outlook was the town traditional source of wealth, serving as an entrepôt for the wider and region and connecting overseas markets on the Indian Ocean and the Gulf to the frankincense producing regions of the Dhofari interior. By way of an explanation it is worth pointing out that the report makes a distinction in the words ‘Governorate’ and ‘region’ when referring to Dhofar. The term ‘Governorate’ evidently refers to a modern political and administrative territorial division, while ‘region’ is used to when discussing the less clearly delineated historical and cultural context of impact and influence.


Introduction 9

1.2 MASTER PLAN GOALS AND INTENTIONS While the ancient frankincense trade and the great wealth that resulted from this no longer play an important economic role in the South Arabian economy, in recent decades a number of infrastructural improvements such as the construction of modern roads, a new harbour and the development of a 5 star Marriott resort on the outskirts of the town, have substantially changed the economic and social outlook of the community’s inhabitants. While this offers great opportunities which should be supported, there is also a substantial concern that the town’s cultural heritage and that of it inhabitants will suffer as a result of accelerated economic change. This is already visible in the abandonment and the consequent decay of the town’s Old Quarter and its grand merchant houses. These ancient buildings and their broader urban environment constitute an excellent example of Oman’s great heritage as a maritime trading nation. The notion of ‘preservation’ must therefore transcend the mere physical representations of the past such as architecture and monuments and instead amplify its remit to a preservation of values and identities. Only if the stakeholders feel a living connection to the object will the task of preservation become a matter of course and the local community will engage in it of their own volition without prompting. While tourism can be regarded as a useful vehicle to generate short-term cash flow, its long-term success can only be guaranteed if the visitor experience remains to be perceived as authentic and personal. The team’s approach to the issue of heritage preservation and development is geared toward a holistic understanding thereof. The intention is not purely to thematise the past for its own sake, but to instead make tradition a contemporary subject. The continued habitation of Mirbāt poses a number of challenges as well as opportunities to the project, the resolution of which is expected to serve as a regional model for the engagement with traditional communities. Two core factors must be taken into account in this effort: 1) The local community, which expects a raising of their living standards and job opportunities, and infrastructural improvements though governmental support. 2) The visitor community, which expects to be given an experience of Omani culture and the traditional lifestyle.

THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF TOURISM AS A SOURCE OF INCOME

Tourism is at times treated as a sort of panacea that will quickly cure all economic ills for nonindustrial and under-specialised economies. The expectation is that with minimum effort and small

investment a large amount of foreign capital can be attracted into the local economy without the need for large-scale infrastructural development or training of a workforce. This sort of half-cooked approach to tourism economics is often coupled with an at-best faulty understanding of what the visitor actually wants to experience, and often leads to ‘over-servicing’ the perceived wishes of visitors. The result is invariably a drop in experiential quality followed very quickly by a drop in visitor numbers. In order to avoid the museumification of Mirbāt it will be necessary to provide the local community with alternative sources of income which are only indirectly linked to tourism and create a more solid economic base, which can successfully withstand market and visitor fluctuations. Any heritage development in Mirbāt should therefore aim to diversify the local economy, bolstering already existing mercantile activity and fostering the establishment of new fields.

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Reconnaissance and Fieldwork 11

2 RECONNAISSANCE AND FIELDWORK

2.1 INTRODUCTION As with all prior reports, this volume too was produced taking into account earlier work by local scholars, international academics and research institutions that have been involved in the study of Arabian vernacular architecture and urban development. The Dhofar region has received some attention from international scholars, though most often as part of the Hadrami/Yemenite cultural sphere. Particularly the nature and history of the frankincense trade of Antiquity attracted the attention of researchers, with sites such as Sumharam (Khawr Rawri) and Al-Balid receiving the bulk of scholarly attention. The more recent architectural expressions of southern Oman’s settlements are, by comparison, somewhat understudied. While there are a number of historical references to Dhofari architecture by travellers and explorers such as Niebuhr (1792) and Miles (1919) it was Paolo Costa (1994) who provided the first more or less systematic description of the region’s coastal architecture in the article ‘Architecture of Salalah and the Dhofar Littoral’ (Costa & Kite, 1985). Another early but very insightful set of reports are those provided by Bertram Thomas in the 1920s and 30s. Thomas was one of the first westerners to capture on film day-to-day scenes from Salalah and other Dhofari towns as well as from the interior of the country. His ethnographic studies form the backbone of much of our modern understanding of the socio-cultural history of the region (Thomas, 1929, 1932,1948) .

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2.2 PREPARATORY WORK Prior to initiating on-site work in Oman, the research team carried out extensive preparatory work to develop the fieldwork strategy and implementation procedures. The following were accomplished: 1. Preparation of detailed fieldwork documentation and drawing production guidelines for use on site; 2. Procurement and preparation of aerial photographs for on-site use; 3. Creation of a schematic plot boundary map including buildings, other structures and open areas; 4. Establishment of a data handling and storage strategy, as outlined in the ‘Fieldwork Guidelines 2012’, which was subsequently to survey assistant trainees from the MHC to standardize proceedings; 5. Collection and review of past literature on Mirbāt and Dhofar’s historical, social, cultural and architectural character.

2.3 RECONNAISSANCE As the fieldwork season comprised not only Mirbāt, but also the town of Salalah, logistical reasons made it advisable to start complete the documentation of Salalah prior to that of Mirbāt. It was nevertheless decided to spend one day in Mirbāt shortly after arrival to asses the size and general condition of the site in order to best manage the available time. Over the course of one day the research team surveyed the town and its immediate environs, taking photographs of relevant structures and gauging the number of accessible buildings. It was decided that around 60 buildings in various states of preservation in the old centre of the town are of heritage value, though of these only around 25 were readily accessible. The others being either still inhabited, locked or in too advanced a state of collapse as to be safely accessible.


Reconnaissance and Fieldwork 13

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2.4 FIELDWORK IN MIRBĀT After having concluded preparatory work and developed a clear fieldwork strategy the research team initiated a 4 weeks fieldwork campaign. An early site visit shortly after arrival in Dhofar allowed to gauge the size and condition of the settlements and determine the number of accessible units. With this in mind the team decided to devote two weeks of on-site time to both sites. The general condition of Mirbāt’s old quarter is significantly better than that of Salalah, with most houses being structurally sound and their interiors comparatively clean and accessible. Of importance was also the fact that Mirbāt’s architectural heritage has not been substantially modified, with the majority of houses being in a condition similar to their original aspect, with only a reduced amount of concrete and other modern materials obscuring the original fabric. This, coupled with the still well preserved city-scape and general aspect of the sea front location, made Mirbāt the more promising of the two sites for conservation and development. The urban morphology of Mirbāt is, not unlike that of Salalah, quite dispersed and consists of large single volume structures of rectilinear ground-plan and of two to three storeys of elevation. The sea and beach front is comprised largely by square enclosures used by fishermen to store and mend their nets and other equipment. The outlying parts of the settlement have see the most profound transformation over recent decades, the evolution of which will be addressed in the analysis section of chapter 3.

FIELDWORK METHODS The differing size and nature between the settlements of Salalah and Mirbāt required distinct documentation strategies which were difficult to determine off-site. Due to its much larger size it was originally thought that more would need to be spent on Salalah than at Mirbāt, though it soon became clear that the condition of the architectural heritage at Salalah was in such an advanced state of decay, that Mirbāt offered much greater opportunities in terms of actually salvaging a larger part of the settlement rather than just a few isolated buildings. The ground work was begun immediately with the development of systematic zoning plans, assigning alphanumeric designations to each individual building unit (letters for zones and numbers for buildings and structures). These zoning plans, which were generated and updated in CAD as fieldwork progressed, ensure a cohesive and organised approach to the documentation effort by clarifying the various sectors under study at any given moment.


Reconnaissance and Fieldwork 15

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The following approaches were undertaken to physically document the settlements: • Preparation of sketch plans and, where necessary, sections and elevations; both white-paper and graph paper drawing was employed – the latter aiding the representation of proportion in the case of more orthogonal structures; • Taking measurements using tape measures (5m, 7.5m, 30m, 50m, as required); this provided accurate measurements using methods of triangulation of sides and diagonals of units’ rooms as well as open spaces, streets and alleys; • Taking measurements using laser measures, especially at locations where long distances or the dilapidated state of the fabric made it infeasible to undertake measurement using tape measures; • Extensive photographic documentation of interiors and exteriors taken in sequence and ensuring comprehensiveness, but also recording significant elements/objects in detail, which follows established standardised guidelines; • A comprehensive aerial photographic record was also carried out with the use of ArCHIAM’s proprietary UAV

DOCUMENTATION In combination with the reconnaissance campaign on site, the zoning plans which had previously been prepared in the UK were up-dated and refined so as to match the reality on the ground and facilitate an organised and strategic approach to the documentation of the site. A total of 65 buildings of heritage relevance were identified of which some 37 were readily accessible and could be documented also from the interior. As at other projects at Mirbāt too the teams sketched all relevant structures by hand in plan, section and elevation in order to gain a complete record of the architecture and the public spaces within the settlement. Apart from the residential structures in the town the team also recorded the souq and the two fortifications located on the town’s northern edge. A great attention to detail was given to the architecture of the site, sketching all structural features as well as concentrating on decorative elements such as doors and windows. All completed drawings are then measured with tapes and/or laser measures to ascertain their exact dimensions and allow for precise reconstruction.


Reconnaissance and Fieldwork 17

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2.5 PHOTOGRAPHIC AND AERIAL DOCUMENTATION After the drawn documentation of a given unit is complete it is photographed to complement the record. This is done in a systematic manner, concentrating first on the exterior trying always to take overlapping images so that they can easily be followed by those unfamiliar with the site. In the interior photographs are taken in such a way as to allow for a the creation of panoramics, making rooms and spaces more understandable from a smaller number of images. Additionally a record was produced of all the decorative elements such as internal stuccoed decor, carved doors and windows as well as painted decorations. In some cases the houses still contained the personal belongings and effects of the erstwhile/current owners, such as furniture, carpets, clothes, etc. This material culture may provide a much more in-depth look at the lives of the original inhabitants, and it also illustrates the nature and process of abandonment. In addition to the ground based photography carried out with standard Nikon D3200 DSLR cameras, the research team also carried out a substantial aerial documentation campaign, recording with stills and video the entirety of the site, as well as specific structures. Using a DJI Inspire 1 with a 4K camera the team able to record about 20Gb of very high resolution imagery from different angles and at various times of day. A total of 6 flights were carried out over the extent of the settlement at altitudes of 30m, 50m, 10m & 150m. The geo-rectified images have bee stitched together using Agisoft Photoscan Pro to create photogrametrric models of the settlement and its environs as well as high resolution scans of individual houses. The models are being used for exhibition and outreach purposes, but also form the backbone of much of the analytical work carried out by the team post-fieldwork. The 3D models provide accurate topographic data which permits studying water run-off patterns, shading, air flow and other environmental factors. Photogrammetric modelling also allows for the creation of virtual reality (VR) models which can be explored remotely through the use of a VR suite. These can be used for educational purposes in schools and research environments, as well as for outreach purposes, making the experience of a given site or building available to people in museums.


Reconnaissance and Fieldwork 19

2.6 CAPACITY BUILDING AND OUTREACH The research team’s usual policy is to engage in the training of ministry employees and stakeholders during the fieldwork, utilising a hands-on approach by giving interested parties an opportunity to not only gain a more profound understanding of the architectural heritage, but also engage in its documentation and evaluation. On this occasion the team was accompanied by Ali al-Kathiri from MHC and Mussalam al-Mashani, who both proved extraordinarily knowledgeable and helpful during all the work carried out on site. A brief induction was provided to ensure that all participants were producing their documentations drawings to the same standard and according to the same conventions. Standardised sketching guidelines were used for this purpose.

2.7 DESK WORK AND MASTER-PLANNING Upon completion of the fieldwork campaign in the autumn of 2015 all the collected data was archived and drawings scanned into a digital format for safe keeping and ease of access. In addition to the production of two progress reports, submitted in January and June 2016 respectively, the following months were dedicated primarily to the transferring of the hand-drawn sketches to a CAD plan of the entire settlement and the surrounding territory with the intention of creating an accurate baseline and record of the village, from which to develop architectural designs. Due to the complexity and irregularity of the structures this process took approximately 5 months to complete. In parallel to the development of the CAD drawings, a number of sections were produced to highlight the lay of the land and changes in altitude which would influence the Master Plan as a whole in terms of accessibility, infrastructural improvements and the retention of privacy of the inhabitants.

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 21

3 URBAN AND ARCHITECTURAL ANALYSIS

This chapter explores the architectural evolution of Mirbāt with a view towards its historical past and recent development. The intention is to establish the relevant tangible and intangible aspects of the site which are to be preserved into the future. This has been achieved by an in-depth examination of the region’s historic past and an a detailed study of the architecture. Additionally this section explores the current condition of Mirbāt and addresses some of the main issues regarding preservation through the use of a number of analytical drawings.

3.1 DHOFAR: SOCIETY AND CULTURE Despite its well-known maritime connections Dhofar has often been regarded as one of the more isolated regions of the Arabian Peninsula. In-depth descriptions of the country’s interior do not make an appearance until the explorations of Bertram Thomas (1932) and Wilfred Thesiger (1946). The modern Sultanate of Oman is effectively a union between the Oman ‘proper’, i.e. The north of the country comprising the lands around the Jebel Akhdar range, the Batinah coast and stretching towards the Mussandam Peninsula, and the southern region bordering with Yemen called Dhofar. Between these two culturally distinct spheres lie several hundred kilometres of largely uninhabited desert which comprise mostly the al-Wusta Governorate. While it is fair to say that the two were never isolated from one another, Peterson (2004) points out that while Oman traditionally has looked towards the Gulf, India and East Africa, Dhofar has traditionally been associated with the Yemeni cultural sphere, in particular the Mahra and the Hadhramawt. The socio-cultural differences between the two parts of the country are profound. While the north pertains predominantly to the Ibadi sect of Islam (though other faiths and interpretations abound), Dhofar is almost exclusively Sunni. This religious homogeneity is contrasted by a surprising degree

of cultural and linguistic diversity. The coastal communities were traditionally predominantly Arab, belonging to the al-Kathir moiety, and also groups of East African descent, and fishermen of various origins. The mountains, on the other hand, are inhabited largely by peoples of non-Arabic origin belonging to Jabali and Mahri groups. Traditionally the region has had a very low density of population, though in recent decades has increased markedly from around 175.000 in the mid 90s, to around 250.000 in 2013. The majority of the population is concentrated along the coastal plain, in major centres such as Salalah, Mirbāt and Taqa, the remainder living in smaller semi-sedentary communities in the mountains or the transmontane region known as the Najd. Dhofar was integrated into the Sultanate of Oman in 1829 by Al Bu Sa’id rulers of Muscat, following the demise of a local leader. Initially, however, this control remained comparatively loose, and many local communities retained a significant degree of independence. In 1879 Muscat strengthened its hold on the region with an increased military presence in Salalah, and has retained control over Dhofar ever since.

3.2 MIRBĀT: REGION AND HISTORY The exact age of the town of Mirbāt is difficult to determine with certainty, but it seems likely that during the Early Islamic period there was already a settlement at the site. This is partly corroborated by the presence of the Mausoleum of Bin Ali, located about 2Km outside of the town. This structure and its surrounding cemetery is variously said to date to the 9th and 10th centuries of CE by locals, though more recently Ben Ali’s death has been dated to 1160AD (al-Salimi, Gaube & Korn 2008).

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It is possible that Mirbāt also finds early mentions made in the Chinese source known as the Zhu Fan Zhi written by Zhao Runghua in the 13th century. Here the text mentions on various occasions an important port called Ma Li Pa, which Hirth has repeatedly identified as Mirbāt (Hirth, 1911). This interpretation has been taken up by numerous other authors, and while the possibility cannot be completely discounted, it appears that the location of Ma Li Pa is more likely to refer to the Malabar coast rather than to Mirbāt. There is no doubt, however, that the Dhofar littoral has been of great importance in the history of South Arabia since, at least, the first millennium BCE as can be seen from the many exponents of the frankincense trade which flourished in these parts. A naturally sheltered anchorage with access to fresh water such as that of Mirbāt is unlikely to have remained unoccupied during this period, though to our knowledge no 1st millennium BCE remains have been found yet. Historically Mirbāt is one of the most important ports in the region. It may have risen out the shadow of Khor Rori (Sumaharam) in the centuries after that port’s abandonment in the 6th century. By the 10th century it was well known as a port under the control of the Minjawi tribe, and continued to benefit from its well-sheltered location along a trade route of growing importance, especially in view of the rise of the Red Sea trade which brought in families from the Upper Gulf towns towards southern Arabia and East Africa. Costa (1994) also suggests that Mirbāt benefited from the revival of the Medieval frankincense trade. Mirbāt is also mentioned by the 18th century German cartographer and explorer Carsten Niebuhr (1972), who states that both Mirbāt and Hasik were two cities known for their importance in the frankincense trade.

CLIMATE The climate of Dhofar presents a number of fairly distinct zones, comprised primarily by the mountainous regions and the coastal plain. The interior of the country can be defined as primarily desertic and hyper arid, particularly the northern watershed of the mountains towards the Rub alKhali desert. The southern watershed becomes subtropical at certain times of the year. In particular the summerly Monsoon (kharif) drags hot humid air from the Indian Ocean northwards, leading to precipitation in the mountains and extremely high levels of ambient humidity along the coast. The precipitation from this heavily saturated air seeps into the ground and gradually permeates the bajada zone of the coastal plain. Feeding into underground aquifers it collides with the denser salt-water being pushed in by the Indian Ocean. The resulting pressure differential pushes the fresh water to the surface, creating the large fertile palm-groves in the areas of Salalah, Taqqa and elsewhere. Mirbāt, however, is located too far away from the mountains and situated atop an impermeable bedrock plinth which makes agriculture impractical.


Urban and Architectural Analysis 23

While in Salalah many of the houses are arranged with the main entrance towards the south, i.e. the sea, in Mirbāt the arrangement is less regular, suggesting perhaps that the prevailing winds are less predictable and that therefore there is no obvious advantage in orienting the houses a given direction.

THE DHOFAR LITTORAL The earliest substantial discussion of Dhofari architecture is that contained in P. Costa’s volume in Arabian Architecture (1994), which addresses some of the principal characteristics of the architecture of the regions, attempts to establish typologies and looks beyond the Omani border to Yemen, drawing on the main connections between these two spheres. Traditionally, of course, the Hadramawt/Dhofar connection was closer than it is today, and it is therefore not surprising that architecturally there are evident comparators. The formal architecture of the coastal towns such as Salalah, Taqqa, Sadh, Hasik and Mirbāt stands within a more or less cohesive architectural tradition, which is very distinct from that of the upland regions of the Samhan, Qamar and Qara mountains. While the interior settlements of the mountainous plateaus have the characteristic and appearance of being only semi-permanent settlements, reflecting the semi-nomadic lifestyles of many Jabali and Mahri groups who inhabited these ranges and were famous for the frankincense harvest. By contrast, the coast was the main interface with the markets of the outside world and therefore required fixed points of contact and transfer. In antiquity these locations provided an opportunity for fiscal control and exploitation of the frankincense trade and the resources. The resulting accumulation of wealth resulted in the establishment of permanent settlements no-longer dependent on subsistence agriculture.

