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With support from Ministry of Heritage and Culture Sultanate of Oman

Managing Heritage: Designing Sustainable Futures




Known in ancient times as Magan, a name that begins to appear quite regularly in cuneiform texts in the last three centuries of the third millennium BC, Oman was famed for its economic and cultural relationship with Sumerian, Mesopotamian and Indus civilizations during the pre- and proto-historic periods, as well as for trade relations - imports of foodstuff, wool and cotton garments, exports of copper, ivory or semi-precious stones - through maritime connections across the Indian Ocean. Today Oman is a country uniquely distinguished from the rest of Peninsular Arabia by its geology, topography, climate, history, society and culture. The practice of Ibadism, mainly in the Dākhiliyah and Sharqiyyah regions of Oman, adds to this distinctiveness. Often described as a landlocked island bounded by the Indian Ocean and the Empty Quarters (ar-RubΚ al-Khalī), Oman derives most of the characteristics from her central mountain spine, the Oman Mountains. This spine literally severs the country into a landlocked Interior and a narrow but long coastal strip. While the coast developed as a seafaring, outward-looking, cosmopolitan entity, the Interior - often described as the ‘real’ Oman, evolved into an introverted society and culture. The settlement pattern carried on this broad distinction. While the Batinah coast developed as a continuous strip of connected settlements, the Interior was always characterised by isolated oasis development with its fragmented settlement quarters (Ήārah).



A sweeping 650 km long mountain range, known as the Oman Mountains, plunges directly into the Gulf of Oman at either end, which along with the deep water inlets of a drowned coastline form splendid natural harbours. The Oman Mountains effectively divide Oman into two distinct regional settings, the ‘Maritime Setting’ and the ‘Landward Setting’. Helped by the desert, the Empty Quarters, they turn the Interior of Oman into a virtual land-locked island of delicately balanced human existence, which is separated from the rest of the Arabian Peninsula by endless stretches of sandy desert, gravel beds and salt flats (sabkha). A fertile well-irrigated piedmont (foothill) zone, the Interior forms the core of the Dākhiliyah region, which stretches out on the southern side of Jabal al-Akhdar, where the mountain chains emanating from the central mountain gradually dwindle in scale the further it moves away from the core. Major oasis settlements - Izkī, Barkat al-Mawz, Nizwa, ManaΉ, Adam, BaΉlā, al-Дamrā, and ΚIbri - are located within this region of extreme geopolitical and socio-cultural importance. The mediaeval travellers – Arab and European – never penetrated the Interior. The earliest first-hand accounts of the Interior come from the nineteenth century British explorers Wellsted and Miles.


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From the earliest available evidence of human settlements in the fourth millennium BC, a period when the coastal settlements were based on fishing activities and the interior settlements on agriculture and cattle herding, a core-periphery dichotomy was established. The interior settlements appropriate the scarce arable land to the fullest through sensitive irrigation techniques developed to exploit seasonal and perennial flows in the wadī (seasonal rivers) by making use of wells, and most importantly, by employing the falaj irrigation system. Livestock herding forms a complementary economic activity, primarily practised by the semi-nomadic shawawi population. The major oasis towns, such as Nizwa, BaΉlā, Izkī, ManaΉ, ΚIbri and Ibrā were also large market centres for exchanging goods with the regional nomadic (badw) population, and where weaving, pottery making, metal working, tanning, dyeing were practiced. The coastal settlements, on the other hand, form a more or less continuous strip along the shore, about 300 km in its extent from as-Sib to Khatmat Malaha, which is intimately connected to the inland strip of cultivation. Typically, Omani oasis settlements consist of several settlement quarters (pl. Ήārāt, s. Ήārah) the larger ones often fortified and self-sufficient - separated by dense date-palm plantation (zaraΚ). In the Interior oasis settlements are isolated with their compact built fabric punctuating the datepalm plantation covering all irrigated land.



The oasis of Barkat al-Mawz retains three major concentrations of vernacular architecture within the settlement quarters (Ήārah) of as-Сaybanī, alWadī and al-Makasir, while other areas of settlement have been replaced with modern dwellings and structures. The oasis is located close to the point where Wadī al-Muaydin emerges from the hills, allowing control over access to the mountains. Two narrow stretches of hills extend east of al-Wadī, describing a large arc running from west to northeast, with watchtowers located along its ridges, which once defined the eastern extent of the oasis. The access route from the east, passing between the two hills, extends west as far as Bayt ar-Rudaydah forming the main spine through the oasis, which truncates the plantation into two (northern and southern) halves. As-Сaybanī and al-Makasir, along with two other largely renewed settlement quarters, define the northern edge of the plantation, the settlements being located at the southern foothills of the mountains.