3.3 THE RESIDENTIAL QUARTER The old town of Mirbāt is a loosely conglomerated cluster of separate dwelling units arranged in a roughly north-south orientation, but without a clear street plan or morphology. The houses are arranged along the souther edge of the bay of Mirbāt, numbering around 60 units in the mid 70s. The numbers have since grown exponentially and modern town of Mirbāt consists of several hundred houses, spreading eastwards along the plain away from the coast. The ancient houses of Mirbāt were constructed for the most part by wealthy merchants who engaged in overseas trade throughout the Western Indian Ocean. In this sense their houses often

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 25

served the double purpose of acting on the one had as a representative residence to the owner, whilst simultaneously being a functional part of the business by serving as storage and warehouses for traded goods. The ground floors of these houses were in most cases used for storage, while the upper floors were residential, with privacy increasing as one became further removed from the main door of the household. In some cases, separate doors lead to the storage and residential part of the buildings, and in still other cases small shops were integrated into the sides of the house, either to lease to external parties or for the sale of the merchants’ own goods. The choice of location for the settlement of Mirbāt was determined by the presence of a khawr, (an estuary or inlet) which provided a more protected cove and possibly also fresh water at certain times of year. In images dating to the Early 70s this khawr is still clearly visible, but in more recent years it appears to have silted up with beach sand. On the northern side of said inlet lies the souq of Mirbāt, built between the 1950s-70s, as well as a large mosque and the castle, also known as the Wali’s Castle. The requirements of Mirbāt’s fishing fleet, as well as changes in the types of boats being used locally, have lead to the construction of a modern sheltered port, along the beach stretching off southwards below the settlement. The long key-side constructed with concrete surf-breakers allows for heavy transport vehicles such as refrigerated trucks and flat-beds to gain direct access to the vessels.

3.4 MORPHOLOGICAL EVOLUTION The morphology of the town is simplified by the relative evenness of the terrain, which exhibits no major changes in levels except for a gradual drop toward the beach. With the exception of the khawr, most of the town stands about 2-5m above sea level on a sandstone/limestone plateau overlooking the bay of Mirbāt in a westerly direction. Mirbāt appears never to have been a particularly large settlement, a fact which does not necessarily diminish its importance as a relevant entrepôt of the coast of Dhofar. The old core is comprised of around 50-60 houses located in the areas designated here as A,B,F,G,H & J. these are also the areas best preserved from a heritage point of view and therefore form the main subject of this documentation plan. Other Ancillary areas such as D, I & H were peripheral to the traditional core and were substantially modified in recent decades, with many of the older houses being substituted by modern structures or so heavily modified with modern building materials are almost completely

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 27

obscure or erase the original fabric. The lack of an oasis makes it clear that the immediate surrounding of Mirbāt never produced much in the way of agricultural food stuffs, the inhabitants relying instead either on foreign imports (such as rice and other staples from India), local fish and the produce of the Jebel Qara mountains in the town’s hinterland. Unlike the much larger city of Salalah with its large palm-groves, the dependence on outside imports likely limited the size to which Mirbāt would grow, there fore keeping urban saturation to a minimum and retaining the spacious and open character of the urban core. Within the zoning plan developed by the team on site, the largest and likely also oldest houses, fall into areas A, F, G & E. They form a strip running roughly West-East from the western ‘cape’ along the southern banks of the khawr eastwards. This is reflective of a greater proximity to the boats, which would traditionally have been beached on the sands of the khawr, as well as providing a good view out to sea. In this sense the edge of the khawr is likely to have also been the centre of the oldest part of the community though from the currently visible architecture this is hard to determine. Local informants, however, have repeatedly mentioned that small mosque (F2) is/was one of the oldest in Dhofar, possibly dating to the Early Islamic period. There is no conclusive evidence for this statement, and in any case the original ancient mosque was recently demolished and substituted with a modern concrete structure. The largest merchant houses in Mirbāt (G10, H1) were located a little bit further inland and appear to have been abandoned since the 1980s. With the political changes of the 1970s, felt particularly starkly in Dhofar, and the resulting economic growth, many families left their old homes and gradually build themselves new dwellings, from modern materials, along the periphery of ‘old’ Mirbāt. The result is a largely abandoned urban core in a state of rapidly advancing decay and a bustling and lively suburban ring around it. On aerial photographs from the late 1960s one can see a series of regular square enclosures layout in an orthogonal grid plan. These appear have belong to nomadic or semi-nomadic workers from the interior who in the past travelled to Mirbāt on a seasonal basis to work on ships or trade. The regularity of these enclosures suggests the existence of an urban plan for Mirbāt even before there was a hardtop road to the settlement. The authors have not be able to ascertain the exact dates for the constructions of these enclosures, but they have served as template for the urban evolution of the settlement along its southern and eastern edge until today. Unlike at Salalah, at Mirbāt there have been attempts by the local community to maintain the street-scapes of the old town, by clearing paved paths through the debris,and paving the roads leading through the settlement. This, while in no way exhaustive or sufficient, provides an excellent

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 29

starting point to further continue the process of conservation and development of Mirbト》 for future generations.

DWELLINGS The houses of Mirbト》 roughly fall into the category of the Dhofari coastal architecture, mostly consisting of fairly large free-standing structures of a rectilinear plan and of up to three levels and occasionally with interior courtyards and terraces. Structurally, the construction material of choice tended to be coral lime stone, often quarried within the vicinity of the settlement. A number of quarries can be identified on the black and white aerial photograph from around 1970, located immediately to the east of area G. The proximity of the quarry to some of the houses suggest that these houses were built later, with the quarry gradually growing as more houses were being built. A mud or lime mortar was used to bond the masonry of roughly cut blocks. Wall thicknesses tend to be around 75-80cm at ground level of multi-level structures and then taper by about 5% per level. Interestingly, to increase stability and structural cohesion of the walls, ring beams in the form of long hardwood sticks wooden poles were often integrated into the fabric of the wall, acting as a reinforcement. These elements are often failing in older structures die to rot and termites, and their replacement may prove to be complex and costly. Architecturally the merchants houses of Mirbト》 were the expression of a wealthy elite who had managed to accumulate a substantial amount of wealth from their businesses. While the houses are outwardly sober and restrained, the relative wealth of their inhabitants is in many cases displayed in the very elaborate wooden doors and windows, which were often imported from either East Africa or India, further illustrating the internationalist outlook of these small Dhofari communities. The ground floors tended to be reserved for storage, and therefore did not count with any large windows or openings. Small ventilation holes might allow in the occasional shaft of light, but for the most part the interior was lit artificially. Ground floors more often than not consisted of tamped earth, though in some cases cement was used more recently. One interesting, and characteristic feature of many Dhofari coastal houses is the layout of the ground floor, with a large central stair case located at the centre, on axis with the main entrance and reached via a three-volume partition of two anterooms and a corridor perpendicular to the stairs. This arrangement is repeated in many houses of Mirbト》, Salalah and the wider region. In stark contrast with the dark and stuffy ground floors, the upper, residential, levels of the houses are very light and airy, counting with rows of screened openings which allow for good crossventilation and cooling. As elsewhere in the Arab world, the width of rooms is roughly dictated by

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the length of timbers available. In northern Oman palm trunk are usually used, which due to their fibrous texture can usually not support roofs wider that around 3 metres. In Dhofar the straightgrowing date palm is not as readily available as in the north,so instead the stems of the coconut palms are often used as roof supports as well as mangrove trunks or candlewood (Pterocelastrus tricuspidatus) beams, which also limit room width to around 255-300cm. These, not unlike other wooden elements such as doors, windows and furniture, were often imported from the East African coast. It was not uncommon for many of the houses in Mirbāt to have an upper level courtyard around which some of the residential rooms would be arranged, providing natural light ventilation and privacy, as well as an open air space during the cooler hours of the day. A typoligical catalogue of the principal architectural features of the houses of Mirbāt is provided at the end of this chapter, listing elements such as doors, windows, types of interior spaces, and structural elements and their descriptions. The dwellings of Mirbāt have been typologically analysed in relation to access, circulation, plan layout and components. A set of fairly consistently recurring spaces, circulation elements and features has emerged from the study which denotes the variety of spatial arrangement options existing within the settlement, which is to be attributed to factors such as available land, household economic and social status as well as size. Open spaces comprise ground floor courtyards, upper floor and rooftop terraces, and porches. Enclosed spaces consist in shops and animal pens. Circulation elements include entrance doors, hallways – represented here by highlighting the sequence of doorways defining them and leading to the core of the buildings - and staircases. Features identified as recurring elements consist in light shafts and latrines.

COURTYARDS AND PORCHES

Though varying in size, geometry and position within the building plot, courtyards are either reached directly from the main entrance or through a variably deep sequence of doorways in hallway walls. A porch - a roofed, colonnaded area of the courtyard - precedes, follows or wraps around the staircase thus protecting it from the direct sunlight. Sometimes the courtyard leads into the shops providing private access to the owner from the inner core of the house.

TERRACES

Comparatively smaller, upper floor terraces extend the function of ground floor courtyards in


Urban and Architectural Analysis 31

that they provide access to, and circulation between, rooms and latrines, often in the shade when complemented by porches. When the upper floor where the terrace is located coincides with the rooftop the terrace is generally surrounded by non-walkable areas.

SHOPS AND ANIMAL PENS

Always positioned on the periphery of the building plot, to the front, rear or middle, so as to make access from the public domain straightforward, shops have also a direct connection with the house interiors. In some cases, the rooms accommodating the commercial activities protrude out of the main built volume. Generally, windows, otherwise rarely found on residential ground floors, mark the shops’ walls along single leaf doors.

ENTRANCE DOORS, HALLWAYS AND STAIRCASES

In the majority of cases the sequence formed by entrance doors and hallways ends up in an ‘inaxis’ staircase leading to the upper floors of the house. The number of doorways that articulate the hallway – which ranges from none, when the entrance door leads directly to the staircase, to two – makes the connection between the public and private domain less abrupt, thus increasing the latter’s secluded nature. Vertically connecting the living quarters in few cases the staircase goes all the way up to the rooftop to provide access to a latrine, either leading straight into it or via the agency of a terrace. The circulation sequence, which takes place on the ground floor of dwellings from the entrance door to the staircase and surrounding living quarters, has been thoroughly looked into across the units documented. This particular analysis highlights an evolutionary articulation - from more basic to more elaborate ones - of the circulation pattern and its spatial translation in types and subtypes. Four main types have been identified based on the specific nature of the considered circulation sequence as well as the spaces through which it unfolds, be they hallways, courtyards or rooms: 1. ‘enclosed type’ – circulation occurs within a fully enclosed space, which may or may not take on the configuration of a hallway partitioned off by walls with doorways; 2. ‘open type’ – circulation occurs through a fully open-to-sky courtyard; 3. ‘semi-open type’ – circulation occurs through a courtyard which is partially open-to-sky partially covered; 4. ‘combined type’ – circulation occurs through a combination of hallway and courtyard.

Within each type select units exemplify a precise step in the process of gradual complexification of the circulation sequence and, like in the instances indicated in the tables with the letters ‘a’, ‘b’ and ‘c’, indicate specific variations, or subtypes, within one step.

THE MERCHANTS’ HOUSES

A characteristic feature of Mirbāt’s vernacular architecture are the large houses built by some of the community’s successful overseas traders. Amongst the grandest of these is the one known as Bait al-Kabir, (G10), located on slightly elevated ground towards the south of the khawr. With the majority of Mirbāt’s houses standing no taller than one level, the merchants houses tower above the urban landscape with 3 stories. One common motif amongst many high status dwellings was the use of ships a decorations on the façades and also on interior wall surfaces. These usually alluded to the owner’s primary source of wealth: maritime trade. The ships represented are often realistically rendered and form recognisable types, well known in the region. This is also visible at the other grand merchant house in Mirbāt (H1), where two images of boats are carved in stucco onto the western facade of the building. The lower of these two appears to show a ghanjah type vessel, identifiable from the sweeping curve of the prow which ends in the characteristic stem-head. Costa (1994) states that this type of vessel was specifically used for ocean going trade and could range from 130 to 300 tons in displacement. The other vessel represented on the facade of building H1 is on the upper levels of the tower and appears to show a būm, which was also used for long-distance trade. Spatially the merchants houses consisted or large compounds which served more than just residential functions, but functioned also as part of the owner’s business. The ground floors were in most cases reserved for the storage of goods and equipment. Some merchants also owned fishing vessels the equipment for which could be stored in enclosure by the beach or indeed also within their residential compounds. Spatially the merchants houses consisted or large compounds which served more than just residential functions, but functioned also as part of the owner’s business. The ground floors were in most cases reserved for the storage of goods and equipment. Some merchants also owned fishing vessels the equipment for which could be stored in enclosure by the beach or indeed also within their residential compounds. Apart from the general proportions of the architecture one of the defining features of Salalah’s grand architecture are the heavily decorated windows, which can be broadly categorised as either masonry or wooden windows.

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UNIT

GROUND FLOOR

A26

UNIT

GROUND FLOOR

F15

UNIT

UPPER FLOORS

GROUND FLOOR

A5

FF/RT

A9

D1

FF

F6C

A16a

F17

FF

F8

A16b

F18

FF/RT

F10c

A27

J3

FF/RT

SHOP

PORCH

LATRINE

TERRACE

STAIRCASE

COURTYARD

ANIMAL PEN

LIGHT SHAFT

PRESUMED SHOP


Urban and Architectural Analysis 33

UNIT

GROUND FLOOR

UNIT

UPPER FLOORS

A28

GROUND FLOOR

UPPER FLOORS

E3

FF

A29

FF

F3

FF

B5

FF

F6a

FF

C2

FF

F6b

FF

FF/RT

F10d

E2

FF

SHOP

PORCH

LATRINE

TERRACE

STAIRCASE

FF

COURTYARD

ANIMAL PEN

LIGHT SHAFT

PRESUMED SHOP

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UNIT

GROUND FLOOR

UNIT

UPPER FLOORS

F11b

GROUND FLOOR

UPPER FLOORS

J1

FF/RT

F14b

FF

F27

SF/RT

FF

A20

F19

FF/RT

FF

SF/RT

G10 FF

First Floor

SF

Second Floor

RT

Rooftop

FF Main Entrance

G14

Doorway Building Outline FF

SHOP

PORCH

LATRINE

TERRACE

STAIRCASE

COURTYARD

ANIMAL PEN

LIGHT SHAFT

PRESUMED SHOP


Urban and Architectural Analysis 35

STEP 1

STEP 1a

STEP 1b

J3

F17

ENCLOSED TYPE

F14b

STEP 2 B5

STEP 1c

STEP 3 E3

STEP 1 F6c

STEP 2

OPEN TYPE

F27

SEMI-OPEN TYPE

E2

STEP 2

F19

STEP 3 E2

STEP 4

STEP 3

F15

F3

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STEP 1

F11b

STEP 2a

F10c

COMBINED TYPE

36

STEP 3

D1

STEP 4

G10

STEP 2b

G14


Urban and Architectural Analysis 37

The masonry windows are not necessarily decorative in nature, but primarily functional. They are of interest, whoever, due to their peculiar shape which often consisted of a masonry insert into a larger window shaped hole, leaving only a small square opening in the middle. In other cases one find only a small triangular opening, made from a base slab, and two lead-to slabs. The small opening were usually used for the latrines, allowing for a bit of light to enter the room but retaining complete privacy. The timber windows were in most cases quite heavily decorated and form the main artistic features of the Dhofari houses, together with the doors. The most common type is a wooden insert into he window opening with for small ogees in the upper half. Four perforated screens or shutters were used to close the small openings individually, with the lower half of the wooden insert usually just being a plain board. In other cases the lower half was a mashrabiya style screen. A full typology of Windows and doors can be found at the end of this chapter in a catalogue of architectural features.

BEDOUIN ENCLOSURES

Non longer visible today is the large number of single square enclosure which in the past surrounded the urban core of MirbÄ t. These walled spaces were used on a seasonal basis by nomadic tribes from the interior which travelled to the coastal areas either work as crews on ships, to fish or to trade for fish which would then be sold in the interior. In particular dried sardines were in very high demand in the interior as they were used as fertiliser in the palm-groves of the oases. These groups had allocated spaces where they could set up camp in close proximity to the old centre of MirbÄ t. Within the enclosures there was sufficient space for a single large tent, pack animals and often a solid structure in which to keep valuables or equipment. In the mid 60s there were around 60-70 of these enclosures, the outlines of which have since then become the boundary walls of modern housing developments. Further afield there were also smaller and more informal enclosures, built in a circular fashion as dry-stone walls in a temporary manner. As they were too mall for the tents they appear to have been exclusively for the livestock and pack animals, the tents instead being located next to the enclosures.

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MOSQUES The demographic size of Mirbāt dictated the number of Mosques which the community required, and during the mid 20th century there appear to have been only three mosques in the town, all of which have recently been rebuilt as modern structures. In the old centre of the settlement there appears only to have been one mosque prior to the 1960s, which is the one designated here as F2. Reputedly one of the oldest mosques of Dhofar, the ancient building was recently demolished and a concrete building erected in its stead. The original structure stood upon the same bedrock plinth as the current one, with a square ground-plan of about 10x10m with the typical Dhofari square minaret located at its south eastern corner. At the centre of the roof a small square hole permitted some illumination of the interior as well as aiding in the ventilation. With the growth of the town more mosques have been built over the last 20 years, most notably the one located on the northern side of the khawr, designated here J2. This, again, is a standardtemplate contemporary mosque. Other mosques were built in recent years along the southern and eastern portions of the growing settlement to accommodate Mirbāt’s population.

FORTS & DEFENCES Despite its relative importance as a port and place of trade the town of Mirbāt was never substantially fortified, such as other locations along the Dhofari coast, i.e. al-Balid. Instead of substantial walls and tower, the settlement counted with four small forts located along the northern, eastern and southern sides of the town. The most famous one of these is likely the one known variously as Mirbāt Castle, the Wali’s Castle or the Gendarmerie (located at 16°59’32.72” N 54°41’30.20” E) is of uncertain construction date, though probably 18th century, and was recently restored and turned into a museum on Dhofari ethnography and history. It is the most substantial of the four defensive structures in Mirbāt, traditionally holding administrative functions and acting as the wali’s residence, overlooking the souq, protecting the northern approaches to the town. Additionally it surveyed the seaward side of the old harbour. It is a large rectangular stone-build structure with an octagonal tower located on its south-eastern corner facing the souq. Its defensive capabilities were not intended to outmatch anything other than small-arms fire, acting instead more as an observational platform. The other fortification is the so-called Theyogar Fort (16°59’31.03” N 54°41’45.31” E), located upon a low hillock overlooking the hinterland of Mirbāt. It consists of a massive octagonal tower of older construction, to which is attached a building containing the barracks, officers quarters,


Urban and Architectural Analysis 39

kitchen and toilets. The tower is massively built from stone masonry and divided internally unto the three levels accessed via ladders. The walls are pierced at the various point by gun-loops and observation holes. The exact date of the tower is uncertain, though the attached building is like to stem from the 1960s or very early 70s. The Theyogar Fort played an important role in a skirmish known today as the Battle of Mirbāt, between British SAS operatives and rebel fighters in 1972. Due to this history, which is only today becoming better known outside the armed forces, the Theyogar Fort is receiving a growing number of tourists from around the world. Located on the south-eastern edge of the town (16°59’03.19” N 54°41’33.59” E ) there was originally a third fort, which appears to have been very similar in shape and size to Theyogar fort, also with an octagonal tower located on the eastern corner. This fort was demolished for unknown reasons at some point between 2006 and 2011, and the location is now being used as a car park. A forth fort is located on the souther littoral of the Mirbāt cape (16°58’33.61” N 54°41’31.87” E), overlooking the southern maritime approaches to the harbour. Again, this one too follows roughly the same style and dimensions of the others, consisting of a simple rectangular main buildings housing barracks, offices and kitchen, with a large octagonal tower located on the south-eastern

corner. The construction methods of the various forts, using large amounts of concrete, cement and fired brick indicated that their construction dates cannot be older than the 1950s. Local informants mentioned repeatedly that cement did not enter into Dhofar before 1952. On images from the 1960s and 70s there one can discern a long fence running the perimeter of the settlement, probably built around the early 60s in order to better control transit into and out of the town, and probably also to stop people and animals from wandering onto the RAF airstrip nearby. Of neither fence nor airstrip anything remains today. The house historically known as BATT (British Army Training Team) house was used in the late 60s and early 70s as the garrison for a small detachment for British Military advisors who were also engaged in the so-called Battle or Mirbāt. Anticipating conflict with PFLOAG (Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf) fighters BATT house was fortified with earthen ramparts and additional defences of which today little-to-nothing remains. The building formerly known as BATT House is today in a fairly dilapidated condition though still structurally sound.