Historical values Дārat as-Сaybanī is an example of late settlement development during the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries AD, paralleling developments in al-Дamrā and the rebuilding of many settlement quarters at the time such as Дārat al-Yemen in Izkī. Characterized by rapid construction or reconstruction, these settlements indicate development approaches of the period under YaΚāribah imamate which was impacted by major movement and ascendency of tribal groups.

Urban and architectural values Дārat as-Сaybanī is distinctive in its engagement with topography and shows morphological traces of how it has negotiated the topographic challenge as the settlement expanded. The unique nature of the setting is due to the steep incline along which the settlement evolved. The morphological traces show evidence of a unique settlement expansion that fanned out and down from the apex of the hill, giving special configuration to streets, passages and open spaces, and might have expanded both from top down and bottom up. The phased expansion at the base of the hill is in all likelihood the result of the introduction of the two channels of Falaj al-Khatmeen. Contrary to popular history the settlement area was possibly inhabited in ancient times. This is evidenced from the extensive area of structures behind the round tower on the hill top and the fossil deposits to the north and west of the Ήārah. The settlement integrates the falaj channels and associated points of water access and use, creating a unique relationship with the water source. Dwellings are complex and often overlapping, with entrances in some cases placed at the upper floor level. These configurations are unique to the ‘hill-type’ of settlements but also indicate close tribal and familial relationships.

Social values The Ήārah evolution illustrates the gradual upward social mobility of certain families in particular the Banī Riyām, resulting in very large dwellings at the bottom of the hill. The social and political history of the Ήārah suggests complex negotiation and tendency for patience amongst the resident groups. The wide range of meeting halls - from semi-private to communal ones show a diversity of attitudes towards congregation and community activities, certainly a distinctive feature amongst settlements of the Interior.



About 120 km to the west of Muscat, the oasis of Izkī is one of the largest in ad-Dākhiliyah. It takes advantage of a strategically important location, in the upper reaches of Wadī Дalfayn and on the southern end of the SamāΜil pass, which connects the Batinah coast to the Interior. Originally stretching for almost 15 km from ImΓi (MuΓi) in the north to Zukayt in the south, the oasis of Izkī is considered to be the oldest permanent settlement in Oman with remains dating well into the 3rd millennium BC. Numerous archaeological finds indicate also that this was one of the most important points of transit through the al-Hajar mountains. In later times, the oasis of Izkī was home to two of central Oman’s largest tribal groupings, the Banī Riyām and the Banī RuwāΉah. Their complex relational dynamics made Izkī a microcosm of Omani politics, with relations between both tribes having great supra-regional impact. The two main settlements an-Nizār and al-Yemen are located atop a conglomerate ridge which runs roughly north-south along the western bank of Wadī Дalfayn. This location allowed the inhabitants of both settlements to occupy the high ground while remaining close to their farmlands and water sources. Neither settlement has direct access to flowing water, though a number of public and private wells have been attested in both locations.



Historical values Izkī is reputedly the oldest settlement in Oman with references in Aššurbanipal’s so-called Ishtar slab inscription. Within the Early Iron Age II (EIA, 1100-600 BC), the only mention of Oman in Assyrian texts appear to be found in this limestone stele erected by the Assyrian king Aššurbanipal (669-627 BC) in the temple of Ishtar at Nineveh around 640 BC. In lines 132-133 of this text, Aššurbanipal boasts of one Padē, king of Qadē, who resided in Izkē, brought him tribute.

Urban and architectural values Дārat al-Yemen is a heavily fortified urban unit enclosed by a stone masonry wall with a broad sentry walk and a mud brick crenelated parapet, guarded by three towers. Of these the one known as al-QalΚat controlled the no man’s land between al-Yemen and an-Nizār and overlooked a nearby fort. Divided into neatly arranged quarters al-Yemen is somewhat unusual in its orthogonality - which hints at various cyclical phases of destruction, reconstruction and expansion - when compared to the highly irregular and organic standard usually observed in Omani traditional oasis settlements. The regularity of the urban structure breaks off at the southern end, where a cluster of irregular dwellings with cyclopean single-course foundations might suggest the presence of a pre-Islamic settlement. Most dwellings throughout the settlement are single storied and often with open courtyards, except for the Darmakī quarter exhibiting higher status structures due to the political and economic rise achieved by this tribe during the course of the nineteenth century. Among the most prominent public buildings of alYemen are its two mosques – the largest of which probably started life as an external Friday mosque, and a number of semi-private and communal sablah (pl. sbal, communal meeting hall), either associated with dwellings or located on the city wall sentry walk.