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 41

TYPE 1

a

Total Units: 5 b

1 room shop

a= 3.9 ÷ 4.5 m b= 6.3 ÷ 11.2 m

• Rectangular plan • Front door (roughly central) preceded or not by steps • Back door or window • Internal pillar

TYPE 2

BASIC FEATURES VARIATIONS

a

Total Units: 37 b

2 room shop

a= 6.2 ÷ 8.8 m b= 6.7 ÷ 7.8 m

• Bipartite rectangular or square plan (front room = shop, back room = goods storage) with doorway (either off centre of wall or roughly central) in partition wall • Front door/s preceded or not by steps • Side door • Front window • Back window

TYPE 3a

a

2 room shop

a= 9.2 ÷ 11.2 m b= 9.0 ÷ 11.1 m

• Bipartite rectangular plan (front room = shop, back room = goods storage) with doorway/s in partition wall and 1 or 2 pillars in each room • Front door/s • Side door/s a

BASIC FEATURES VARIATIONS

Total Units: 1 b

2 room shop

VARIATIONS

Total Units: 3 b

TYPE 3b

BASIC FEATURES

a= 6.2 m b= 11.6 m

• Bipartite rectangular plan (front room = shop, back room = goods storage) with off centre door in partition wall and two pillars in back room protruding out of side walls • Front door • Side door

BASIC FEATURES VARIATIONS

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SOUQ In area J, located on the northern edge of the khawr and adjacent to the Mirbāt Castle a large souq or market was built in the early 20th century, and gradually expanded until around 1970. While it currently abandoned, it featured a total of 52 stalls or units of varying sizes and construction techniques. The oldest construction phase, dating to 1913-1932 is concentrated along the western edge of the souq, laid out in two adjacent ‘L’ shaped wings. The layout suggests that an expansion was envisaged, but this was not built before the 1940s. While the first phase of the souq was built in a fairly traditional construction technique consisting of local coral-limestone and wooden beams, more recently complemented with cement screeds on the roof, and latter sections were built in concrete blocks and cement. The flat-roofed structures retained roughly the same dimensions throughout the various expansions and are currently in a fairly good condition. The re-development of the souq would not be substantially complex and it is expected that it would greatly enhance both the visitor experience as well as the local population’s job opportunities.

TOMBS AND MAUSOLEA A distinctive feature of Dhofari funerary tradition is the construction of tombs and mausolea in public areas and, indeed, within the urban perimeter of towns and settlements. Whereas in the Ibadi north of the country cemeteries and tombs are usually located at a distance to the settlement, the more Sunni influenced Dhofari communities often have the tombs of important individuals and members of the community located in prominent locations within or around the settlement. This is also visible in Mirbāt where small tombs enclosed in a low brick wall would be located outside of the former dwelling of the deceased. One of the most famous structures in Mirbāt is the Mausoleum of Mohammed Ben Ali al-Alawi (Sahib Mirbāt), also called the Tomb of Bin Ali, an early mystic who, after his death in around 1160AD, was buried on the outskirts of Mirbāt, around 2Km north of the current town (N17° 0’11. 08” E54°41’26. 04”). The small structure containing the tomb is also used as a mosque and consists of a fairly simple rectangular building with two pointed domes surmounting it. This domed arrangement is common in funerary structures of the Sunni tradition, where the square plan is usually surmounted by a round or octagonal dome. The eschatological interpretation traditionally holds that the tomb, functioning as a threshold between the temporal earthbound sphere of existence and the eternal-celestial one, must unite in itself characteristics of both. Thus the square base comes to represent the limited earth within its cardinal points, and the dome takes the role of the


Urban and Architectural Analysis 43

hemispherical sky as a surrogate for the celestial sphere. In Dhofar there were other funerary structures erected to commemorate the ‘Sahib Mirbāt’ such as the maqam of al-Nabi Ayyub, located some 15km to the NW of Salalah. The interior of this building had no architectural decoration, but was dominated by the cenotaph of the Sahib Mirbāt with an inscribed tombstone in front (al-Salmi, Gaube & Korn 2008, 100). A further distinctive characteristic of Dhofari funerary tradition is the fact that grave stones are quite lavishly decorated, also naming the deceased and year of their death. This, again, is in contrast with the Ibadi tradition of Northern Oman where necropolises are often difficult to identify due to their plain and anonymous appearance, individual graves often not being marked at all or, at most, by a small upright slate or rock in the ground.

3.5 CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES In Mirbāt, not unlike the remainder of the Dhofari littoral, the primary construction material is local stone. This may range substantially in terms of composition and consistency depending on the local geology, but for the most part they then to be marine deposits of either coral sand- or limestones. The blocks are quarried from nearby location and cut in roughly hewn blocks of about 45x25x25. In the vast majority of cases the quality of the coursing is very irregular and inconsistent in terms of the bonding patterns employed. The general tendency was to lay the masonry blocks in an overlapping stretcher pattern with a clay/aggregate fill. Arches were very rarely used in Dhofar, and despite the comparatively high price of wooden elements such as beams, wooden lintels and jambs were the preferred structural solution for passages, doorways and thresholds. This is partly related to the notion of high quality wood as a status symbol. As a reinforcing elements staves and wooden poles were inserted longitudinally in the walls to spread the load and brace the internal structure of the walls. Usually these consisted of either individual staves or bundles of 2-3 of around 1.5m in length, smaller and lighter ones often being located higher up in the wall structure, with thicker ones at foundation level. These elements, being made perishable materials, have a tendency to either rot in the humid climate or be weakened by termites and other insects. In many of visible cases of collapse amongst Mirbāt’s houses these elements been seen to have rotten away. The bonding material used on most buildings consists of a sandy clay and lime. The quality of this

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0m

25

50

100

N


Urban and Architectural Analysis 45

materials is fairly durable in dry conditions, but affected adversely by rising damp which easily makes it crumble, therefore weakening the buildings from the base. Externally the majority of Mirbāt’s old houses were plastered and whitewashed, therefore concealing the structural detail of the walls and structural elements. The external decorative schemes of the houses were usually very simple, consisting either of simply the above-mentioned whitewash or a dark band which separates the various floors of the building. One common decorative feature, visible also among the large merchant houses of Mirbāt are a series of crenelations located atop a low parapet on the wall-heads of the buildings. These tend to be spaced out by a few metres are always located on the corners of the buildings. These features appear to be of some antiquity in local design schemes as they are strongly reminiscent of the design known from ancient Dhofari incense burners. These are known to have represented ancient buildings, such as palaces or temples, and they exhibit very similar design elements.

3.6 TYPOLOGICAL DISTINCTIONS As already alluded to briefly in previous section the architecture and urban morphologies of the Dhofari littoral are distinct from those observable in other part of Oman. While in the northern regions of the country the prevalent building material are mud-brick and palm trunks, with occasional use of un-worked stone masonry for foundations, the Dhofari house tends to be built from coral limestone blocks which were roughly worked and plastered. The durability, as well as the regularity, of this building material are probably contributing factors to the rectilinearity of the houses in Dhofar, compared with those of the north. Mud-brick structures need constant up-keep, with frequent re-facing and additional strengthening of walls modifying the shape of buildings over the course of just a few decades. Additionally, the northern architecture tends in most cases to use mud or local clay as the render for the houses, giving the structures the same coloration as the ground they stand on. This gives the mud-brick houses of the ad-Dhakhliya, ash-Sharqiyah, Batinah and other regions their characteristic ‘organic’ appearance. The houses of the south, conversely, tend to use a white-washed plaster which makes the buildings stand out in the landscape and distinguishes them from their environment. The cumulative effects of these distinct building traditions have a profound influence on the morphological evolution of the settlements as well as their appearance. While towns and villages in the north of Oman are well-known for their sinuous street plans, the extreme close proximity of the house to one-another and the use of overhangs bridging lanes and streets, the morphological

appearance of Mirbāt or Salalah is characterised by its airy looseness. Environmental as well as social reasons are likely to have played key roles in the disposition of Dhofari houses in relation to one another. While in northern Oman shade and the sheers thermal mass of the mud-brick were the main cooling system, the coastal towns of Dhofar appear to have instead relied much more on the sea breeze, orienting the houses towards the sea and allowing for the air to circulate unobstructed through and within the houses.

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3.7 STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE The town of Mirbāt exhibits a number of characteristics which make it one of the best extant examples of Dhofar’s littoral architectural style. Whereas in the past location such as Salalah and Taqah would have also been equally relevant in this category, their general state of dilapidation and heavy modification due to urban growth and lack of municipal control have made those sites increasingly irrelevant from a heritage management point of view. The following are the principal points which determine Mirbāt’s significance to Dhofar’s architectural heritage: • The as yet relatively well preserved urban plan of the old quarters is a good example of the kind of semi-diffuse type of urban growth experienced by south Arabian towns from the 16th century onwards. • The great houses of Mirbāt and their cosmopolitan decorational elements ranging from around the Indian Ocean are an excellent reminder of the extrovert outlook of these communities throughout their history. • The large numbers of beautifully carved and well-preserved doors and windows make Mirbāt an almost unique repository of this kind of craftsmanship in the region. • The as yet unspoilt vistas of the town from across the bay and the sea side make Mirbāt one of the few towns in the region to have preserved much of its original vista, with a skyline not yet too disturbed by modern high-rise construction. • The still functioning maritime trade and fishing traditions are important repositories of traditional skill-sets and this of intangible heritage which should be safeguarded

3.8 ANALYTICAL DRAWINGS The following section consists of a number of analytical drawings which illustrate the principal points addressed in this chapter, concerned primarily the urban morphology, salient settlement components such as mosques, wells, commercial areas and residential areas, as well as the main transit patterns and their usage within and around the settlement. Additional drawings address the functions of the various structures and their current condition.


Urban and Architectural Analysis 47

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 49

ACCESSES AND DOORWAYS The doorways of Dhofari houses are, not unlike their windows, some of the most heavily decorated elements in the entire house. They signal to the outsider and the passer by the wealth and the international connections of the owner, by using doors carved from valuable hardwood such as teak or iroko (Milicia excelsa) in India, South East Asia or East Africa. Their size and weight is also reflective of the general heavy-set aspect of the architecture which was designed to guarantee the privacy and safety of their inhabitants. These characteristics were transferred to the doorways, which were usually equipped with heavy latches and bolts. An additional point of interest with the main accesses to houses in Mirbāt is their general orientation. Whereas in Salalah almost all the main doors of houses would point towards the south, and thus towards the sea breeze, in Mirbāt they do not appear to have a specific orientation, pointing in any direction. It is likely that the greater proximity to the sea and the more irregular street plan of Mirbāt makes a single orientation unnecessary, while the closer proximity of the houses to one another also provides a degree of natural shading. Most houses tend to have more than a single entrance, with secondary entrances often giving access to ground-floor storage spaces and shops which were often part of the household.

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 51

SETTLEMENT COMPONENTS From an urbanistic point of view the town of Mirbāt was a wholly self-contained unit with falirly clearly defined edges and provisioned with all the main facilities its inhabitants needed. The heritage quarter had two mosques, one of which (F2) was considered to be among the oldest mosques in Dhofar prior to its recent demolition and recent reconstruction. The other, (J2) has also been recently re-built into a modern Friday mosque which serves the entire community. The town was loosely defended by several forts place in strategic locations around the perimeter of the town. The majority of these were built during the mid-20th century, with the exception of the ‘so-called Castle of Mirbāt, which functioned as the Wali’s residence and is of a likely medieval origin. This administrative centre of the town was also complemented by the presence of the customs house (J3), which was also of later construction, and highlights the importance of Mirbāt as an international trading port. The small gun-platform with the cannons today located on the sea-ward side of the castle is a modern addition and not historical. Most large houses tended to have small shops on the ground floors, usually consisting of no-more than a single room which gave access to the storage spaces of the house. To these was added the souq in the 1940s with a gradually expanding number of shops for the local community. Close to the beach on the southern end of the town were a number of large square enclosures used by fishermen and boat owners to store and mend their equipment. In more recent years some of the enclosures have been expanded into dwellings.

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 53

STATE OF USAGE • Units that at the time of fieldwork were clearly inhabited or uninhabited, used or unused have been mapped accordingly; • Units that, although not accessible, showed some evidence of use (e.g. as storage) or inhabitation have been mapped as “presumably inhabited/used”. The nature and the rate of abandonment reflects the technological and economical standard of the time, this some buildings that were abandoned in the early 80s will exhibit different types of alterations than those that were left in the 90s or more recently. It is generally acknowledged that cement and concrete were first introduced to Dhofar from 1952 onwards, which suggests that buildings built before then will generally have followed traditional construction methods. Initially the high cost and low availability of Portland cement kept it restricted to being used only on the more high-status structures, a trend which gradually inverted from the early 80s onwards, when cement and concrete blocks were sufficiently widely available to be used on all types of buildings.

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 55

BUILDING SIZES AND ELEVATIONS The majority of the buildings in Mirbāt’s old quarter conform the to traditional dimensions found in Dhofari architecture. Unlike in the north of Oman, where the mud-brick building materials makes building high structures costly and difficult, the architecture of Mirbāt and the Dhofari littoral routinely goes to 3 stories, with the majority of buildings having two levels. The largest buildings in the town (G10, H1) were likely those pertaining to the wealthiest merchants, though a number of buildings in zone F had to full levels, and single room located on the top floor, with windows on all sides.

These well-ventilated spaces captured the sea-breeze and cooled the interior, as well as providing an excellent view of the khawr and parts of the interior. Their interiors were often painted in lively colours, with decorated ceilings. Unlike at Salalah, comparatively few buildings in Mirbāt had painted or decorated façades. In some cases the façades were whitewashed, though the salty sea air has, in most cases, erased almost all traces of this. A few buildings had façades decorated with small pebbles and stones encrusted into the wet plaster.

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 57

GROUND FLOOR USAGE The houses of MirbÄ t were for the most part used as dwellings, though many also had complementary functions on the ground floors are storage rooms, shops and in some cases also for animals pens. The size of the storage facilities of some of the larger dwellings serves as an indicator of volume of trade that these traders could and would turn over. An average sized building such as F10b could have an available storage space of around 400m3, whereas the largest houses in MirbÄ t such as G10, could have upwards of 800m3 at their disposal. Unlike Salalah, which has a large agricultural oasis, MirbÄ t was almost wholly dependant on trade and fisheries, which is likely to have had an impact on the size to which the community would grow, and also the storage requirements of the individual households. Building A1, designated here as a shop, was expanded from its original traditional structure to a large resort type building which according to local informants was intended to function as a restaurant. It is currently unclear what has become of this venture, though it seems to be currently used mostly as storage for building materials.

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 59

ROADS AND PATHS It goes without saying the MirbÄ t’s vernacular quarter stems from a time when cars and trucks did not exist, thus not all the houses are freely accessible by modern road vehicles. In the past most people travelled either on foot or with pack animals such as donkeys, horses or camels which could easily make their way through narrow alleyways and tight bends. Draft animals were also used in the past, together with sheer manpower, to heave vessels onto the beach in order to carry out maintenance or even to unload them. This is today done by 4WD vehicles. No tarmac roads enter the old quarter, but the main access routes which can also be used by vehicles have been paved with concrete interlocking blocks, which is a good solution for this environment as it allows for the settling of the ground as well as improved drainage. It is more durable than tarmac, has a more organic aspect and allows for better drainage in the case of torrential downpours. This practice could be expanded to other smaller paths in the settlement. The inhabitants have also retained the traditional usage patters of the pathways, and continued using these with motor vehicles, as it the case in the two tracks across the khawr.

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 61

PUBLIC SPACES AND OPEN AREAS MirbÄ t is a comparatively open town, with mostly detached houses and generously proportioned streets and alleyways. In some way this makes the town quite easily adaptable to modern standard of living and modes of transports, as it has become increasingly important for residents to be able to park their cars in the immediate vicinity of their houses. In this sense it is fortunate that is ample parking place available and no demolitions or additional parking should be required for the community. The area of the khawr and much of the old town are also used by the local goat herders, (mostly resident in area G) to graze theirs goats. The goats are allowed to roam freely throughout the town but are occasionally herded to beyond the town’s limits for broader pasture.

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Urban and Architectural Analysis 63

UNIT CONDITION Units have been classified in relation to their condition under four main categories: 1.

“old building” if the units overall original traditional fabric has been retained;

2. “modernized old building” if the original fabric has been altered, to different degrees, through the introduction of modern materials, components and infrastructure (from cement rendering of walls to replacement of windows, doors and ceilings, from tiling and plaster-boarding to installation of lighting, piping, sewerage, air conditioning units and roof satellite dishes to construction of septic tanks); 3.

“new modern building” and “new modern enclosure” if the unit is completely modern.

4.

“old enclosure” if the unit is a simple enclosure in traditional construction.

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ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES ENTRANCE DOORS

sheet 1a

Single or double leaf, entrance doors are made of timber panels that pivot around vertical elements fixed to the top and bottom transom. Panels are composed of vertical planks bolted, through round headed iron studs, to a series of parallel horizontal timbers situated on the inner face of the door, which act as structural bracing. Double doors have an elaborately carved central post which is fixed to one panel and acts as a check to stop movement. Carved out of the door leaves are subdoors which can be opened independent of the main door for additional security and privacy. One or two iron knockers may be present on the subdoors. These are instated within an incised rectangular frame with a top curvilinear outline which crowns them with finials, leaves or a combination thereof. In addition to exquisite ornamental carving, some doors exhibit a solid, almost defensive, appearance due to the presence of a more or less dense grid of fastening bars.

Unit A5

Unit A9

Unit A16a

Unit A16b

Unit A19

Unit A20

Unit A26

Unit A27

Unit A28

Unit B1

Unit B5

Unit D1

Unit D1

Unit E3

Unit E4

Unit E13

Unit E22

Unit F3

Doors are often painted in bright yellow, and a variety of light blue and green hues. In few instances a rectangular barred light is located in the upper part below the lintel. Shops’ doors generally differ from houses’ doors in that their planks are hinged in pairs instead of nailed. In all types iron latches with padlocks on the outer face are the standard locking device.


Urban and Architectural Analysis 65

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES ENTRANCE DOORS

sheet 1b

Unit F4

Unit F6a

Unit F6c

Unit F8

Unit F10c

Unit F11b

Unit F14b

Unit F16

Unit F17

Unit G2

Unit G2

Unit G6

Unit G8

Unit G10

Unit G12

Unit G14

Unit H1

Unit H1

Unit H2

Unit I18

Unit I31

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ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES INTERNAL DOORS

sheet 2

Room doors, whether located in enclosed spaces or upper floor terraces, are narrower and, decoration-wise, simpler than entrance doors. The construction logic is broadly the same, as well as the metalwork employed. What differs is, particularly in more recently manufactured examples, the nature of panels, that is single boards rather than multiple nailed planks. These boards are incised in squares, rectangles, a combination thereof, octagons or other geometric figures, all arranged in vertical columns.

Unit A9

Unit A20

Unit A26

Unit A29

Unit D1

Unit E2

Unit F3

Unit F6a

Unit F8

Unit F10c

Unit F10d

Unit F14b

Unit F15

Unit F19

Unit F27

Unit F27

Unit J1

Unit J4

Although normally round headed iron studs are used to join the planks to the back timbers, they often feature as well on single board doors, alternating with carvings, where they clearly serve a purely decorative function. Like in entrance doors ornamentation is limited to the outer faces, whereas inner faces are left plain, punctuated only by various horizontal and vertical fastening members. An exception is represented by the grand merchant houses whose internal doors at times articulate the refined decorative lexicon characteristic of entrance doors, including subdoors and central posts carvings. Internal doors are often painted in matching colours with the wall plaster: yellow, light and dark hues of blue, red and green. Only ground floor doors leading into storage spaces and animal pens are likely to have been left unpainted.