Social values The history of Дārat al-Yemen is characterised by a near permanent state of opposition to the nearby settlement of an-Nizār deriving from the historic antagonism between the moieties of the Banī Riyām (an-Nizār) and the Banī RuwāΉah (al-Yemen). Of great social relevance is the arrival of the Darāmikah, a tribe of Kinda affiliation who had lost their Ήārah of ΚAdbi during the wars in c. 1760s and who during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries dominated the political life in the settlement and the oasis. Their rise to fortune is clearly evident in their main dwelling compound within al-Yemen, located next to the northern gate and the tower.



Fieldwork starts with a brief re-acquaintance session after which a strategy is set up on site to establish how the work should be undertaken within the given time. The team starts off by carrying out a preliminary reconnaissance of the site during which it is zoned out in alphanumerically marked sectors, with letters corresponding to blocks of dwellings and numbers to individual built units, including dwellings and communal structures. Once the settlement has been subdivided into clearly defined compounds, the team members sketch individual units and photograph them. Subsequently, in groups of two to three people, they aid each other in taking the measurements. The following approaches are undertaken to fully document the settlements:

Graphic documentation Sketch plans and, where necessary, sections and elevations of built units are produced on white-paper, graph paper - aiding the representation of proportion in the case of largely orthogonal structures and tracing paper. Sketch drawings include also sections of city walls and defensive features and maps of water channels (aflāj), where applicable. Comprehensive measurements of sketched features are taken according to conventional methods of triangulation using tape measures (5m, 7.5m, 30m, 50m, as required) and laser measurers at locations where long distances or the state of preservation of the fabric make it infeasible to use the tape measure.

Photographic documentation Extensive photographic documentation is taken through sequential snapshots, which are later stitched into panoramic views, ensuring comprehensiveness, but also recording significant elements and objects in detail.

Inventory of built units Detailed completion of individualised documentation context sheets is carried out in order to record significant information regarding the built units, including their context, ownership, historical and social information, state of preservation, state of modification, building materials and conservation issues.

Geomatic survey Selected features are geo-located using a handheld GPS unit, to aid CAD graphic representation and enhance accuracy of the drawn documentation.

Archaeological survey Archaeologically relevant datable material, such as pottery and organic remains, is photographed and collected where necessary.

Interviews Multiple semi-structured interviews are conducted with erstwhile inhabitants of the settlement, to gain comprehensive understanding of the tribal mosaic of the settlement quarters. These are recorded using audio and video recorders and transcribed into notes, as and where necessary.



One fundamental aspect of the fieldwork effort is capacity building and knowledge transfer through the training of local people, as a means to sensitise the local communities to the values of architectural and cultural heritage, to instil a greater sense of responsibility and pro-activeness on questions of heritage preservation, and to promote a shared identity. Employees at national and local government institutions are trained in current surveying techniques, with the aim to impart them the necessary skills to be able to assist in future fieldworks campaigns as well as carry out basic survey and documentation independently and without supervision. Over the duration of fieldwork campaigns training is provided in basic sketching, measuring and photographing techniques for the accurate representation and documentation of the built heritage. A set of guidelines, developed for use on site with the aim to establish standards of documentation, complements field training. They provide a comprehensive series of operational indications on metric survey, ensuring that architectural drawings are produced according to homogeneous conventions, and photographic survey, putting emphasis on the creation of a stitchable photographic record that will later permit the panoramic visualisation of architectural spaces.



Ras Musandam

Khasab III

Arabian Gulf I

Northern coastal region (capital area)


Northern outer foothill and wadi region

Strait of Hormuz


Gulf of Oman


Northern mountain region


Northern inner foothill and wadi region



United Arab Emirates

Northern wadi region


Oman’s traditional settlement patterns coincide in many respects with the archetypal desert tribal settlement patterns. The scarce and sporadic availability of water, essential for the establishment of an urban lifestyle and the practicing of agriculture, forces groups into closer proximity than they would otherwise choose. In particular, in the Dākhiliyah region, comprising the al-Hajar mountains and its southern foothills, the location of the water resources forms the fundamental meta-structure of the settlement pattern.