Urban and Architectural Analysis 67

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES WINDOWS AND SHUTTERS

sheet 3a

Windows are either flush with the outer face of walls in simple rectangular openings or enclosed in wall recesses marked by ogee-arched lowrelief mouldings. These are often painted white in order to create a stark contrast with the surrounding beige render. Windows are comprised of two timber layers: on the outside, a fixed composition of lights alternating with solid, perforated and decorated panels of different sizes; on the inside, shutters that can be operated in order to control indoor lighting and ventilation.

Unit A9

Unit A9

Unit A11

Unit A20

Unit A26

Unit B4

Unit B8

Unit E2

Unit E2

Unit E2

Unit E2

Unit E2

Unit E11

Unit E13

Unit F6c

Unit F10c

Unit F10c

Unit F15

The most typical light is the horse-shoe and ogee type. In both cases it is contained within a rectangular frame, combined in groups of two or three, and positioned at different heights in the window. Spandrels are usually solid panels pierced at the top by stepped triangular fretwork, or more or less deeply notched in the local typical decorative fashion. The panels above and below the lights articulate a sophisticated ornamental and compositional grammar: they include solid boards either superficially incised in simple geometric figures or deeply and intricately carved, latticed boards, screens perforated by circles, diamonds and rosettes, and grills of bars, X-shaped crosses and slender balusters. Carved boards, mullions and transoms feature interlocking circles, roundels, six-lobe leaves, X-shaped crosses, volutes, vine tendrils, scrolls and zigzagged lines.

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ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES WINDOWS AND SHUTTERS

sheet 3b

Variations of the basic window type are commonly found in the houses of the settlement. The simplest variation is one composed of ogee arches with spandrels. A second variation is one lacking the panel above or below the lights. Examples of this subtype have latticed or grilled boards at the bottom or top respectively. A third variation is, on the contrary, one lacking the arched lights and, therefore, having only a rectangular panel at the bottom, more or less high, that can be similarly incised, perforated, grilled and boldly carved, and a much taller light at the top that is barred, meshed, or X-shape crossed. A unique example of window is found in one of the grandest, still standing, merchant houses. The window is complemented at the bottom by a projecting timber box, finely incised in floral motifs and pierced through by geometric figures, which would have probably contained a clay water pot with the purpose of cooling down the air passing over before this entered the room.

Unit F15

Unit F19

Unit G6

Unit G6

Unit G6

Unit G6

Unit G10

Unit G14

Unit G14

Unit G14

Unit H1

Unit H1

Unit H2

Unit H2

Unit H2

Unit H2

Unit J1

Unit J1

On the inside of rooms windows are deeply inset into wall recesses crowned by an ogeearched niche. The window opening is, therefore, generally contained between the sill and the timber niche shelf above. As windows are generally located low in the wall, if necessary this niche could have been used to store household items.


Urban and Architectural Analysis 69

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES MASONRY OPENINGS

sheet 4

Openings of different size and geometry, in both external and internal masonry walls, are quite a common feature in the settlement. They are found at the various levels of houses, although most of them punctuate the upper part of walls at ground floor level, where they serve to let light and air into the dark rooms used as storage or animal pens. The smaller openings that pierce the rooftop parapet of large fortified merchant houses are, instead, rifle slits used only for defence purposes. Amongst the walll openings used for ventilation and lighting purposes two main types can be identified. A first type is represented by more or less slender slit openings in external walls, which are usually positioned right below the floor and in axis with the windows below. A second type is constituted by openings in partition walls, immediately above internal doors. They can be either slits combined in pairs or single squarish lights, which are usually crossbraced internally with wooden sticks. In sporadic cases they are screened through vertical, regularly spaced out, timbers.

Unit A5

Unit F8

Unit A9

Unit A16a

Unit A16b

Unit A20

Unit D1

Unit F3

Unit F6a

Unit F6a

Unit F10d

Unit F15

Unit G10

Unit H1

Unit H2

Unit I9

Unit I23

Unit J1

In H1 purely decorative triangular openings, situated between the castellated skyline above and the herringbonestyle fretwork below, pierce through the rooftop parapet. In general, masonry openings are lintelled by means of timber planks or roughly cut logs.

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CONSTRUCTION FEATURES FLOORS AND ROOFS, WALLS, SPOUTS AND DRAINAGE CHANNELS

sheet 5

FLOORS AND ROOFS Floors and roofs consist, from intrados to extrados, of: 1) candlewood or coconut palm tree beams laid to span the average 2.5 to 3.5 mt. width of rooms; 2) hardwood or palm tree sticks, often replaced in recent years by timber planks, laid perpendicular to the beams; 3) woven coconut palm leaf mat; 4) gravel, lime and clay screed; 5) lime or clay and lime finish. WALLS

Unit A28

Unit F6c

Unit F27

Unit F27

Unit G10

Unit I17

Unit A16a

Unit A16a

Unit F6c

Unit F14b

Unit F15

Unit G10

Unit F3

Unit F6a

Unit G10

Unit H1

Unit I24

Unit J4

Limestone composed of small clam shells and corals is the main wall building material. In some cases the external lime and clay render would have had a pock-marked look produced by the placing of small pebbles in it. Walls are built in courses of large dressed stone blocks alternating with courses of smaller coarse stones and pebbles set in local clay mortar. In some instances rubble stone is used. Timber tie beams, generally made of hardwood branches, are present at regular intervals within the walls with the purpose of strenghtening and binding the masonry. SPOUTS AND CHANNELS

DRAINAGE

Rainwater drainage devices include gargoyles made of split palm tree trunks which stick out of slit openings in rooftop parapets, and vertical drainage channels carved out of walls at ground floor ceiling level.


Urban and Architectural Analysis 71

CONSTRUCTION FEATURES ARCHES, STAIRCASES, LINTELS

sheet 6

ARCHES A combination of ogee and round arches built in stone blocks is used to mark key elements and spaces in the house, such as stairs and the vestibules leading into rooms respectively. Arch outlines are normally plastered and in some cases even moulded in low relief to add ornamentation to them. STAIRCASES Made of stone blocks, finished in lime and clay render, steps rest on timber structures.

Unit A9

Unit A9

Unit A16b

Unit F10c

Unit F10c

Unit F27

Unit A5

Unit A16a

Unit A28

Unit C1

Unit F6b

Unit J1

Unit A28

Unit G10

Unit G10

Unit I7

Unit I24

Unit J1

These sit either directly on logs laid lenghtwise from the beginning to the landing point, or on mats of reeds or branches placed on logs laid crosswise, that is between supporting walls. Staircases usually present linear, L-shaped or U-shaped layouts, depending on whether they lean against a spine wall or are enclosed between facing walls which they wrap around. In the latter type walls can be both high, in which case they usually feature small niches on both front faces, or one of the two can be a low parapet wall. LINTELS Supporting the wall sections above openings, lintels are made of timber logs or planks, and in few cases of timbers reclaimed from door frames. In a very unique instance an elaborately carved boat transom has been embedded in the wall to work as a lintel.

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DECORATIVE FEATURES CARVED FRAMES, SHUTTERS, CAPITALS AND POSTS

sheet 7

Central posts, frames and jambs are lavishly decorated in repetitive geometric and naturalistic patterns notched into the timber elements. Recurring motifs include respectively triangles, circles, semicircles, fish-scaled lozenges, roundels and squares - which denote the use of triangular-shaped chisels and four-lobed leaves, tendrils, flowers, volutes, water waves, lotus blossoms, floral scrolls and what would allegedly represent the Tree of Life. These more elaborate motifs, which are boldly outlined against the backdrop, show no marks of the carving tools used. Nature-related decoration patterns bear the influence of the rich Indian decorative vocabulary that developed during centuries of sea trade connections between Oman and the Indian Continent. Free flowing naturalistic designs are, in fact, typical of traditional timbers doors in the Gujarat region of India, that which may account for either them being imported into Oman as part of its historical trade exchanges across the Indian Ocean, or manufactured in Oman by skilled crafstmen who had been trained in the Indian style of carving.

Unit A9

Unit A20

Unit A20

Unit A27

Unit B5

Unit D1

Unit E2

Unit E2

Unit E3

Unit E13

Unit E22

Unit F3

Unit F10d

Unit F14b

Unit G2

Unit G6

Unit G10

Unit H2

A balanced composition of geometric and naturalistic figures also adorns timber posts and their corbel capitals. Centrally located in particularly elongated rooms, they support a beam that spans the whole lenght of the space.


Urban and Architectural Analysis 73

DECORATIVE FEATURES LOW RELIEFS

sheet 8

Niches, doors and windows are often framed by decorative low relief mouldings, traditionally made out of gypsum plaster, more recently cement mortar. Mouldings are painted in the same earthy shade as the surrounding wall, or in a contrasting off-white, or even in bright colours. Reliefs around doors and windows follow their rectangular outline all around and extend further beyond at the top, in the form of finials on the sides and circles or crests in the middle. More elaborate examples of this type replicate what could be the castellated outline of a building rooftop. In one particular case this design is complemented by the star and crescent symbol of Islam.

Unit A9

Unit A16a

Unit A16b

Unit E2

Unit E2

Unit F10e

Unit F10e

Unit F15

Unit F15

Unit F15

Unit F15

Unit F18

Unit F20a

Unit G2

Unit G10

Unit H2

Unit J1

Unit J3

In few instances mouldings around entrance doors turn into solid, bulky buttresses with the purpose of demarcating and emphasizing the entry point. Niche reliefs vary in extent as well as degree of decoration: from thin, intersecting bands wrapping niches around to thick, mouldings that crown the upper shelf - therefore taking on a pinnacled or semicircular profile - and extend beyond the niche shoulders through ledge-like designs. Other decorative reliefs run all along the perimeter of the rooms, immediately below the ceiling. They do so in sinuous repetitive patterns or as a continuous linear strip that expands, above each niche, into a medallion containing red painted leaves.

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DECORATIVE FEATURES FRETWORK, FINIALS AND CRENELLATIONS, INSCRIPTIONS

sheet 9

FRETWORK, FINIALS AND CRENELLATIONS The rooftop parapet of the large merchant houses present decorative fretwork patterns made of small, symmetrically mirrored, triangular wall openings alternating, at times, with larger arrow-head openings. The parapet skyline is crenellated or, more frequently, presents a stepped finial at the corners, which is reminiscent of the incense burners traditionally manufactured in Dhofar.

Unit A16a

Unit H1

Unit H2

Unit A16a

Unit A16a

Unit E3

Unit F14b

Unit G6

Unit J1

INSCRIPTIONS AND ENGRAVINGS Often the top frames of entrance doors bear carved Arabic inscriptions. However, it is not rare to find them engraved onto plaster wall mouldings above doors. Generally the engraved text is about giving praise to Prophet Muhammad, and invoking the blessing of Allah the Almighty on the property owner. This applies, for example, to unit E3 - Bait Qalam - whose owner is Said bin Rabi’, to the shop contained in unit A16a, belonging to Ali bin Abdul Rahman, and to unit J1. In other instances the text includes the date the inscription was engraved expressed in the form of the Hijri Calendar. This is the case with unit F14b, dated 28 Shawwal 1385 A.H. (18 February 1966), unit A16a dated 15 Jumada Al-Awwal 1370 A.H. (21 February 1951), and unit G6 dated 1385 A.H. (1966).


Urban and Architectural Analysis 75

FUNCTIONAL FEATURES BENCHES, LATRINES

sheet 10

BENCHES Stones set in clay and lime mortar, replaced in more recent times by concrete blocks and cement, are used to build benches flanking the entrance of houses or shops in the souq. Benches are built as solid platforms ending, on one or both sides, in raised parapets which serve as armrests. Sometimes, when the space outside a room - be it in the interior of the house or on the first floor terrace - was large enough to provide for a sitting area, benches were built on either sides or to one side of internal doors.

Unit H2 Unit F10d

Unit F10e

Unit F15

Unit G10

Unit G14

Unit I25

Unit I27

Unit I30

Unit I31

Unit I32

Unit J1

Unit B5

Unit E2

Unit F10d

Unit F11b

Unit F15

Unit F19

LATRINES Sparsely pierced by small triangular or arrow-head wall openings, generally located below the rooftop line, the latrine towers are usually situated at the corners of houses. Internally they accommodate square holes in the floor surrounded by a lime and clay or, more recently, concrete moulding. This has an elongated U-shape obtained through two paralell kerbs used to squat on, which raise to form a sort of backrest. Beneath the hole, at ground floor level, is a cesspit accessed through a generally external low service door in order to carry out clearing operations. In many houses modern squat as well as w.c. toilets have been haphazardly introduced.

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FUNCTIONAL FEATURES NICHES, FURNITURE

sheet 11

NICHES Formed in the thickness of walls, niches reduce their mass and provide storage space. A great variety is found in terms of geometry, size, number of shelves, position in the wall, decorative reliefs or openings. Timber planks make up the shelves, which divide the niches into multilevel recesses. The basic niche type consists in a single recess positioned at various heights in the rooms’ walls or at a standard height in the shoulder walls of staircases. A larger version of the type is a double-recess niche, which in some instances is provided with doors in order to secure the items stored inside.

Unit A9

Unit A16a

Unit E2

Unit F8

Unit F10d

Unit F14b

Unit F15

Unit F15

Unit F15

Unit F15

Unit F19

Unit G10

Triple-recess niches feature a narrower arrow-head shelving unit at the top. An entirely different type consists in tall, pointed-arched niches set at floor level. One instance has a small arrowshaped opening in it, whereas another one has blue painted, finely incised shutters. FURNITURE Furniture include wood chests, beds and display units. A unique chest is encased by densely carved panels painted in bright blue and red, which feature ornamental motifs including circles, triangles, lozenges, volutes, leaves and a fruit resembling a pineapple. Beds have headboards made of turned balusters and a mesh of ropes tied to the frame. One shop display unit in the souq presents elegantly carved shutters with ogee and horseshoe -arched lights. Unit E2

Unit F15

Unit I1


Urban and Architectural Analysis 77

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Structural Failures and States of Preservation

4

• identifying and quantifying, in percentages out of the total of building units analysed, those falling into each state of preservation category. The following has to be noted in relation to the mapping: • units that could not be documented because inaccessible have been mapped as “not appraisable”; • units consisting in new modern buildings and enclosures have been left unmapped.

STRUCTURAL FAILURES AND STATES OF PRESERVATION

4.1 STATES OF PRESERVATION AND FAILURE ANALYSIS An analysis has been carried out of the state of preservation of Mirbāt and of the failure types, both structural and non-structural, affecting the traditional building units that still retain, fully or partially, their original fabric. Within the settlement 179 units have been identified for inclusion in the present Heritage Management and Development Plan, of which 81 have been accessed, documented and fully photographed, and the remaining 96 only externally photographed, and 2 fully photographed but not documented. Of the identified units 2 are new modern enclosures and 17 are new modern buildings, so these 19 units have been excluded from the analysis of the state of preservation and failure types. Of the remaining 159 units comprising old and modernized old buildings only 94 have been analysed and assessed, as inaccessibility did not allow to make a complete and sound assessment of the other 65 units. This figure includes units that, though not accessible, allowed us to gauge their state of preservation from the outside with a certain degree of accuracy. The table on page 81 maps the state of preservation of these 94 units according to 4 broad categories - adequate, acceptable, inadequate, ruinous - and has to be read in conjunction with the map on page 80 - which describes the state of preservation of the 94 units by: • indicating the degree of preservation of the building units; • showing it by means of sample photos; • suggesting actions to be implemented;

Table on page 82 maps the structural and non-structural failure types affecting the stone masonry envelope of 81 units comprising old buildings and modernized old buildings which, having been fully photographed, allowed for an accurate assessment. Each symbol represents a corresponding pathology described on the tables from page 84-96. Pathologies have been identified, listed and analysed under broad categories in order to accordingly devise conservation and rehabilitation strategies. Pathologies identified are the result of the combined action of “anthropic” and “natural” degradation factors. The former consist in the physical transformation of the original built fabric, e.g. through addition and juxtaposition of new build made of modern materials – concrete blocks and cement plaster – to the original built fabric made of stone masonry, sarooj mortar and palm tree wood floors. The latter include the action of rainwater, wind, water runoff, water stagnation around the buildings and infiltration from the roofs into the buildings, which then lead to erosion of wall tops and bases, wall surfaces and roofs.

4.2 GUIDING PRINCIPLES TO CONSERVATION AND REHABILITATION The following complementary and interconnected guidelines must lead any intervention to be carried out on the stone masonry fabric of the settlement for conservation and rehabilitation purposes: • authenticity, in both material and form which means that in the work of conservation of a structure which is part of a group, partially or fully, not only must the total authenticity not be diminished but the overall integrity of the group has to be enhhanced too; • neutrality, which means that in the work of conservation of a structure its character must neither be enhanced nor degraded. Once a structure has been restored and therefore rehabilitated the best way to preserve it from

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Structural Failures and States of Preservation

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A5

B5

F6c

F19

I5

I14

I24

I33

I42

A9

C1

F8

F27

I6

I15

I25

I34

I43

A16a

D1

F10c

F28

I7

I16

I26

I35

I45

A16b

E2

F10d

G10

I8

I17

I27

I36

I46

A20

E3

F11b

G14

I9

I18

I28

I37

I47

A26

E23

F14b

I1

I10

I19

I29

I38

I48

A27

F3

F15

I2

I11

I21

I30

I39

J1

A28

F6a

F17

I3

I12

I22

I31

I40

J3

A29

F6b

F18

I4

I13

I23

I32

I41

J4


Structural Failures and States of Preservation

future deterioration is to use it. Its continued utilisation, even if for a new purpose, will pose a need for regular upkeep which should in turn discourage neglect. The alteration or extension of a building structure for its adaptive reuse requires a degree of spatial flexibility which earthen construction has, given its informal and plastic nature. If reuse builds upon these intrinsic characteristics earthen structures are able to meet the requirements and standards of present-day uses without losing their essential qualities. With reference to the degrees of preservation of the settlement, conservation strategies will have to meet the following: • structures in “adequate” state of preservation: refurbishment alterations will be carried out in a way that respects he scale, massing, form, materials and the social status of the structure as well as the architectural composition and skyline of the cluster to which it belongs (no new construction, demolition or modification which would alter the relations of mass and colour must be allowed according to art. 6 of the Venice Charter, 1964); • structures in “adequate”, “acceptable” and “inadequate” states of preservation: the original fabric will be retained as much as possible to be consolidated, renewed and refurbished; • structures in “acceptable” and “inadequate” states of preservation: missing elements – walls, floors, ceilings, staircases – will be replaced with new elements clearly distinguishable by material, form, grain, construction or texture from the original structure. Replacements of missing parts must integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the same time must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence (Art. 12 of the Venice Charter, 1964). Any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp (art. 9 of the Venice Charter, 1964); • structures in “inadequate” and “ruinous” states of preservation: consolidation will be carried out by employing the most suitable available technologies at the time of intervention (where traditional materials prove inadequate, the consolidation of a monument can be achieved by the use of any modern technique for conservation and construction, the efficacy of which has been shown by scientific data and roved by experience, art. 10 of The Venice Charter, 1964).

4.3 GUIDING PRINCIPLES TO REPAIR ACTIONS The following methodological criteria must be met in implementing the general repair measures: • repair must be necessary, reversible, the minimum required to achieve the proposed result and

compatible with the original fabric; • repair must be preceded by investigation of the reason for failure, so that recurring failure can be prevented by appropriately dealing with the causes of damage and making good effectively; • repair must be preceded by investigation into construction aspects - soil content, clay type, pH value, lime/clay composition in mortar and plaster, strength of materials - climate aspects - relative humidity and temperature both inside and outside the building units - environmental aspects - thermal conductivity of walls and temperature of floors - use aspects - changes made to the structure which might have caused failure; • repair must take into account the results of recording and documentation in terms of historical background, social status, spatial organization and construction of the structures; • repair must take into account social, cultural and economic driving factors such as the need for local employment, maintenance of tradition and training; • repair must achieve a balance between the materials required for the intervention and the requirements of tradition; • repair must be fully documented and archived throughout works.

GUIDANCE NOTES

1. For the purpose of having an as accurate as possible mapping of failure types, these have been identified only in building units documented both graphically and photographically, that have maintained their original fabric unaltered (“old buildings”) or have been modernized to a little extent (“modernized old buildings”). Under these circumstances the total number of mapped units is 81. 2. Only failure types that were clearly distinguishable and unequivocally classifiable have been included in the analysis and mapping. 3. Presumably all building units underwent a stage where each relevant failure type occurred, even though currently there is no clear evidence of it.

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4.4 STRUCTURAL AND NON-STRUCTURAL FAILURE TYPES Based on the above analysis, the following failure types have been identified and related repair measures suggested. It is important to bear in mind that repair measures refer to individual failure types in isolation; they are by no means to be looked at as resolving more complex situations where one particular failure may have developed as a consequence of and concurrently with others.

WALL FEET EROSION Given the proximity to the sea and consequent capillary rise the vast majority of walls are affected. Undercuts are visible at the base of external walls predominantly. The following repair measures can be taken: Repair of wall feet Method a (inhibition of rising saline moisture): Option 1 - introduction of: 1) natural damp barriers, such as dry-laid rock and slates; or 2) perforated sheet materials; or 3) stone. Option 2 - removal of base courses in short lengths of half a wall thickness at a time, alternated, and no longer that twice the thickness of the wall. Notes: • Impermeable membranes, such as are used in brick masonry structures, are inappropriate in earth-based construction because they can trap water on their upper surfaces and produce a sharp boundary between very wet and very dry zones. Method b (control of water run-off): stabilization of soil surfaces with geotextiles, that is nonrotting mesh materials, laid beneath the surface. Method c (rainwater discharge): introduction of flood discharge channels.

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WALL SURFACE EROSION All units are, to a different extent, affected. External walls are generally more deeply affected than internal walls due to their prolonged exposure to wind and rain action. Eroded wall surfaces appear either pitted or worn away. The following repair measures can be taken: Repair of wall vertical surfaces Action 1 (repair of non-structural voids): introduction of selected fillers, which exclude expansive clay fractions, such as sulphate-free pulverized fly ash (PFA)/lime mortar. Cons: the filler is different from the original thus posing problems of visual acceptability. Action 2 (repair of fabric losses): application of a lime/clay render to the wall. Pros: the thin coat of material takes up shrinkage in the depth of the application, so the wall surface, drawing moisture from the applied material by capillary action, reaches a compatible state at the interface and, consequently, an adequate bond is formed under pressure of application. Notes: • where structural cohesion is important the introduction of fibreglass or other reinforcing rods can be considered; • where additional tensile strength is required, synthetic fibre may be introduced. During the process of introduction temporary support may be required and this should always be provided using a soft or compressive pad at the point of transfer of load.

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DETACHMENT OF COATINGS “A” The peeling off produced by this type of failure is accentuated on walls that are exposed to the weather, with a predominance of external walls. The following repair measures can be taken: Repair of wall vertical surfaces Method (repair of fabric losses): application of a lime/clay render to the wall. Pros: the thin coat of material takes up shrinkage in the depth of the application, so the wall surface, drawing moisture from the applied material by capillary action, reaches a compatible state at the interface and, consequently, an adequate bond is formed under pressure of application. Notes: • where structural cohesion is important the introduction of fibreglass or other reinforcing rods can be considered; • where additional tensile strength is required, synthetic fibre may be introduced. During the process of introduction temporary support may be required and this should always be provided using a soft or compressive pad at the point of transfer of load.

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Structural Failures and States of Preservation

DETACHMENT OF COATINGS “B” Mostly walls rendered in a material different from the masonry underneath, i.e. limestone walls rendered in cement, are affected. The following repair measures can be taken: Repair of wall vertical surfaces Method (repair of fabric losses): application of a lime/render render to the wall. Pros: the thin coat of material takes up shrinkage in the depth of the application, so the wall surface, drawing moisture from the applied material by capillary action, reaches a compatible state at the interface and, consequently, an adequate bond is formed under pressure of application. Notes: • where structural cohesion is important the introduction of fibreglass or other reinforcing rods can be considered; • where additional tensile strength is required, synthetic fibre may be introduced. During the process of introduction temporary support may be required and this should always be provided using a soft or compressive pad at the point of transfer of load.

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Structural Failures and States of Preservation

WALL CRACKS Wall cracks are generally marked at wall junctions, around openings and niches and constructionwise weak areas. The following repair measures can be taken: Repair of structural voids Method a (filling of structural voids where stones lack contact): tamping of stones and earth mortar (e.g. mixtures of fly-ash, brick dust and lime). Work phases to be carried out: 1. cut out cavity to adequate depth and regular shape; 2. dampen the backing of the cavity; 3. drive in natural or manufactured interlocking mechanisms, such as pieces of stone, helical bars and tiles, randomly regular and avoiding courses; 4. tamp in infill material in layers of maximum 100 mm. Notes: • the infill should be a material free of the problem of shrinkage and with characteristics of thermal movement, strength, resilience, loading and self-weight comparable with an earth structure; • materials to be used to produce it should meet the requirements of a synthetic gap filling component for earth structures, have an indefinite life and conform to the requirements of reversibility (by removal) and identifiability. Method b (filling of structural voids where stones are in contact): tamping of a plastic earth or lime/clay fill depending on original material. Work phases to be carried out: 1. cut out cavity to maximum of half-depth of wall including the crack; 2. dampen the backing of the cavity; 3. lay in mesh (terylene, fabric, expanded aluminium etc.) against backing; 4. tamp in infill material in layers of maximum 50 mm. Notes: it is possible to provide shuttering behind which the earth is tamped in, to achieve effective consolidation. An alternative to tamping the fill against the mesh is tamping in a mix of terylene and chopped random fibres, in layers of maximum 50 mm.

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Structural Failures and States of Preservation

DETACHMENT OF BUILT FABRIC Detachment of sections of built fabric occurs predominantly at junctions of walls built with same or different materials. The following repair measures can be taken: Repair of wall displacements Method (filling of structural gaps): non-invasive structural grouting through injection of lime- or earth-based fluid mortars or adhesives to fill discontinuities and reintegrate detached wall sections.

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Structural Failures and States of Preservation

LOSS OF BUILT FABRIC Loss of stones occurs indiscriminately across the masonry structure. Loss of entire built fabric portions is pronounced in areas above ground level. The following repair measures can be taken: Repair of missing elements Method (filling of structural voids): reinstatement of missing stones and injection of noninvasive structural grouting of lime- or earth-based fluid mortars or adhesives to fill voids and make insertions adhere to the original structure.

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Principles and Approaches to Heritage MANAGEMENT

5 PRINCIPLES AND APPROACHES TO HERITAGE MANAGEMENT

In accordance with the Venice Charter on Conservation (1964) and the ICOMOS Conservation Charter (2004) this chapter sets out the ways in which the significant values of the settlement, its integrity, and the heritage and material culture are to be safeguarded within a context of sympathetic development. Following the establishment of a broad philosophy, a set of general policies for development and conservation are discussed. This is followed by a set of detailed guidelines for restoration, consolidation, rebuilding and redevelopment measures (cf. definitions below).

5.1 PHILOSOPHY OF DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION: PRINCIPLES The following are 10 key principles the Heritage Management Plan and associated Master Plan intend to embrace and develop further with special reference to the town (Table 5.1):

PRINCIPLE NUMBER

DESCRIPTION OF PRINCIPLE

P1

Minimum intervention

P2

Reversibility

P3

Retention of buildings, settlements and context: conserve vistas, views, spaces and enclosures and sensitively interpret as necessary

P4

Anthropological (i.e., people centred) approach to heritage management and reuse

P5

Integration of the younger generation through reuse and interpretation of the site

P6

Private and public sector engagement – organisational and individual stakeholder cooperation

P7

A combined bottom-up and top-down approach via the Misfāt Community Cooperative

P8

Introducing functional diversity – possible/ compatible uses for existing buildings through innovative thinking

P9

Sustainable management and conservation

P10

New buildings not copy, replica or pastiche but interpretation: buildings ‘of their time’

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5.2 APPROACHES TO DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION 5.2.1 THAT ALL SIGNIFICANT ASPECTS OF THE SETTLEMENT MORPHOLOGY, FORTIFICATION, TOWNSCAPE, STRUCTURES (INSTITUTIONAL AND RESIDENTIAL), IRRIGATION AND AGRICULTURE BE RETAINED, SAFEGUARDED, CONSOLIDATED, RESTORED AND WHEREVER APPROPRIATE REBUILT, TO PRESERVE THE IDENTITY, INTEGRITY AND AUTHENTICITY OF THE SITE.

The identity of the settlement depends on the retention of all significant material, socio-cultural and historic characteristics amidst development that is both necessary and inevitable. Development should not overwhelm the past; rather, development needs to be carefully managed and integrated with heritage to retain the identity of Mirbāt . The significant aspects have been identified in earlier chapters (3 & 4). However, further issues are expected to emerge from the necessary additional studies/analysis identified below to extend our knowledge of the infrastructural and socio-cultural aspects (§5.5).

5.2.2 THAT ALL NEW DEVELOPMENT SHOULD BE SYMPATHETIC TO THE CULTURAL AND MATERIAL HERITAGE OF THE SETTLEMENT.

All development should respect and remain subservient to the rich cultural and material heritage Dhofar littoral area. Development should not in any way become overbearing – urbanistically, architecturally and otherwise visually. Further studies identified below (§5.5) are crucial to establish a comprehensive picture of the dynamic nature of this heritage. This will demand a knowledge-based yet creative approach to establishing policies, strategies, master plan and all interventions. An experienced multi-disciplinary team, which will draw from latest methodology and techniques, should be entrusted with addressing all aspects of development, conservation and heritage management.

5.2.ALL NEW-BUILD AND EXTENSION SHOULD BE CLEARLY DISTINGUISHABLE FROM EXISTING AND ‘AUTHENTIC’ BUILDING AND SETTLEMENT FABRIC.

All alterations and additions should reflect the culture of its time and therefore should employ materials and construction systems relevant to the present. Hybrid systems engaging traditional materials and methods may be introduced to allude to the complex culture of today. The materials and construction methods chosen for new-builds and extensions should explore the full range of opportunities presented by the juxtaposition of traditional and modern contexts, as long as it does


Principles and Approaches to Heritage MANAGEMENT

not compromise the essential integrity of the traditional settlement and its fabric.

5.2.4 THE USE AND APPLICATION OF TRADITIONAL METHODS AND TECHNIQUES OF CONSTRUCTION AND USE OF MATERIALS AND BUILDING COMPONENTS ARE TO BE ENCOURAGED.

This should especially be the case where a ‘significant’ component or fragment is required to be rebuilt or where the character and integrity of the structure would be lost through the use of new materials and/ or construction systems. It would also be possible to employ new techniques of construction to traditional materials or, in some cases, employing traditional construction methods to modern materials. Salvaged building materials and architectural components, wherever possible and relevant, should be reused. Such hybrid construction would still allow for making the clear distinction required under §5.2.3.

5.2.5 A LINK NEEDS TO BE ESTABLISHED BETWEEN MODERN-DAY ASPIRATIONS AND CONTINUATION OF AGE-OLD METHODS OF LIVELIHOOD AND CULTURE.

New programmes would need to establish the fine balance between the continued and very welcome existence of traditional life and those demanded by the globalised environment and societal change. Continued sustenance of the traditional ways of life gives the settlement its character and identity and is clearly an important socio-cultural and economic resource. Requirements emerging from societal changes driven by shifts in the globalised culture and economy, on the other hand, demands careful attention from the developmental perspective. Economics, employment, education, cultural and social development should be considered. Wherever feasible, traditional industry and economic methods should be safeguarded (e.g., agriculture, crafts, infrastructure – irrigation systems and tertiary sectors dependent on traditional economics and modes of production). The nature and scale of new programmes to be introduced should be considered carefully – what size of production, its appropriateness, etc. A large scale ‘modern’ industrial production is certainly inappropriate for small locations such as the town of Mirbāt. However, a scaled down and modified or partial production might work, with a larger industrial component situated outside the vernacular environment. Decoupling of industrial production with careful consideration of impact of specific components of the processes might need to be carefully and creatively thought through. Cross programming should be considered to avoid zoned restrictions.

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5.2.6 A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENT SHOULD BE ADOPTED TO ACHIEVE A BALANCED AND SUSTAINABLE FUTURE WHICH IS IN SYMPATHY WITH THE PAST.

Such studies should take the entire oasis and its setting into account. Development needs, therefore, would have to be established for the entire oasis and not for a constituent settlement in isolation. In the light of the research being currently conducted, the present report thus calls for a revision of existing regional planning strategies and policies to integrate heritage management as a crucial component of development. A regional approach should be adopted for the establishment of use patterns for settlements. It stands to reason that a Dhofar-wide plan is needed to consider the range and hierarchy of settlements for reuse. The strategy should be drawn up keeping significance and aspirations in mind. A regional significance hierarchy should be established to ascertain the importance of settlements and should be aligned with national and regional development policy and growth plans. Regional development plans, therefore, should include a comprehensive understanding of the extant historical settlements and fabric. The region-wide strategy will help avoid duplication and repetition of provisions (e.g., too many museums). It will avoid stresses and strains on limited infrastructure and resources.

5.2.7 A FULL EVALUATION OF ALL CONVENTIONALLY AVAILABLE AND STANDARDISED STRATEGIES SHOULD BE UNDERTAKEN BEFORE EMBRACING ANY OF THOSE AS ACCEPTABLE APPROACHES.

An example of this would be the often uncritical adoption of tourism as a universal panacea for heritage settlements. While this sector is certainly to play an important role, on its own it will fail to ensure sustainable heritage management. Less direct tourism might be worth considering – resulting in more ecologically and socially appropriate tourism. Tourism need to be also considered in terms of its very local nature – not just as international or Arab regional tourism (GCC/ Arab world); this is often overlooked. Increasing sensitive and sustainable local tourism (even within the governorate of e.g., Dhofar) would introduce a rich palette of experiences across visitor groups.


Principles and Approaches to Heritage MANAGEMENT

5.3 GENERAL POLICIES FOR DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION The following general policies are envisaged to form the basic framework for development planning and conservation initiatives in Mirbฤt.

5.3.1 ESTABLISHMENT OF A BUFFER ZONE TO SAFEGUARD THE SETTLEMENT, ITS INTEGRITY AND ITS VISUAL APPEARANCE.

This would ensure that the settlement retains its traditional context or limits/ prevents any further damage to it. Additionally, all significant visual corridors need to be conserved, retained and/ or opened up to optimise the significant character of the settlement. A detailed survey needs to be undertaken to identify all significant structures (mosques, sbal, dwellings, water and portuary 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.

5.3.2 PRIORITISE ACTION ON ZONES AND STRUCTURES ACCORDING TO HISTORICAL AND STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE TO SETTLEMENT.

Settlement analysis and the Statement of Significance have identified important phases of settlement development and structures that are historically important. Such high-value structures and zones indicative of key phases of development need to be given action priority. Approaches to conservation and development (ยง5.2.6) have to be established in accordance with the priority list and the value assigned to structures.

5.3.3 ESTABLISH A PHASING PLAN FOR THE DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION OF STRUCTURES. THE PHASING PLAN WILL TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE PHYSICAL STATE OF STRUCTURES, PRIORITIES, APPROACH AND AVAILABLE RESOURCES.

The phasing plan needs to take into account the established priority zones and structures. However, a key issue in that is the physical state of individual structures, their ownership and approaches to conservation and development those would demand. Together, the phasing plan, required approaches and available resources would provide the premises of the Master Plan.

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5.3.4 ESTABLISH SPECIFIC GUIDELINES FOR CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT WITHIN SETTLEMENT GIVING CONSIDERATION TO OWNERSHIP.

Detailed conservation and development guidelines will have to take into account the ownership and nature of occupation of all structures concerned. A few important issues of ownership and occupation may be highlighted here: Mosques (s. masjid, pl. masajid): While the mosques are used for prayer and congregation by the neighbourhood and the community, its day-to-day running is entrusted with the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs. However, physical upkeep of any mosque more than 100 years old falls within the purview of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. All extant traditional mosques are in use and are in an acceptable state of preservation. Meeting halls (s. sablah, pl. sbal) and communal facilities: Male meeting halls are normally owned by a particular tribe. However, in this town there is also another distinctive type: those associated with dwellings as private reception lounges (s. majlis, pl. majalis) and under private ownership but also used by the tribe, of which there were comparatively few in MirbÄ t. While these lie in a state of disuse and dereliction, the socially and historically perceived and actual ownership issues are important considerations in the acquisition of these properties and in the preparation of guidelines and Master Plan. The ownership of other communal facilities, such as roasting pits (tannur), water access and bathing points along the falaj channels, etc., again, needs to be established. Dwellings: the majority of dwellings in MirbÄ t are still standing to roof height, with about one third of them being locked or inhabited. Throughout the remainder of the settlement, however, the majority of dwellings have suffered partial or total collapse due to the rotting of roof supports and the basal erosion of load bearing walls. In some zones (such as C and B), formerly built up spaces have been partially cleared to create open spaces that are publicly accessible. The status of these zones will have to be re-addressed in the course of Phase-II development.

5.3.5 MINISTRY OF HERITAGE AND CULTURE IN CONJUNCTION WITH MINISTRY OF TOURISM AND MINISTRY OF HOUSING TO ESTABLISH POLICY AND STRATEGY FOR THE ACQUISITION OF ALL RELEVANT LAND AND PROPERTIES CURRENTLY UNDER PRIVATE OWNERSHIP. ACQUISITION COULD WORK IN TANDEM WITH A STRATEGY TO INVOLVE THE PRIVATE SECTOR.

Acquisition of important properties is critical to the successful application of the Master Plan and phasing programme. All possible strategies and approaches related to acquisition, including a range of incentive measures, need to be given consideration. While acquisition is important for the early


Principles and Approaches to Heritage MANAGEMENT

phase of the project, it should form part of a broader policy that incorporates the involvement of the private sector, the community and individual residents.

5.3.6 THE CONSERVATION APPROACH SHOULD BE CONSISTENT WITH INTERNATIONAL APPROACHES AND GUIDELINES AND WITH THE PHILOSOPHY OF DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION ESTABLISHED FOR MIRBĀT.

Consistent with international guidelines and definitions for conservation and development within historic contexts, the conservation and development proposal will adopt the following distinction in approaches: Restoration: those structures or components of structures that will need careful attention to return to their original condition and appearance. In Mirbāt this approach will need to be revised as a substantial part of the town has already undergone intervention prior to documentation. Consolidation: physical addition and the application of adhesive or supporting material to retain the architectonic, visual and structural stability of the ensemble. It will also involve the removal of all debris and organic and inorganic waste deposited on site. Usable and significant architectural and constructional components will be salvaged and treated for reuse. Rebuilding: considerable reconstruction based on available documentation and conjecture to give the structure its earlier and more authentic appearance. Redevelopment: new build with an established and restricted context of architectural operation. In Mirbāt this should be directed towards either, i) sites presently lying empty and earmarked for development or, ii) properties in such a state of severe dereliction so as to demand immediate clearance and redevelopment.

5.4 GUIDELINES FOR DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION All guidelines for development and conservation have been developed consistent with the development and conservation philosophy and policies established above. The settlement has not been treated as a mere assemblage of built structures and artefacts, but specific attention has been given to the present state of life and future aspirations of the inhabitants, ownership status of structures and the opportunity for public-private partnership. The guidelines are put forward with a view that the private sector, owner-occupiers and individuals with ownership of properties within the two towns will take an active interest and part in the development and conservation initiative

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to move towards the holistic goal. A set of general guidelines for development and conservation in the town is followed by a set of more specific developmental/design guidelines applicable to specific sites, buildings and structures to be redeveloped or rebuilt. The dwellings are given special attention in the light of their numerical dominance, the opportunities they present, the concerning state of preservation, and their development and conservation potential. It is envisaged that the guidelines will be held under regular review and refinement as the project progresses.