Sand region


Central wadi region

Ras Suwadi



Southern wadi region Ibri

Southern inner foothill and wadi region

Southern outer foothill and wadi region


Southern coastal region


Oman Mountains

Southern mountain region





Sur Ras al Had


Bilad Bani Bu Hasan

Border of the natural regions V Border line (approximate)


Downstream direction of the waters

Ramlat al Wahiba


The wadī and springs of this region allowed for the establishment of urban nuclei which, with the creation of elaborate irrigation systems, could grow to a substantial size. Nevertheless, the inherently conflictive nature of tribal societies determined that the protection of the resource and waterrelated infrastructure was of paramount importance to the inhabitants of ad-Dākhiliyah. In general this was achieved by the construction of large numbers of small-scale fortifications in the form of cylindrical mud brick towers which scanned the surrounding territory and, with the advent of firearms, functioned as stationary denial-ofarea emplacements. These towers also functioned as boundary markers delineating the territory of a given tribe and stating a claim of ownership of the lands that lay within the fortified areal.

Saudi Arabia Rub al Khali Masirah Haima Ras Duqm


Arabian Sea VIII

Marmul Ras Sauqira



XI Salala


100 miles ( (160km) )

Kuria Muria Islands


Dhofar Mountains

People’s Republic of Yemen



Ras Raysut

Jabal Sham

Jabal Kawr Rub al Khali


Jabal Salakh

Wadi Bahla


2980m Wadi




Masna’ah 3000m 2000m 1000m 0m Sea Level


V 320km

IV 130km

III 90km

II 40km

I 5km

The settlements themselves were also fortified, in most cases by walls and wall-towers. In the more mountainous parts of ad-Dākhiliyah the topography of the terrain also played an important defensive role in the location of settlements, which could be located atop rocky outcrops and escarpments, reducing the need for artificial defenses. On the plains protection was provided by powerful city walls with sentry walks. In times of strong central government, such as the Imamates, we also see the construction of great fortresses such as those of Nizwa and BaΉlā , which could be used not only for defensive purposes but also as political tools, as was seemingly the case in the notoriously unstable oasis of Izkī.



The defence system for the oasis of Barkat al-Mawz consists of two rings of watchtowers of which the distinctive tower at the apex of Дārat as-Сaybanī also forms a part, collectively establishing a defensive system for the settlement and the oasis. At the western end of the oasis, the recently restored Bayt ar-Rudaydah - a large fortified dwelling built during the YaΚāribah Imamate - guards access to the upper reaches of Wadī al-Muaydin. The hill immediately south of Bayt ar-Rudaydah and the Friday Mosque contains a combination of burials - possibly of preIslamic origin - and defensive structures overlooking the point of access to the oasis from the west. The coexistence of cemeteries and defensive structures and their often interchangeable nature is noted throughout Arabia since prehistory. The distinctive round-plan tower at the apex of the hill on which Дārat as-Сaybanī sits provided surveillance and communication with the outlying towers. It is generally believed that the older settlement was originally near the apex of the hill, protected by the naturally occurring steep incline and centred on some form of defensive feature in the position of the present tower. Fanning out from this tower and running along the incline, the eastern and western edges of the Ήārah, roughly at right angles to each other, were fortified by formidable dry stone masonry construction. According to local knowledge Дārat Burj al-Makasir was possibly established after Дārat as-Сaybanī as a spill-over residential quarter. The circular tower (burj) located on a rocky outcrop, after which the Ήārah takes its name, dominates the extant vernacular fabric, rising above a series of small dwellings grouped around its base. The tower’s positioning on the southern edge of the ridge is similar to that of the tower at Дārat as-Сaybanī and, like here, defensive and congregational functions overlap, which is common in Omani vernacular architecture.