5.4.1 GENERAL GUIDELINES

The following general guidelines will be applicable to all development and conservation measures: • The morphology of the original phase of the features, or the phases deemed to be of most significance, will be safeguarded and/ or highlighted to preserve the identity, integrity and authenticity of the site. • All reasonable attempts will be made to ensure the appropriate, and if possible, authentic reuse for any redundant components and features. It will be ensured that the new or continued inauthentic use of features does not distort or distract from the identified significance of older features or the wider traditional assemblage. • Traditional materials will be used wherever and whenever practicable during construction works within the settlement, whether the aim is to consolidate and/or to rebuild existing traditionally constructed buildings or in the construction of new buildings for domestic or commercial purposes. • Where rebuilding is required to preserve a building or structure of significance, all attempts will be made to clearly distinguish those reconstructed elements which are based on accurate archaeological and architectural documentation and those which are merely founded on conjecture. • Maximum understanding of the architectural features and social values will be achieved prior to any intervention – whether the aim is to consolidate, rebuild or redevelop – and this intervention will always be reserved to the minimum required to achieve those aims. Where analysis dictates that preservation in situ of a traditionally constructed building is unwarranted, then it will be preserved by record. This documentation will be approached as though one was recording an archaeological monument. • All measures will be taken to remove debris, hazardous construction, organic and inorganic waste from site. Adequate measures will be taken to prevent any future disposal of such waste on site and to manage and safely dispose of all household and commercial waste in future.


Principles and Approaches to Heritage MANAGEMENT

All reusable building material and architectural components will be salvaged, catalogued and stored for reuse. • Any development in the area shall be according to the approved Master Plan.

5.4.2 DESIGN GUIDELINES FOR REDEVELOPMENT

The following general Design Guidelines will be adopted for all redevelopment within Mirbāt: • All efforts will be undertaken to ensure that existing vistas are retained and not blocked with any new construction. • Any new development should respect and respond to the topographic conditions. Inappropriate cut and fill of the site shall not be allowed. • All defensive features and traditional open spaces next to defensive features shall be retained. • All existing dead-end alleys and internal courtyards shall be retained and no encroachments will be allowed. • The traditional sinuous building line shall be maintained wherever possible. • No development shall be higher than the property it is attached to or 8 metres whichever is lower. • The height, scale and composition of any new construction should be in conformity with the compositional order and rhythm of the adjoining buildings, unless photographic and other forms of documentation suggest otherwise.

• terracotta or wooden water spouts; • local timber for doors and windows; • traditional water proofing and protective materials.

Modern materials such as steel/aluminium/glass, etc., may be judiciously and appropriately used along with traditional materials in the development of proposed facility buildings. However, such design shall in no way distort the traditional setting, and the identity, integrity and authenticity of the area. For all buildings chosen for restoration, consolidation or rebuilding, care should be taken while positioning the doors and windows. In dwellings facing each other windows should be staggered so that no window opens facing another window. Similar principle may be adopted for the relative positioning of doors to ensure that no doors are directly facing each other, and views in from one dwelling to another is restricted. Traditional arched recess or arched opening employing traditional decorative elements may be adopted in traditional dwellings. Timber doors and windows of appropriate traditional design and construction may be used. Any ventilation and/or air conditioning equipment should not in any way impinge upon the visual integrity of the dwellings. Air-conditioning and ventilation equipment should be suitably obscured.

5.4.3 DESIGN GUIDELINES FOR COMMUNAL FACILITIES. THE GENERAL APPROACH TO ALL EXTANT COMMUNAL BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES OR FOR WHICH SOME

The traditional palette of materials and construction systems will be restricted to those found within Mirbāt, such as the following: • Stone for foundations and walls; • Sand-/limestone for walls; • Lime and clay plaster (clay/sarooj) for external and internal rendering; • Clay/stone flooring; • Timber or coconut palm beams, reed/palm matting, compacted mud or flagstone for composite flooring and roofing;

PHYSICAL EVIDENCE (E.G., FOUNDATION, RUINS, ETC.) EXISTS, WILL BE AS FOLLOWS:

• All extant significant components and elements which have suffered deterioration are to be restored and/ or consolidated. • All significant components and elements which have suffered significant damage or have disappeared but for which documentary evidence exists, are to be rebuilt. • All other components are to be rebuilt using either traditional materials or making clear their conjectural nature through the use of adapted traditional/modern materials/constructional systems, as deemed appropriate. • All communal structures for which some physical evidence exists will be retained and consolidated.

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• All communal buildings and structures are to be reused for communal or touristic purposes with appropriate programmatic strategy for adaptive reuse..

5.4.4 DESIGN GUIDELINES FOR DWELLINGS

The following approach is to be adopted for the various categories of dwellings. Clear guidelines will be established for all dwelling types.

Case A: Guidelines for vacant sites

The conservation measures to be adopted for such buildings shall be determined on the basis of the extent of dereliction. If the building is of low heritage value and of high dereliction, it may be demolished and the land subjected to redevelopment. Otherwise the building may be consolidated or rebuilt.

Traditional construction (vacant and/or derelict). Ministry of Heritage and Culture, in conjunction with Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Housing, should establish policy and strategy for acquisition or ownership of all relevant properties under this category for consolidation and adaptive reuse. Phasing will be taken into account to establish whether the structures are to be demolished, receive façade treatment or have internal restoration and rebuilding.

1. Footprint: The footprint of the building shall follow the existing plot boundary and shall not exceed the area of the existing dwelling.

Traditional construction (owner-occupied)

2. Façade: The façade of the dwelling shall follow the line of the adjacent structure on the main street frontage.

An incentive-based approach has to be adopted to deal with and encourage maintenance and appropriate extension and rebuilding of the small number of traditional properties under continued ownership (owner-occupied/absentee landlord). However, extension or rebuilding should be of traditional construction and guided by the following set of criteria.

3. Internal Spatial Configuration: The internal spatial configuration should be sympathetically retained wherever possible. For buildings subjected to adaptive re-use an indication of the original spatial configuration should be maintained with appropriate architectural treatment.

Traditional construction (rented) An incentive-based approach has to be adopted to deal with and encourage maintenance and appropriate extension and rebuilding of traditional properties under ownership. This approach will have to take into account and offset the discouraging effect of the present poor level of rent.

5.5 ADDITIONAL STUDIES AND ANALYSES The following additional studies will be necessary to complete our understanding of Mirbāt. This is crucial to a holistic approach to addressing development and conservation within the settlement suggested earlier. For this, it is also important to undertake further complementary studies on the broader Dhofari littoral and, ideally, also on the communities of Jabal Qara and the Jabal Samhan.

Case B: Buildings (vacant/derelict) identified to be rebuilt

4. Material of Construction: Modern materials such as steel/aluminium/glass etc. may be judiciously and appropriately used along with traditional materials. However, such design shall in no way disturb the traditional setting and the identity, the integrity and the authenticity of the area. 5. Height: The height of the new building shall not be greater than the height of the original structure and if appropriate consistent with the height of the neighbouring dwellings. 6. Architectural Elements: All individual architectural elements, such as carved doors, surface decoration, decorative motifs – internal and external – need to be carefully noted and restored/ retained.


Principles and Approaches to Heritage MANAGEMENT

Case C: Buildings (vacant/derelict) identified to be consolidated

Case D: Modification/Extension of traditional mud structure

1. Footprint: The footprint of the building shall follow the existing plot boundary and shall not exceed the area of the existing building.

Proposals for the modification or improvement of traditional buildings through extension or enlargement shall be permitted if the plans do not detract from the character of the harฤt and strictly adhere to the following design criteria:

2. Structural Members: Structural elements employed for the consolidation of the building should be judiciously used so as not to impinge upon the visual integrity and authenticity of the building and the area.

1. General: The proposed extension should not lead to net loss of agricultural land nor should it lead to the demolition and/or damage of any adjoining traditional structure.

Traditional construction (owner-occupied)

2. Location: The proposed extension shall be located at the rear or side of the dwelling.

An incentive-based approach has to be adopted to deal with and encourage maintenance and appropriate extension and rebuilding of the small number of traditional properties under continued ownership (owner-occupied/absentee landlord). However, extension or rebuilding should be of traditional construction and guided by the following set of criteria.

3. Height: The proposed extension should not be higher than any of the neighbouring buildings or 8 metres whichever is lower.

Traditional construction (rented)

5. Faรงade Treatment: The position and form of external features and openings within the proposed extension including the faรงade, walls, doorways, windows, floors and roofs shall be of a similar design and finish to the existing structure to limit visual intrusion. Any ventilation and/or air conditioning equipment should not in any way impinge upon the visual integrity of the dwellings.

An incentive-based approach has to be adopted to deal with and encourage maintenance and appropriate extension and rebuilding of traditional properties under ownership. This approach will have to take into account and offset the discouraging effect of the present poor level of rent.

4. Floor Space: For single storey extensions, the additional floor space to be created shall not be more than 50% of the existing ground floor area. However, for two-storey extensions, the floor area shall represent not more than 50% of the net area of the upper and lower floors.

6. Building Permits: In considering building permits for extension to existing dwellings the policies under Case B shall apply.

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Priority Development 111

6 PRIORITY MEASURES

6.1 INTRODUCTION As has already been alluded to at other points in this report, settlements of the type and size of Mirbāt have in many cases been abandoned in Oman. A broad range of social, economic and environmental factors are responsible for this gradual decline in Oman’s rural population and with it come the disappearance of ancient lifestyles and traditions. Complete abandonment is not the case in Mirbāt - indeed the town has grown substantially over the past two decades- but there is an evident internal migration away from the town’s ancient core to the more developed suburban areas. This is due to the understandable preference for living in modern houses with contemporary utilities. This localised migration poses challenges to the conservation of the architectural heritage of Mirbāt and the preservation of certain lifestyles in the community, but the physical proximity of the owners and stakeholders to the site itself also provides opportunities for their direct involvement into the development of Mirbāt.

6.2 CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES While it is clear that the fundamental aspects of the traditional lifestyle (domestic privacy, trade, fisheries, etc.) can and will need to be preserved, a range of contemporary improvements will be necessary to both complement the life of the inhabitants of Mirbāt and enhance the experience of

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visitors. In this sense there are a series of priority improvements which are considered to be essential and which must necessarily come before the whole-sale marketing of Mirbāt as a destination for visitors. Beyond the immediate necessity for clearing and safing the site from further decay and the establishment of developmental buffer zones, this plan includes provisions for priority developments are the provision of modern sustainable utilities, sanitation, improving the transport infrastructure and providing high-speed telecommunications.

6.3 BUFFER ZONES In keeping with international heritage conservation guidelines a series of buffer zones should be established around the heritage quarter of Mirbāt and the town as a whole in order to preserve the general vistas of the site and the landscapes surrounding the town. • The Heritage Zone: this zone forms the core of the settlement’s old quarters and includes all the zones surveyed in this document. Development here is to be kept at a minimum and within strict accordance to the ICOMOS charter on vernacular heritage. • Development Buffer Zone: This is the area of modern development surrounding the old quarter. Much of this area has already been built up over the last decades, it should therefore include height restrictions on new developments as a well as the keeping of certain architectural guidelines in the terms of the materials and forms used in construction. • Natural area: the area of the khawr should be kept free of all development and natural, including a re-naturisation of the wadi bed, and a restricted access of vehicles exclusively for emergency and utilitarian use, i.e. landing ships, loading and unloading, etc. The priority at this early stage is to establish a ‘Heritage Zone’ comprising a single continuous areas which includes the Castle, Souq, Mosque, Khawr, the Old quarter with its buildings and spaces as well as the fisher’s enclosures along the coast. Development within ‘heritage area’ is to be closely monitored by MHC and local authorities and all construction should follow international heritage management guidelines. This area should retain its heritage character by relying on the use of traditional materials, and dimensioning construction according to vernacular proportions and traditions. While new construction is in principle welcomed, this should be carried out in a responsible manner and with a view towards the retention of Mirbāt’s character.


Priority Development 113 113

6.4 CLEARING AND SAFING At this stage the primary concern is to stop the continued decay of the urban heritage, and also to make it as safe as currently possible for visitors and residents to walk among the old houses. already been carried out by locals in clearing away rubbish and piles of collapse, making the old streets and passages between buildings accessible again. • The current condition of old Mirbāt as a semi-inhabited quarter means that modern utilities, such as there are, have been integrated in a haphazard and informal manner. Water conduits, power cables and telephone lines have been laid on the ground or along walls and obstruct the passages and the views of the settlement. In some cases they can also pose a hazard when walking around the settlement during darkness and twilight hours. • Structural defects and ruinous buildings pose a danger to people walking the streets of the settlement. Performing essential maintenance in consolidating foundations and collapsing roofs should be carried out immediately to guarantee both the safety of the people as well as preserving the architecture. In addition to laying utilities underground, providing essential sanitary facilities for both inhabitants and visitors and stabilising buildings in danger of collapsing, it will also be necessary to establish certain guidelines in the treatment of the roof scape of Mirbāt. The authors recommend the implementation for regulations regarding the maximum building height in the immediate vicinity to the old quarter, as well as encouraging the measures that hide/obscure roof-top features such as TV aerial, satellite dishes and water tanks. In bringing Mirbāt’s old town centre closer to the expected standard of living which many Omanis have become accustomed to in recent decades, it will also be necessary to safeguard the heritage of the community. Growing numbers of visitors and possibly also of permanent population will introduce added pressures to the area which will need to be addressed before they become problematic. Prime among these are the following:

6.5 ESSENTIAL MAINTENANCE AND INFRASTRUCTURAL MEASURES SANITATION (WASTE AND SEWAGE) Waste disposal systems and sanitation are some of the most pressing issues for the inhabitants of Mirbāt. In many of the older houses septic tanks are attached to the side of the house - these have


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to emptied and cleared periodically, the stench of which is highly unpleasant. Some of the modern quarters of Mirbāt already have canalisation, so it would be feasible to expand this network into the old quarter of Mirbāt. The same could also be done with water and electricity utilities. Alternatively, where the use of modern canalisation is either not practical or desirable, it is also possible to integrate modern dry toilets and self-regulating septic tanks which use less water and do not generate any unwanted odours.

TRANSPORT AND VEHICULAR ACCESS Vehicular access is one of the main issues for many Omanis who want to be able to leave their vehicles close to their place of residence. The street plan of old Mirbāt is, for the most part, sufficiently generously proportioned to allow for easy one-way transit. Parking space, on the other hand, is a greater issue as the number of cars per family in Oman are already high, and still growing. The master plan (CH8) outlines a number of parking solutions for residents within the old quarter of Mirbāt. It is envisaged that special parking permits for residents will encourage visitors to leave their cars further outside of the residential part of the old quarter and there not encumber the ease of access for the inhabitants and keeping traffic levels manageable. As some of the main sights of Mirbāt will likely be the Castle and the revitalised souq it is expected that this area will also provide the main parking spaces for visitors, along with spaces for buses for tour groups.

6.6 SIGNAGE Signage is a key tool for the management of responsible access to heritage sites. Signage would be a simple and effective method of communication between the Mirbāt residents, the government and other stakeholders, who own and manage the site, and the visitors who access the site and its surroundings for touristic, natural, environmental and heritage experience. Falling into 3 key categories – advisory, directional and interpretive – signage will provide: • the necessary welcome to the site; • codes to uphold residents’ privacy; • encouragement to experience significant qualities of the site through its interpretation;


Priority Development 115 115

• establish vital guidance to safe experiencing of the site and its attractions. Advisory signage will provide general information regarding what to expect, destinations and attractions, facilities and support, general guidance on responsible access, behaviour and experiencing, and how to access more focused information. To make people make their own judgement and choice, typically such signage will take the form of popular and accessible Arabic and English text, and simple diagrammatic maps, illustrations and universal signage to convey the information. Such signage will help visitors with general information and guidance regarding safe use of the site, and to be aware of hazards within the specific natural and heritage circumstances of Mirbāt. Tourist-related facilities will be appropriately highlighted, providing a sense of their networked nature across the site. As Mirbāt is an inhabited site, the importance of providing general guidance towards responsible behaviour within an Islamic context needs to be highlighted here. Directional signage will identify defined routes and trails, and support visitors to and along the routes. However, it will also identify routes and areas which are beyond public access, either for the privacy of local residents or for ensuring visitor safety. Given the fluid nature of settlement use by its residents over the annual and diurnal cycle and the state of preservation of the heritage fabric, such directional signage would require reviewing on a regular basis. Providing direction to tourist facilities – rest rooms, sitting areas, refectories, etc., and waymarking – will be part of the directional signage, as will be any definite restrictions regarding barring of access/passage due to considerations of visitor safety and hazardous conditions, as well as to ensure the privacy of the local residents. The latter forms a key consideration of the signage rationale and has been highlighted by the local residents as a critical issue for consideration. Consideration of areas where strict privacy would need to be observed is integral to the master plan development. Accordingly, the master plan has sought to consolidate areas of private dwellings, ensuring that privacy could be observed with effective and minimal signposting. Interpretative signage will provide information regarding the significance of the site and its touristic, urban, landscape, architectural and intangible qualities. This set of signage will provide information regarding the history and social character of the site (e.g., development of Mirbāt over time, its social makeup, the diverse economic communities that constitute it), specific events and rituals, and architectural and urban characteristics that make the site unique (e.g., specific dwellings and their history and character, expression of the Standard Hazard Warning Signage Unobtrusive waymarking carved into stone social structure in architecture, urban components of the economy and livelihood, etc.).

The intention of signage is to make the system as unobtrusive as possible. Waymarking could be simplified in the form of painting coloured marks on rocks and walls, or etching them into the hard surface, methods previously used in Mirbāt and other locations with success. Quick Response (QR) smart codes printed on the signage could make use of additional information, accessible via smartphones. Smartphone technology could be used to provide an augmented experience of the site to visitors, especially those with limited mobility and other impairments.


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Precedent Studies 117

7

10. providing shelters

PRECEDENT STUDIES

14. reusing buildings.

The following pages contain examples of precedents of contemporary urban and architectural interventions worldwide, within but not limited to historic contexts, which are used to illustrate various possible actions and solutions for the Master Plan. Fourteen design actions have been identified for implementation, within the Master Plan framework, across the 7 main settlement components earmarked for intervention: parking spaces, streets and pathways, neighbourhood spaces, khawr, waterfront, urban and built fabric, souq. The aim is to address a range of recurring as well as distinctive issues in Mirbāt through actions which underlie landscape, urban and architectural design. These actions appear on the sheets in the following numerical order: 01. paving 02. lighting 03. shading 04. softscaping 05. hardscaping 06. managing stormwater 07. furnishing the urban space 08. signposting 09. connecting edges

11. providing recreational spaces 12. providing scenic outlooks 13. reusing materials

A set of 14 sheets - two per settlement component - present, by means of photographs and brief textual descriptions in boxes, a range of possible solutions and, in some cases, options, for the implementation of the various actions, individually and in some instances holistically. A total of 20 design precedents has been looked into and instrumentally employed in the present study to suggest a varied range of sustainable solutions, sometimes integrated, thus addressing multiple issues. Although solutions have been described in detail, the value of precedents is to be understood in a suggestive sense and in no way stringent, as a number of options other than those presented here could be equally adopted to achieve the same results. As precedents have not been described but, rather, selectively used to illustrate solutions a list of project credits has been included at the end of the chapter for reference. Imagery used in the sheets has been sourced from the related architectural offices’ websites as well as the following publications: Fernández Per, A., Arpa J. 2010. Strategy Public. Landscape Urbanism Strategies, 2010, a+t 35-36, ISSN 1132-6409, ISBN 978-84-614-2148-0 Fernández Per, A., Arpa J. 2008. The Public Chance. New Urban Landscapes. In Common Series, a+t Architecture Publishers, ISBN 978-84-612-4488-1

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#01

ACTION

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paving

Aim Reduce soil sealing and the resulting urban island effect

PARKING SPACES

#01

ACTION

P1 | Grand Stade du Havre

Solution Combine a set of variously porous artificial materials, such as stone, asphalt and concrete, to use in parking stalls and driving lanes, with vegetation consisting in grass, shrubs and flowers to plant along footpaths, sideways, crossings and around sitting areas.

paving

Aim Reduce soil sealing and the resulting urban island effect

#13

managing stormwater

ACTION

#06

#02

P1 | Grand Stade du Havre

lighting

P1 | Grand Stade du Havre

ACTION

P2 | NSE Kitakyushu Technology Center

Solution Differentiate in an aesthetically pleasing and contemporary looking way areas for the movement and parking of vehicles from areas conceived for sole pedestrian use, so as to avoid overlapping flows between different categories of users.