The Izkī oasis, at the southern end of the SamāΜil Gap, has a strategic position which provides the main access from the Batinah coast to ad-Dākhiliyah and across to ash-Sharqiyyah regions through the Oman Mountains, and guarantees control over the south-west link in the Wadī Дalfayn system. In addition to strong urban fortifications in the form of walls, towers and gate houses, the oasis as a whole was protected from incursions by a system of around fifteen to twenty visually connected watch towers located on hill tops which provided a complete overview of the surrounding territory. The large YaΚāribah period fort located close to the southern edge of al-Yemen, constructed during the early-nineteenth century probably to create a buffer zone between the two warring settlement of al-Yemen and an-Nizār. Not inhibited by any major topographical constraints, Дārat al-Yemen has a fortified and inward-looking character, with formidable and well-preserved perimeter defenses in the form of highly robust walls and prominent towers. The walls, as visible today, were surmounted by a broad sentry walk and appear to be largely the product of a single constructive effort although individual phases are discernible. Three towers, at the corners of the settlement, are different in shape and size, suggesting separate developments. The tower at the northwestern corner contains a well at its centre, accessible through a low vaulted passage. The largest and most impressive tower is the one known as al-QalΚat, positioned in the southern corner to control the no-man’s-land between al-Yemen and an-Nizār and overlook the YaΚāribah fort. Apart from serving as a defensive structure this tower appears also functioned as a prison with four dungeons located in its base.



Exploitation of available water resources formed the key to settlement formation in this hot and arid region. No oasis settlement could have developed in Arabia without the natural potential being present in one form of water source or another in the first place. These sources could have been the natural flow in the wadī, which defined also the migration routes for the nomadic (badw) tribes moving in search of water and fresh pastures for their cattle, the presence of springs (Κayn) as well as the knowledge of the presence of aquifers. The Achaemenids established a control over the inner (western) side of Jabal al-Akhdar and sought to develop an irrigation system based on the qanat of their native Iran (perhaps introduced into Oman by pre-Achaemenid Persians around 1000 BC) and which later came to be known as aflāj (s. falaj) in Oman. Consisting in underground and over-ground system of channels to distribute water to different parts and activities within a settlement, the aflāj were introduced primarily into the western piedmont and northern wadī zones, although both wadī surface flow and wells continued to complement them. During this period the sophisticated irrigation system, which relies heavily on the sun during the day and the stars at night to tell the time to ensure the distribution of allocated water, contributed to the economic, cultural and settlement expansion of Oman. In construction terms, the channels were traditionally fashioned from roughly dressed stone bonded with lime-based mortar (juss) and internally lined with sarooj - an artificial pozzolana produced by calcining clay mixed with lime and water – to prevent seepage and, through smooth plastering to avoid loss of velocity and reduce erosion.



The main course of the wadī defines the western edge of the oasis. However, a number of smaller discharge channels running down the hills extend north-south, truncating the east-west linearity of the oasis. One such course defines the eastern edge of Дārat al-Wadī a settlement quarter which once partially incorporated the suq. Bayt ar-Rudaydah controls the aflāj system, Falaj alKhatmeen, close to its access point (sharia), one of five such systems from Oman inscribed on the World Heritage Site list. A falaj channel extends eastwards from as-Сaybanī - mainly as a prominent raised aqueduct - to reach the gardens surrounding al-Makasir, a feature of importance significance as far as the built heritage of the oasis is concerned. During the seventeenth century reconstruction phase due to the YaΚāribah initiative Дārat asСaybanī began expanding along two newly instituted falaj channels at the base of the hill, which later expanded even further into the garden area at the turn of the twentieth century.



By far and away the most important feature uniting the oasis of Izkī is its unified irrigation system, as it is this which provided the basic livelihood of the villagers, and financed most of the communal institutions such as the markets and the mosques in the various settlement quarters. Stretching along Wadī Дalfayn Izkī’s irrigation system rose out of Falaj al-Malkī. This is said to have originally had over 120 feeders and come out of two headstreams flowing at considerable depth from the sedimentary fan of the Wadī Masdud north of Izkī. It provided water to the settlements of Дārat arRaΉā, al-Yemen and an-Nizār, a total of some 400 houses, and irrigated large tracts of the surrounding agricultural lands which gave Izkī its respectable wealth and size. Al-Yemen is not itself reached by the falaj as it lies on higher ground and had to therefore rely primarily on wells, both communal and private. Today the agricultural area is reduced to a core area comprising the palm groves of al-Yemen, an-Nizār, Seddi, Дārat al-RaΉā, Maghyūth and Дārat Banī Hussain.