ACTION

118

reusing materials

Aim Improve safety, reduce light pollution and energy consumption

Aim Capture water runoff, filter pollutants and increase rainwater infiltration

Aim Salvage stone rubble from collapsed structures and reuse it creatively

Solution Choose energy efficient LED downlight luminaires from a range of suitable options including suspended spotlights, lamp posts or bollard lights depending on extent and nature of areas to illuminate, as well as the design concept for the whole parking space.

Solution Create an artificial waterharvesting ditch along driving lanes, made of a combination of plants and rocks, with the aim of slowing down and capturing runoff, spreading it horizontally across the parking lot, and facilitating its infiltration into the soil.

Solution Crush stone blocks and debris from collapsed structures into coarse pieces of various sizes and fill with them metal gabions as a hardscaping and banking solution around the visitor car park or as drainage within artificial ditches.


#06

ACTION

Precedent Studies 119

managing stormwater

Aim Capture water runoff and channel it towards a central drainage network

PARKING SPACES

Solution Introduce metal grated surface water drains to drain excess rain and ground water from the impervious surfaces of the car parks and channel it into a municipal, centralised wastewater system.

#10

ACTION

P2 | NSE Kitakyushu Technology Center

providing shelters

Aim Allow people to rest, sit and interact in the shade Solution Scatter lightweight prefabricated structures, equipped with benches and drinking water fountains, across the community car parking spaces, where people can linger under the shade.

P3 | Las Llamas Park

P4 | Marsupial Bridge

#03

providing shelters

ACTION

#10

ACTION

P2 | NSE Kitakyushu Technology Center

shading

Aim Allow people to rest, sit and interact in the shade

Aim Allow people to rest, sit and interact in the shade

Solution Locate lightweight prefabricated structures, equipped with benches, drinking water fountains and display boards, where visitors can gather before setting on tours, rest and sit in the in the shade as well as gain information about the village, its history and attractions.

Solution Plant native lowmaintenance trees and shrubs, such as like Ghaf, Acacia, Sea Grape, and Tamarind, in the green areas in order to provide shade, maximise evapotranspiration thus reducing diurnal and nocturnal temperatures and contrast the urban island effect.

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STREETS & PATHWAYS

#13

reusing materials

P11 | Queens Plaza

ACTION

#13

hardscaping

ACTION

#05

lighting

P6 | Adlershof Park

ACTION

#02

#01

paving

ACTION

P5 | Plaรงa Sant Eudald

ACTION

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reusing materials

Aim Introduce pavements to encourage pedestrian movement

Aim Improve safety, reduce light pollution and energy consumption

Aim Mark the transition between areas with different surface materials

Aim Salvage stone rubble from collapsed structures and reuse it creatively

Aim Salvage stone rubble from collapsed structures and reuse it creatively

Solution Alternate local materials such as sandstone and limestone with concrete and gravel to pave sideways, thus limiting the formation of airborne respirable dust.

Solution Choose between energy efficient LED lamp posts, spotlights or lighting/ seating integrated systems depending on location and nature of paths to illuminate.

Solution Use metal gabions as a hardscaping solution to define edges and mark the transition between areas of a different nature. Gabions can take on various configurations and uses, including but not limited to kerbs, low walls and seats.

Solution Crush stone blocks and debris from collapsed structures into coarse pieces of various sizes with which to fill metal gabions placed along streets and pathways for hardscaping purposing.

Solution Reclaim stone blocks of various shapes and sizes and use them as paving in traffic islands, banks and flower beds or for landscaping purposes such as earth modelling and retention.


#06

ACTION

Precedent Studies 121

managing stormwater

Aim Capture water runoff, filter pollutants and increase rainwater infiltration

STREETS & PATHWAYS

#06

ACTION

P7 | 21 ST Street

Solution Create a “bioswale� between streets and land plots, with native bushes and a bed of gravel and rocks where stormwater can drain.

managing stormwater

Aim Capture water runoff and channel it towards a central drainage network

#07

ACTION

P7 | 21 ST Street

Solution Integrate hollow, inspectionable elements into the pavements so as to allow water runoff to flow through into a wastewater mains.

furnishing the urban space

Aim Equip sidewalks and footpaths with integrated street furniture

P10 | Tudela/Culip Restoration Project

#07

signposting

P9 | Vila do Conde Seafront

ACTION

#08

ACTION

P8 | Centenario Park

Solution Place, strategically along pedestrian routes, bespoke designed systems that frame panoramic views and provide shaded seating.

furnishing the urban space

Aim Locate signposts with relevant information to ensure easy orientation

Aim Equip sidewalks and footpaths with integrated street furniture

Solution Locate, along and at the crossroads of tourist trails, bespoke designed signposts including signage as well as maps.

Solution Place, at key points along pedestrian routes, bespoke designed benches that incorporate energy efficient outdoor lighting appliances.

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paving

shading

Aim Introduce paved areas to encourage community interaction

Aim Install canopies to create shaded areas between dwellings

Solution Combine a variety of materials including sandstone, limestone, concrete, timber and gravel in open spaces amid dwelling clusters, in order to define specific areas for different uses and users.

Solution Hang traditionally patterned fabric awnings to bespoke designed posts, in order to cast shade on the dwellings’ walls and the open areas in-between, and remove them, if necessary, during the rainy season or for maintenance purposes.

#02

ACTION

P12 | Companhia das Culturas

lighting

Aim Improve safety, reduce light pollution and energy consumption Solution Choose energy efficient, smart lighting appliances which automatically switch on at dusk and are self-dimming, in order to create ideal lighting conditions based on effective use and circumstances.

#07

ACTION

P11 | Queens Plaza

#03

#01

NÎ?EIGHBOURHOOD SPACES

ACTION

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

ACTION

122

furnishing the urban space

Aim Increase liveability and promote day and night use of communal spaces

P4 | Marsupial Bridge

Solution Employ bespoke designed lighting/ seating integrated systems which enhance the informal and versatile nature of neighbourhood spaces, by providing a framework for ever changing activities.


#07

ACTION

Precedent Studies 123

furnishing the urban space

Aim Increase liveability and sustain social and cultural practices

NΝEIGHBOURHOOD SPACES

#11

ACTION

P11 | Queens Plaza

Solution Equip the communal spaces with amenities like benches, tables, fountains which are accessible to various categories of users and allow traditional as well as more modern social practices to take place.

providing recreational spaces

Aim Equip outdoor spaces for children’s play and adults’ leisure

reusing materials

P4 | Marsupial Bridge

#06

managing stormwater

P14 | Bottière Chênaie Eco-district

ACTION

Solution Manipulate and rework locally available waste materials, such as car tyres, houses’ old timber doors and window shutters, wood and plastic crates and shelving units from shops, into outdoor playground equipment, such as swings of various sizes and types and for different ages, as well as urban furniture elements. Crush stone blocks and debris from collapsed structures into fine pieces and use them as paving gravel.

P13 | Requalification de la place de l’Hôtel de Ville

#06

Aim Salvage waste materials from houses and shops and reuse it creatively

ACTION

#13

ACTION

P4 | Marsupial Bridge

Solution Earmark suitable areas in neighbourhood open spaces for children’s outdoor play, and infrastructure others for adults to comfortably sit while supervising them or spending leisure time.

managing stormwater

Aim Capture water runoff and channel it towards a central drainage network

Aim Capture water runoff, filter pollutants and increase rainwater infiltration

Solution Integrate perforated paving elements for rainwater to percolate through, and model slopes so as to discharge the runoff.

Solution Create a “bioswale” between buildings and paved areas, with native grass and a bed of gravel and rocks where stormwater can drain.

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#04

ACTION

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

softscaping

Aim Restore natural water flow and drainage patterns

KHAWR

Solution Restore the khawr topography by remodelling its edges. Reestablish the original natural sediment flows, exchanges between land and sea and associated drainage systems, by removing the roads that run through the inlet.

P10 | Tudela/Culip Restoration Project

#02

#04

P6 | Adlershof Park

softscaping

ACTION

P4 | Marsupial Bridge

ACTION

124

lighting

Aim Restore ecosystem dynamics and natural vegetation

Aim Improve safety, reduce light pollution and energy consumption

Solution Remove any invasive flora species and plant the edges of the khawr with native grasses and bushes. Employ, if necessary, soil bioengineering techniques, such as use of natural fibre geotextiles, to control soil erosions along newly reconstituted slopes.

Solution Opt for energy efficient LED spotlights, integrated into the new route through the khawr, in order to illuminate it evenly but discretely, so as not to impact any nocturnal fauna that might live nearby.


#09

ACTION

Precedent Studies 125

connecting edges

Aim Connect the banks of the khawr through pedestrian routes

KHAWR

Solution Build footbridges between the khawr’s remodelled edges, at points where the khawr bed is deeper, to provide a fast pedestrian connection bewteen the souq and castle area with zone F, and the visitor car park with zone G.

#09

ACTION

P8 | Centenario Park

connecting edges

Aim Connect the banks of the khawr through pedestrian routes Solution Conceive the footbridge as a lightweight, prefabricated post-andbeam structure with a deck-type paving, protected by a highly permeable balustrade so as not to obstruct the view down towards the seashore.

#09

#09

ACTION P15 | PrĂŠs de Lyon Park

connecting edges

ACTION

P8 |Centenario Park

P8 | Centenario Park

connecting edges

Aim Connect the banks of the khawr through pedestrian routes

Aim Connect the banks of the khawr through pedestrian routes

Solution Choose a material for the deck of the footbridge - be it timber slats, a metal grid or perforated panels - so as to ensure the visibility of the ground underneath and the easy removal of dirt which will be carried by people walking on it, as well as the drainage of rainwater.

Solution Unfold the footbridges across the khawr bed so as to point at key features on both banks and enhance select vistas of restored and adaptively reused built structures as well as natural landmarks.

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#01

ACTION

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

paving

Aim Improve soil permeability and increased pedestrian movement

WATERFRONT

Solution Diversify paving in areas close to the beach, choosing from a range of porous materials such as gravel, compacted earth and timber decking, with which to replace tarmacked roads that are to be demolished.

#01

ACTION

P16 | Keast Park/Carrum Bowling Club

paving

Aim Improve soil permeability and increased pedestrian movement

#06

paving

ACTION

#01

#12

P3 | Las Llamas Park

providing scenic outlooks

P9 | Vila do Conde Seafront

ACTION

P17 | Sea Park

Solution Extend waterfront footpaths onto the beach, thus easing pedestrian movement along the seashore. Prefer timber decking systems that allow sand to go through, that is made of sufficiently spaced out timber slats, and opt for texture designs that finely peter out.

ACTION

126

managing stormwater

Aim Allow for close-up views of the sea and phisical connection to it

Aim Improve soil permeability and increased pedestrian movement

Aim Capture water runoff and channel it towards a central drainage network

Solution Deconstruct and hollow out the restaurant volume to obtain viewing platforms. Incorporate steps into the platform and a solid pathway around it to allow people to walk down to the shore and stroll by the water.

Solution Use porous local stone, if necessary in association with concrete, when required for hardscaping or paving purposes along waterfront vehicular routes. Lay it in such patterns that allow for amassed sand and dirt to be easily sweeped, that is adopting fine and shallow joints.

Solution Provide for paved drainage channels to the side of pedestrian pathways, and incorporate inspectionable metal grills into them for the channelling iof stormwater into the as to allow water runoff to flow through into a wastewater mains.


#12

ACTION

Precedent Studies 127

providing scenic outlooks

Aim Afford close-up views of the sea and phisical connection to it

WATERFRONT

Solution Deconstruct and hollow out the restaurant volume to obtain roofed dining platforms. Equip these with tables, chairs and cooking islands so that dining, receptions and ceremonies can take place al fresco, yet protected by the sun.

#07

ACTION

P8 | Centenario Park

furnishing the urban space

Aim Afford close-up views of the sea and phisical connection to it

P9 | Vila do Conde Seafront

#02

furnishing the urban space

ACTION

#07

hardscaping

P17 | Sea Park

ACTION

#05

ACTION

P8 | Centenario Park

Solution Place benches along the waterfront at key panoramic locations where it narrows towards the sea, and close to the areas where fishermen mend the nets and unload the fish. Benches can be built out of salvaged waste materials such as timber planks from old doors.

lighting

Aim Mark the transition between areas with different surface materials

Aim Afford close-up views of the sea and phisical connection to it

Aim Improve safety, reduce light pollution and energy consumption

Solution Use hard materials such as stone and concrete to retain terrain drops where needed and, generally, as a hardscaping solution to define the edges of and mark the transition between areas with different uses and features.

Solution Place benches, with or without backrests, along the beach at points where the timber decks meet each other and widen to form leisure spots. Benches - be they fixed or foldable - can be integrated into the deck system, that is built out of timber slats in order to let sand go through.

Solution Locate, next to each bench, smart outdoor lighting appliances which automatically switch on at dusk and are self-dimming, in order to create ideal lighting conditions based on effective use and circumstances.

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reusing buildings

Aim Revitalize the settlement by reactivating structures as tourist accommodation

URBAN & BUILT FABRIC

Solution Implement the ‘albergo diffuso’ (‘scattered hotel’) sustainable concept of hospitality as a means of reviving the settlement through tourism, allowing travellers to immerse themselves in a reborn village life, sharing spaces and amenities, thus rendering the settlement welcoming and vibrant.

P18 | Sextantio Albergo Diffuso

#14

128

reusing buildings

Aim Revitalize the settlement by reactivating structures as tourist accommodation Solution Locate the reception in a centrally positioned building, from where one manager runs and oversees operations and guests can report to. If space permits, complement the reception with a café and a local crafts shop.

P18 | Sextantio Albergo Diffuso


#14

ACTION

Precedent Studies 129 129

reusing buildings

Aim Revitalize the settlement by reactivating structures as tourist accommodation

URBAN & BUILT FABRIC

Solution Locate kitchen and dining areas in one of the central buildings, where guests can enjoy traditional Omani meals. Alternatively, source catering from a local cafĂŠ, to be opened in one of the renovated structures.

#14

ACTION

P19 | Sextantio Albergo Diffuso Matera

reusing buildings

Aim Revitalize the settlement by reactivating structures as tourist accommodation Solution Create hotel rooms of different categories and sizes, sensitively renovated in the local style, in different buildings scattered throughout the settlement.

#14

#14

ACTION P18 | Sextantio Albergo Diffuso

reusing buildings

ACTION

P5 | Plaça Sant Eudald

P19 | Sextantio Albergo Diffuso Matera

reusing buildings

Aim Revitalize the settlement by reactivating structures as tourist accommodation

Aim Retain the memory of collapsed structures and adaptively reuse them

Solution Adapt the rooms to the new programme by equipping them with the required infrastructure, and insert the required modern amenities - be they sanitary ware, furniture or partition walls and doors - in a discrete yet starkingly contrasting style.

Solution Recreate on the ground, through paving designs, the outline, if known, of collapsed structures and turn the resulting void into a public open space. Reuse any stone debris from the collapse and integrate it into the new paving or use it creatively to complement it.


#03

ACTION

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

shading

Aim Install canopies to create shaded areas along the souq streets

SOUQ

Solution Hang colourful fabrics, tensioned between facing shops through cables, in order to cast shade on the shops’ walls as well as the street, and remove them, if necessary, during the rainy season or for maintenance purposes.

P20 | Public Space Shading Canopy

#03

P20 | Public Space Shading Canopy

ACTION

130

shading

Aim Install canopies to create shaded areas along the souq streets Solution Hang colourful and/or traditionally patterned fabric awnings to bespoke designed posts to be located in the open enclosures of the souq, in order to create shaded areas. Here temporary outdoor sales can take place, and eateries be located so that people can sit and be served at the table. Remove the fabrics if necessary, during the rainy season or for maintenance purposes.

P12 | Companhia das Culturas


Precedent Studies 131

Project References P1

¦ Grand Stade du Havre, Le Havre (France), 2012, Richez Associés

P2 ¦ NSE Kitakyushu Technology Center, Kita Kyushu (Japan), 2011, PLATdesign P3 ¦ Las Llamas Park, Santander (Spain), 2007, Batlle I Roig Arquitectes P4 ¦ Marsupial Bridge, Milwaukee (USA), 2006, La Dallman Architects P5 ¦ Plaça Sant Eudald, Ripoll (Spain), 2009, Comas-Pont Arquitectes P6 ¦ Adlershof Park, Berlin (Germany), 2004, Bruno Kiefer, Gabriele Kiefer P7

¦ 21 ST Street, Paso Robles (California, USA), 2011, SvR

P8 ¦ Centenario Park, Algeciras (Spain), 2007, Cobos, Caffarena, G. Alcaraz, G. Delgado P9 ¦ Vila do Conde Seafront, Vila do Conde (Portugal), 2005, Álvaro Siza P10 ¦ Tudela/Culip Restoration Project, Natural Parc Cap De Creus (Spain), 2010, Marti Franch P11 ¦ Queens Plaza, New York (USA), 2012, Margie Ruddick Landscaping, WrT, Marpillero Pollak Architects P12 ¦ Companhia das Culturas, São Bartolomeu (Portugal), 2007, Ressano Garcia Arquitectos P13 ¦ Requalification de la place de l’Hôtel de Ville, Gondrecourt le Château (France), 2011, Atelier Villes & Paysages P14 ¦ Bottière Chênaie Eco-district, Nantes (France), 2015, Atelier des Paysages Bruel-Delmar P15 ¦ Prés de Lyon Park, Troyes (France), 2006, BASE PAYSAGISTES P16 ¦ Keast Park/Carrum Bowling Club, Frankston (Victoria, USA), 2012, Site Office Landscape Architects P17 ¦ Sea Park, Saulkrasti (Latvia), 2014, SUBSTANCE P18 ¦ Sextantio Albergo Diffuso, Santo Stefano di Sessanio (Italy), 2005, Oriano Associati Architetti P19 ¦ Sextantio Albergo Diffuso, Grotte della Civita, Matera (Italy), 2009, Oriano Associati Architetti P20 ¦ Public Space Shading Canopy, Favelo do Pilar, Recife (Brazil), 2006, Asif Khan, Omid Kamvari, Pavlos Sideris

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Master Plan 133133

8 MASTER PLAN

This chapter outlines some of the principal measures suggested in order to retain the heritage and cultural value of the town of Mirbāt, and make it accessible to a wider range of stakeholders. These include local residents, business owners, low wage workers as well as outside visitors and tourists. Part of this can be accomplished by tying Mirbāt into a wider heritage management strategy for the entire Dhofar Governorate through the creation of a regional development plan. The principal corner points of such a plan are presented here, in conjunction with a detailed Master Plan for Mirbāt proper. This Master Plan places a significant emphasis on providing urban housing for locals and bolstering the local economy with additional provisions for SMEs and sights for visitors.