The birth of modern Oman, which commenced with Sultan Qaboos bin SaΚīd’s accession to power in 1970, has triggered off an abrupt wave of rapid change in all aspects of the country’s life. Following the political, economic and sociocultural modernization and the flourishing of better rewarding jobs and life opportunities, local communities have been lured away from living within oasis traditional environments. Traditional oasis settlements, abandoned due to significant change in the living conditions, aspirations, needs and socio-cultural identities of inhabitants, have inexorably decayed into ruins. When people have stayed change has highly impacted on the traditional environment, producing physical change of urban structures, buildings, open spaces and agricultural land. The advent of the automobile has made it necessary for oasis towns to be well served with wide roads and parking spaces, which have been obtained by tearing down clusters of traditional structures, opening passages through defensive walls and widening or reconstructing gates. With the large availability of modern materials and the simultaneous loss of traditional building skills, piecemeal and thoughtless adaptation of the traditional built fabric to the requirements of modern living is carried out. The addition of new spaces built in concrete blocks, adjacent or superimposed on traditional structures, the plastering of mud structures using cement renders, the replacement of wooden gargoyles with PVC or iron pipes, the introduction of sanitation, wiring and piping causes structural and aesthetic damage to the built fabric, thus irreversible jeopardizing its integrity and authenticity.



Physical change within the oasis of Barkat alMawz manifests itself as a continuous built strip of houses and shops, located along the main east-west communication route that cuts through the oasis, watched by a closed network of defensive towers. Episodes of encroachment by variously rendered villa-type houses recur within and around the palm tree gardens. Encroachment on the agricultural land is particularly evident in the immediate surroundings of Дārat as-Сaybanī , where two-story villas, which face the road entering the settlement parallel to the lower falaj, are interspersed among lush green areas. In Дārat Burj al-Makasir the phenomenon is dual, consisting in concrete block houses built in the proximity of the falaj, very close to the traditional defensive cluster around the watchtower, and in concrete block additions built atop mud brick and stone structures which jeopardize their visual as well as structural integrity. In Дārat al-Wadī, which accommodates the derelict suq, a few dwellings have been occupied by sub-continental expatriates and extended through concrete outhouses in order to fit water tanks and washing machines, thus losing their original visual appearance and massing.



With the outward migration of the population the Izkī oasis agricultural land has undergone substantial neglect and shrinkage within a fortyyear time frame, reducing down to less than half its original extension. To further contribute to the loss of fertile land is building development within it, produced by grid-like land parceling along modern road infrastructures. Sitting on a rocky outcrop and cutting through the palm tree gardens to later join Wadī Дalfayn, one of Izkī new tarmac road runs along the eastern wall of Дārat al-Yemen, breaking the view unity from the wadī below. Two big modern mosques, located by the entrance gates to Дārat al-Yemen and Дārat an-Nizār, stand out in their white-rendered massive volumes. The lack of cohesiveness in terms of finishes, massing, style, number of stories, setbacks and plot areas amongst residential new build, makes the built environment within the oasis spatially fragmented and aesthetically incoherent.





Traditional settlements were accessed through solid wooden gates, located at strategic points along the defensive walls, which were shut after the last evening prayer and reopened the next morning. The gateway (sabah) was an elongated covered passageway flanked by benches, where passers-by would rest in the shade, and surmounted either by a sablah, a sentry post or by a terraced rooftop. Gates would sometime lead directly into civic open spaces acting as “buffers” amongst the different tribal groups. At times they would host ambulant trading and periodical market - never turned into a suq - competing with tribal markets held in the open fields outside the settlement, or would be used as “parking places” for camels. Communal water facilities included wells and bathing structures. Wells (tawī) were lined in rubble stone and complemented by a raised water trough lined in sarooj and fed from the well, and a channel leading to one or more narrow delivery spouts. Bathing structures, rigorously divided by gender and located far apart, consisted in mud brick open enclosures, sometimes partitioned in cubicles, which either flanked the falaj or were crossed by it. Another communal facility was the tannur, a big oven used to bake bread and cook food on special occasions like religious festivities. It consisted in a truncated conical structure built in clay in an open space or simply a hole dug in the ground, lined with little stones and finished with mud.



At the bottom of the hill, freedom from topographic constraints experienced through increased wealth manifested itself in unusually large dwellings and a large civic area. Enclosed between the eastern and western gates, which always remained open to allow access to the mosque, the madrasah and the gardens beyond, this entrance square encompasses the open ground on which the mosque has always stood, indicating perhaps its origin as a field mosque. Non-religious communal structures are largely concentrated along or near the two water channels into which Falaj al-Khatmeen divides within the settlement. They include bathing points for both male and female use along the upper channel, a shop (dukkan) and two wheat grinding rooms (raΉā). Following the natural topographic incline streets and passages connect up this zone with the apex of the hill, forming stepped passages built into the rock face that use, wherever possible, the natural rock arrangement.



The unusual grid-like plan of Дārat al-Yemen is dictated by a series of straight avenues running at more or less right angles to each other. The western avenue (M2, Sikkat al-ΚAlī), running northsouth from the Friday Mosque (Masjid al-JamīΚ) to the northern gate, clearly lines up with the eastern enclosure wall of the mosque, suggesting a relationship established between these two features at some point. The northernmost street (M1, Sikkat as-Sharq) connects with the eastern gate, hence its name. This eastern entrance is flanked on the outside by a communal sablah and the other mosque of the settlement, Masjid Banī Сabt. A number of lanes and passages break down the urban fabric further and provide access to dwellings and communal structures. On entry through the northern gate, a large open space is first visible, defined largely by Darāmikah but also one Banī RuwāΉah (Maghtasiyīn) dwelling. The square played an important role during communal festivities, weddings and Eid celebrations. Closer to the Friday mosque Sikkat al-ΚAlī opens up again into an open space, defined on the south by the low enclosure of the mosque and on the west by the well associated with it and the raised channel that extends towards the mosque. A western gate that once provided access to the settlement close to the Friday mosque was later blocked. A further blocked off ramped access – possibly for bringing in cattle – existed at the southwest corner of the Ήārah; the area behind the qiblah wall of the Friday mosque where the cattle was kept was known as Дarām al-JamīΚ, possibly alluding to age-old notions of sacred territory in South Arabia. The inclusion of the Friday Mosque within the walled quarter is yet another unusual feature of settlement layout in Дārat al-Yemen.



A special place in the life of the Ήārah was held by the sablah (pl. sbal, semi-public male reception halls), as many political and social decisions, as well as those regarding land, water and other aspects of the agrarian economy will have been taken here. Sablahs were also used as meeting places during times of celebration and mourning or for overnight accommodation of guests. The possession of a sablah reflects the demographic, political, economic and social power or superiority of a tribe within the settlement, hence their often fortified nature. The key building of the settlement, around which the daily routine of its male population revolved, was the mosque, usually located close to the falaj, upstream of the next residential area, near the gate. In Interior Oman mosques do not have minarets, but a diminutive domical structure that surmounts the prayer hall known locally as the būmah. The prayer hall (masjid) is primarily a single rectilinear cell with the longer dimension lying along the qiblah wall, which usually contains a simple recessed pointedarched prayer niche (mihrab). The cell, situated on a high plinth, is entered through the wall facing the qiblah from a rectangular or semi-circular terrace (sahn), which is raised to the level of the prayer room. A separate structure, located at the far end of the terrace, is the ablution block (wūdū). The other important religious building, usually located in the proximity of the mosque, was the madrasah, the QurΜanic school for young children. This was usually accommodated in a purpose-built structure, but there are instances, like in ManaΉ, of a multipurpose hall functioning as a religious school during the mornings and as a sablah during the week. The market (suq), traditionally attended by the males, was another important component of the Ήārah, consisting in rows of small shops along one or more central arcaded walkways, sheltered by mats of woven palm tree fronds. Shops were raised above street level and preceded by platforms, used both as merchandise display and resting place for the elderly.



Religious facilities include a mosque, Masjid al-Waljah, and the remains of a QurΜanic school (madrasah). Consistent with the formal type prevalent in the Dākhiliyah region, the mosque, which is still in use, is ‘cuboidal’ in its appearance with both frontal and lateral access from a raised platform, and surmounted by the bumah and a simple arched but undecorated mihrab. A room used for washing and preparing the dead for burial (mugasl) is attached to the mosque as well as the ablution (wūdū) facilities. Only the entrance (southern) façade of the madrasah survives – once a long hall with a prominent height – which had a floor below and an attached well room accessed from the northern end. This well was the only source of water other than the falaj channels, vital during periods of strife. Sablahs range from communal meeting halls open to all members of the Ήārah (e.g., Sablat al-Ghurfah associated with Bayt al-Kabīr) to those that are tribe-specific (e.g., Sablat as-Sabah, associated with the eastern gate, Sabah ash-Sharqī, used primarily by the Sūqūr tribe) and semi-private meeting halls associated with significant dwellings (e.g., the sablah associated with SaΚīd bin Marhūn bin ΚUthman arRiyamī house). Sablat al-Fowq, which belonged to the Siyabīyīn tribe, had separate spaces designated for winter and summer use. A number of houses had rooms located on the first floor terraces which are likely to have operated as semi-private meeting halls.