8.1 INTRODUCTION In the more rural areas of Oman it will be necessary to address the factors of abandonment in a wholesale manner, preferably through a policy approach that encourages local investment to generate jobs and thus retain the young working population within the communities. These factors must therefore be the first step in guaranteeing a successful and sustainable future for the settlement, and it is expected that the team’s model developed for other sites such as Misfāt al-Abryin (MoT 2015) is to be broadly applicable to many of the hundreds of similar settlements throughout the Sultanate and the broader GCC region. The case of Mirbāt, however, is largely an infrastructural issue, with many locals deciding to stay in the general vicinity of the town, but choosing instead to live in modern houses with utilities and facilities rather than the often cramped and less comfortable houses of their forebears. A further difference from the situation in northern Oman, and particularly in the interior of the country, are


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the architectural distinctions between both regions. While the vernacular architecture of Oman’s north tends to consists almost exclusively of mud brick, that of the Dhofari littoral is kept mostly in stone masonry of various types and techniques. Stone is a more durable building material and also one much more readily adapted to modern architectural techniques. Additionally, the proportions of most of Mirbāt’s old houses are comparatively generous, with high ceilings and large windows, again making them more easily adaptable to modern living standards. Re-use of materials from collapsed structures is also much easier, thus making construction work cheaper and less time consuming. This chapter will address the issue of heritage management in Mirbāt from both a regional and urban perspective. The aim is to create a wider approach to heritage management which benefits not only the owners of the houses within a given settlement but the broader community. Regionally, the aim is to build an overarching preservation and development strategy whereby other communities in the area (especially Taqah, Wādi Dharbat, Sumharam, al-Sadh & Salalah) can complement one another.

8.2 REGIONAL MASTER PLAN The focus on economic as well as ecological sustainability proposed by prior heritage management plans dictates that the conservation of the heritage sites must, to a relevant degree, be able to fund itself rather than continuously depend on public funds. This document proposes not to treat individual sites of heritage interest in isolation, but instead, to create a regional strategy whereby the heritage management programs implemented at any given location complement one another. In particular visitors and tourists should be given a wider range of experiences so as to encourage them to visit a variety of sites rather than a single exemplary one. The following sites are the cores locations of heritage and tourism interest in the region and should as such be integrated into the regional strategy. It is recommended that, as infrastructure improves and visitor numbers rise, this plan should be expanded to included other communities and sites in order to broaden its impact:

SALALAH As the capital of dhofar and itself the location of important and famous archaeological Salalah is probably already one of the most important destinations for visitors in the region. Beyond the ancient emporium of al-Balid and its archaeological museum, which is already a well-established location for the local tourism periplus.


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More recently Oman;s Ministry of Heritage and Culture has embarked on the touristic exploitation of the ancient settlement quarter of al-Haffa. While this project is not yet completed, it will likely result in the influx of important numbers of visitors which should also be encouraged to travel further afield within Dhofar. This would result in greater economic activity outside of Salalah and this benefiting a larger number of people.

SUMHARAM (KHAWR RORI) The ancient site of Sumharam, located around 27km from Mirbāt on the seasonal estuary of the Wādi Darbat, is one of the most famous archaeological sites of Dhofar and Oman as a whole. Dating to the 1st century BCE and active until around the 5th century, it is one of the prime exponents of the region’s ancient frankincense trade and antique urbanism. The settlement of Sumharam was a heavily fortified urban core with off-set walls, albarrana-style towers and a principal gate house, as well as a number of smaller postern gates. Urbanistically it contained storehouses, temples, dwellings, and potentially also the palace of a ruler, and is surprisingly distinct from modern dhofari towns in its tight-nit cohesiveness. This suggest either the possibility of a single tribal grouping inhabiting the town, or a less tribally organised society in general.

WĀDI DARBAT This is one of the most famous and largest wādis in southern Oman, well known and much visited for its lakes and verdant flanks. The forests of the Jebel Qara attract many visitors, in particular from the GCC countries and during the khareef (Monsoon) season.

TAQAH The town of Taqah was in the past a small town and trading post with a fort, customs house and palm grove. More recently a series of large resort development along the coast have brought in large numbers of tourists, as well as expatriate labourers. Here again it is recommended that the encouragement of the visiting community to travel beyond the confines of the resorts.


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Master Plan 137137


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AL-SADH The small coastal town of al-Sadh is located within a narrow wādi further east from Mirbāt. While this small community is difficult to reach due to its remote location, the grand architecture there could also attract visitors in a manner similar to that of Mirbāt.

8.3 NOTES ON A TOURISM STRATEGY FOR DHOFAR As of late 2015 a new national tourism development plan was implement by the Sultanate’s Ministry of Tourism. The plan’s parameters envisage long-term and sustainable growth in terms of the sector’s contribution to GDP. Under Oman’s current national development plan, Vision 2020, a major effort is being made to diversify the economy away from a dependency on oil and gas, a requirement which has received added urgency with the low fossil fuel prices of 2016. Tourism is seen as an important element of this strategy, encouraging economic growth across the country, expanding the services sector and building up the private sector. The long-term successor to this plan, Vision 2040, is currently in the process of being finalised and is likely to continue to recognise tourism’s importance to the economy. A major season for visitors to the south of Oman is the khareef, which extends from the end of July to the beginning of September, when the Indian Ocean monsoon visits the shores of Dhofar, temporarily turning the coastal plain of the governorate green and providing a welcome respite from soaring temperatures elsewhere in the Gulf. While also attracting visitors from other GCC and Arab countries, this season is particularly popular with Omani visitors. Indeed, NCSI figures recorded that between June 21 and August 31, 2015, 502,089 people visited Dhofar for khareef, an increase on 417,019 at the same point in 2014. Of these, 371,931 were from Oman, constituting 72% of the total visitors, an increase of 17.3% on the same period of the previous year (Oxford Business Group, 2015). Indeed, according to data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the direct contribution to GDP by the tourism sector in Oman was OR765.1m ($2bn), or 2.6%, in 2014. However, when indirect contributions are taken into account, the figure rises to OR1.70bn ($4.4bn), or 5.7% of GDP. Both these figures have shown steady year-on-year growth since the start of the decade, and the WTTC predicts that direct contributions will continue to grow by around 6.1% per annum through to 2025, while indirect contributions will grow some 6.2% per annum. By 2025, this would give the sector a direct GDP contribution of 3.3% of GDP and an indirect contribution of 7.3% (WTTC 2015).


Master Plan 139139

Nonetheless, WTTC figures also show that Omani tourism, while growing fast, is still below the regional and international average in terms of economic contribution, standing at 81st in the world in terms of the size of tourism’s contribution, and seventh of the 10 Middle Eastern countries featured in the survey. Job provision is a major incentive behind the development of a new strategy for tourism. Oman has a young population (20% are under the age of 25), and there is a growing need to create jobs. Tourism has been identified as a sector that could be a source of significant employment. The WTTC estimates that in 2014, 44,500 jobs were directly generated by the sector – 2.8% of total employment. Again, when indirect employment estimates are factored in, the number swells to 90,500, or 5.7% of total employment. The WTTC forecasts that by 2025, tourism will account for 72,000 jobs directly and 143,000 jobs indirectly – an annual increase of some 3.8% on both counts (WTTC 2015). While it is acknowledged that keeping tourism at the ‘high end’, with marketing aimed at visitors who are interested in engaging with the local culture, nature and history is, in principle, a positive approach, it should also be noted that an emphasis on luxury tourism is extremely resource intensive, and therefore not always sustainable in the long term. We therefore recommend diversifying the tourism portfolio towards a more ‘soft’ tourism, geared more towards outdoor activities that can also include more remote communities in the Dhofari hinterland and provide job opportunities for young Omanis away from the major centres of population. The Issue of Omanisation and the provision of providing job opportunities for Omani nationals is one of the main concerns in attempting to diversify the Sultanate’s economy and the strengthening of SMEs and middle class businesses is certain to be of great benefit to Mirbāt as well as other communities in the region.

8.4 MIRBĀT MASTER PLAN The principal concern of this heritage master plan is the conservation of the heritage in an economically and ecologically sustainable manner. The authors are therefore opposed to the construction of large-scale luxury development within or in the immediate vicinity of Mirbāt as these do not tend to favour the majority of the community. While it is acknowledged that these development have the potential to provide jobs, these jobs tend to be low-wage and are often given to expatriates, thus not contributing substantially to the aims stated above. Within the establishment of a Mirbāt Heritage Buffer Zone should be comprised the following


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three areas: • The castle, with the souq and Friday Mosque (Mirbāt Visitor Centre?) • The khawr, together with both banks and the beach and • Old Mirbāt, including the vistas from beyond the khawr and from the sea side

MIRBĀT VISITOR AREA With the intention of keeping visitors from entering into Old Mirbāt with their cars or with larger vehicles, it will be necessary to provide sufficient parking area within a comfortable walking distance from the centre without obstruction either the view or the lives of the local community. In this sense it is proposed to establish a large shaded and landscaped parking area in the space adjacent to the Mirbāt Castle Museum, which is currently the town’s main tourist destination and provides excellent views of Old Mirbāt from across the khawr. The parking area should be enclosed by a landscaped earth rampart just below head-height in order to break up the views and create a more varied perspective as well as hiding the site of the car park from the exterior. This car park can be made available to locals free of charge, with proceeds from outside visitors contributing to local funds. The open area immediately to the east of the castle with the stage already built at this location provides an interesting space for public functions such as plays, concerts or an open-air cinema and other events with the castle itself providing an excellent backdrop. We also propose the demolition of the large abandoned apartment building (J8) currently obstructing the view of the site and breaking up the original skyline. The space left in its stead would be integrated in the functioning of the souq, providing additional pedestrian space and an area for business. In order to activate the visitor area the authors propose the redevelopment of the souq and the creation of a pedestrian area surrounding the Mosque. This area, complemented with eateries and coffee houses have the potential of becoming part of a new urban focal point. Additionally, the souq could provide employment opportunities for locals, while the rental of souq stalls and shops could provide an additional source of revenue to local stakeholders. It is also expected that the souq, beyond supplying the desires of visitors, should be geared towards the community of Mirbāt and the broader hinterland. With this in mind, the experience should reflect an authentic approach to heritage.


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The two houses adjoining the mosque should be restored and be given public functions, possibly as a museal space complementing that of the Castle and a commercial establishment. The building formerly used as the customs house (J3) has a privileged location of the shore adjacent to the castle. Though currently lying derelict and empty, the location and the attractive sea-side façade make it an ideal site for the creation of a coffee place with a shaded terrace.

THE KHAWR The open land between the visitor area and Old Mirbāt forms a dry river bed and a seasonal estuary for storm waters coming from the mountains in the interior. It is very important not to allow any construction to take place within this wādi environment for a number of reasons: firstly the safety concern of people and property being severely damaged by storm floods, as has happened in Oman on a number of occasions in the recent past. Secondly, construction within the wādi can have the unpredictable effect of re-routing the flows, leading to further destruction in previously safe areas. It is therefore advised to completely re-naturalise the wādi and khawr in the areas outlined in accompanying plans. This should include the burying of electricity and telephone lines as well as other necessary utilities. The khawr, consisting mainly of the beach and the seasonal inlet and its occasional shallow waters, have traditionally been very active spaces, being used by the community to mend the boats, nets and fish-traps, drying fish as well as being as a space used today for promenading during the cooler times of the day. It is proposed to retain the open and natural character of this space, slightly defining the edges on both banks through a sensitive landscaped intervention but retaining their semi-permeable character. The area should be used primarily by pedestrians, though it is understood that limited vehicular access will continue to be necessary to meet the needs of the fishing community. Vehicular access to old Mirbāt from this location should be limited, with the main access to the old quarter occurring from the main road via the east.

MIRBĀT OLD QUARTER Mirbāt’s heritage core, comprising the principal residential area around the cape and higher lying areas, consists of around 60 residential units, some of great architectural value and historic relevance.


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The economic and social changes of the last 4 decades have lead to the gradual abandonment and decay of these houses, which are currently suffering from disrepair and collapse. Many of these old houses were never formally provided with modern utilities and are currently considered to be substandard for habitation, further accelerating their decay. MHC appears to have begun clearing and perhaps restoring some of the buildings in Mirbāt. G10 was recently cleared, but no information was provided to the team as to whether there is a program or plan for its future. It should be stated, however, that in terms of size and proportions, many of the grand old houses of Mirbāt fit contemporary housing standards. It is therefore expected that with investment into modernising and the provision of utilities most, if not all, of Mirbāt’s old quarter can be re-vitalised and inhabited by the local community. The openness and ease-of-access of the old quarter, provided with comparatively wide roads and passages, makes almost the entire quarter accessible by cars and sufficient parking provision for most modern households is also provided with the natural layout of the town. The authors propose that visitors be discouraged from using this area for parking through the use of parking vignettes/ stickers reserved for residents. It is also recommended to encourage the establishment of SMEs within the old quarter, ranging from shops and eateries to small hotels. In addition to providing job opportunities and raising property values this would also attract investment into the heritage area and contribute to the maintenance of the heritage. The main roads and routes of vehicular access should be paved in interlocking concrete blocks, and most already are, and all other secondary routes should be pedestrianised and not accessible to vehicles. This will keep noise levels down and provide safe spaces for children to play in the street away from traffic. Open spaces such as squares and public areas between houses should be provided with additional natural shading from trees and vegetation as well the possible addition of low-impact shading structures such as awnings and fabric canopies. These will needs to be complemented wit the provision of adequate lighting for the night time. One of the principal areas of concern in the case of Mirbāt is the building designated here as A1, located immediately on the edge of the sea. This buildings was reportedly intended to become a large restaurant in the past decade, though it is currently lying derelict. The visual impact of this less than subtle concrete structure is overwhelmingly negative as it disrupts the natural forms of Mirbāt’s traditional skyline. It should therefore be broken down and reduced in size and area. Its

eventual function is still envisaged to be a restaurant or eatery for locals and visitors to enjoy the view sea-side location.

8.5 SUSTAINABILITY AND GREEN ENERGY Mirbāt offers many opportunities for the generation of green energy and the reduction of As almost the entire Sultanate of Oman, the Governorate of Dhofar also has the advantage of being bather in ample sunshine all year around. Energy Oman is a country standing in a torrential rain of infinite free energy. Oman has a high ratio of “sky clearness” and receives extensive daily solar radiation ranging from 5,5-6 kWh/m2 a day in July to 2,5-3 Kwh/m2 a day in January, giving it one of the highest solar energy densities in the world. Considering an average power usage of 10 kWh per household a total of about 10m2 of solar panels would be necessary to cover the needs of most individual households. Solar water heaters could be used additionally to further reduce the reliance on external power-supplies and help reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. Indeed, it is perfectly feasible to make the whole of Mirbāt energy independent making the village a model community in sustainable development.

SOLAR POWER

Solar water heating: A number of studies have revealed that the average Omani household expends approximately 12% of its electricity consumption on water heating. The readily available and affordable solar power technology is ideal for the sun-drenched communities in the Omani hinterland. The increased efficiency of modern solar panels ensure that a comparatively small surface is needed to cover the energy requirements of a given household. The high inclination of the sun for most of the year (41o max) allows the panels to be mounted nearly flat on the ground so that they do not obstruct the external aspect of the houses. The current domestic demand of the average traditional-build Omani house is around the 16MWh annual, which translates into an average figure of 43.83 kWh daily. The majority of this energy cost is created by AC units associated with cooling the home. This cost can easily be reduced by 100% using solar power, as the hours of maximum temperature coincidence with the hours of maximum solar irradiation.


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At an average annual solar irradiation index of 7.08 Kwh/m2/day in Mirbāt this results in approximatively 6m2 of photovoltaic panels per house at a cost of ca. OMR 350.

Three different solar power generation models are conceivable for Mirbāt in order of complexity and cost: 1) selection of a site outside and apart form the settlement which acts as a solar power farm with all the panels concentrated in one location. The advantages of this system are the following: • ease of maintenance and construction on level ground; • choice of site for maximum solar exploitation; • choice of site for minimum visual obstruction; • no need to ‘cover’ or hide the panels on the roofs of the town; 2) semi-centralised distribution of power generating panels onto a selection of structures within the settlement, with the following advantages: • 4 or 5 of the most suitable roofs can be selected to concentrate solar panels; • reduced infrastructural cost for power distribution; 3) complete distribution of panels of each user’s roof for individual generation and consumption: • complete independence of each household; • lowest infrastructural requirements; • may disrupt the visual aspect if not adequately disguised or hidden.


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Energy storage As part of a reduction of the reliance on fossil fuels and other outdated technologies, the in-home storage of energy opens up a gamut of opportunities for the off-grid settlements that still exists in their hundreds all over the Sultanate of Oman. The cost of providing electricity to the tens of thousands of people living in remote areas via enormous over-land electricity pylons across the countryside is not to be measured only in the millions of Omani Rial for construction. The real cost lies in the destruction of the landscape and the associated reduction of quality of life and general appeal. From the point of view of tourism this should be a concern. The most cost-effective solution currently available is the domestic storage of solar energy with Li-ion batteries. Tesla EnergyÂŽ manufactures and sells a 10kWh battery, which includes the complete package for solar power storage at US$3000. Two of these wall-mounted units can easily provide the electricity needs of a large family home, raising the living standards of hundreds of rural communities across the country without the need to construct thousands of miles of energy transport infrastructure. With home storage, dependency on the grid will in most cases drop to around 3-5% of standard consumption.


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International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (The Venice Charter 1964). 2nd International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments, Venice 1964. Jokilehto, J., 2006. Considerations on authenticity and integrity in world heritage context. City & Time, 2 (1), 1-16. Izkawi, Sirhán b. SaΚid b. Sirhán b. Muhammad al- (attributed; Ross, E.C. tr.). 1874. Annals of Oman, from the Early Times to the Year 1728 A.D. (Kashf al-Ghumma: al-JāmiΚ li akhbār alumma). Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 2(2): 111-196. KanaΚan R. 2008. The carved-stucco miΉrābs of Oman: form, style and influences. In Salimi, A. al-, Gaube, H. & Korn L. (eds), Islamic Art in Oman: 230–259. Muscat: Ministry of Heritage and Culture & Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs. Kervran, M. & Bernard, V. 1996. MiΉrāb/s Omanais du 16e Siècle: Un Curieux Exemple de Conservatisme de l’Art du Stuc Iranien des Époques Seldjouqide et Mongole. Archéologie Islamique


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Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 151 151

a2 PHOTOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTATION

This section contains the complete number of fully documented structures/units at MirbÄ t. Where possible all the floors of the relevant building are shown in plans, as well as a number of representative images. At MirbÄ t a total of 32 structures were documented in their entirety, while a further 36 structures were documented photographically only, due to access restrictions or their state of preservation.


152

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: A5


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 153153

UNIT: A9


154

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: A16A


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 155155

UNIT: A16b


156

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: A20


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 157157

UNIT: A26


158

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: A27


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 159159

UNIT: A28


160

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: A29


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 161 161

UNIT: B5


162

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: C1


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 163163

UNIT: D1


164

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: THEYOGAR FORT


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 165165

UNIT: E2


166

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: E3


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 167167

UNIT: F3


168

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: F6a


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 169169

UNIT: F6b


170

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: F6c


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 171 171

UNIT: F8


172

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: F10c


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 173173

UNIT: F10d


174

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: F11b


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 175 175

UNIT: F15


176

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: F17


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 177177

UNIT: F18


178

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: F19


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 179179

UNIT: F27


180

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: G10


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 181 181

UNIT: G14


182

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: SOUQ (ZONE J)


Appendix 1: Photographic and Drawn Documentation 183183

UNIT: J1


184

Mirbat - Heritage Management and Development Plan

UNIT: J3

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Mirbat: Dhofar Governorate  

This Heritage Management Plan contains a complete vision for the sustainable redevelopment and revitalization for the coastal settlement of...

Mirbat: Dhofar Governorate  

This Heritage Management Plan contains a complete vision for the sustainable redevelopment and revitalization for the coastal settlement of...

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