Among the most prominent public buildings of alYemen are the two mosques, the largest of which started life as a Friday mosque (Masjid al-JamīΚ) before being included into the settlement in the course of the settlement’s expansion. This is a large mosque with three transversal bays separated by two rows of substantial mud-brick columns. The other mosque, Masjid Banī Сabt, located by the east gate, is much smaller in size and was restored fairly recently. The access to its terrace/courtyard (sahn/barΉ, level with sentry walk) is through a reconstructed ramp. The prayer hall is accessed frontally from the terrace. Associated with the Friday mosque is a well house (Кawī al-JamīΚ) used to provide water for the community’s ablutions at prayer time, and probably also for domestic purposes. Another well, Кawī al-MaΜiwa, which appears to have been the major source of water within the walled quarter, is located on a wide street running eastwest, Sikkat as-Sharq. A third well, Кawī al-Burj is present at the centre of the north-western tower. There also remain a number of sablahs which were usually associated with specific tribes and client groups. Distinctively, at least three of these were placed against the defensive city walls with their plinths raised to the level of the sentry walk. These semi-public spaces served as reception halls and meeting places for guests and outsiders. One of them, located close to the southeast corner, was used as a temporary confinement place for minor offenders. It is possible that additional rooms within dwellings could have been used as tribal and family reception. Other facilities included a small number of shops, raΉās (wheat grindstones), a female bathing area and annexed latrine and a madrasah. Latrines, mostly private except for two communal structures, are small chambers, the floor of which is suitably raised off the ground so that the space formed below can be serviced through small door openings.



Closely clustered for defence and environmental purposes into compact tribe-specific quarters, the dwellings of the Dākhiliyah region were dense in appearance, with small high-level openings on the ground floor but comparatively larger openings on the first floors. Entrance doors opened from the streets, alleys or civic spaces into a central live-work lobby space. Around this central space multi-purpose rooms storage spaces and animal pens were organised, as were wells and washing areas, where present. Being very dark the ground floor was quite cool and comfortable during the day in comparison to the heat and glare of the exterior. From the core space of the ground floor one or even two staircases gave access to the first floor terrace, around which sleeping rooms were organised, along with the kitchen and the latrine. This spatial organization can be read as a subtle articulation, through a process of careful deconstruction of its essential functions, of the courtyard of traditional Arab-Islamic houses. The unitary conception of the courtyard is broken down here into discrete – yet interconnected – spatial fragments. The ground-level courtyard is virtually absent, giving way to the first floor terrace as its direct spatial equivalent. The programmatic components of the courtyard are not limited to this elevated Omani counterpart only. It disaggregates into the light-well (shamsiyah) and the covered women’s lounge or meeting room at ground level and, wherever appropriate, makes use of an array of semi-enclosed loggias and open spaces at the rear of the dwellings. While light-wells and loggias are common features of Islamic courtyard dwellings, the disaggregation of the courtyard into the women’s lounge and terrace is unique to Interior Oman. Consistent with the role of the courtyard, the women’s lounge and the terrace alternate between day and night as the core of this spatial organisation, as well as the pivotal functional space.



The dwellings of Дārat as-Сaybanī , virtually all double-storied, present complex plan layouts. They often overlap on neighbouring properties, partly owing to the topographic complexity they had to negotiate. Uniquely, some dwellings contain entrances from the upper floor level, resulting directly from the significant topographic shifts experienced within the settlement, but also indicating the close tribal and familial relationship. Broadly adhering to the Dākhiliyah type, the dwellings include pens for goat and cows and date and general storage areas on the ground and lowerground floors alongside an entrance hall and, occasionally, a majlis (private male meeting hall). Date drying beds are found in the storage rooms. Similar in depth but varying in widths depending on the size of the household’s stock, they are mud brick platforms, with the top face moulded in parallel cross channels, which alternate with convex supports. Sacks of woven palm fronds, containing the dates, were piled up on the supports. The syrup coming out of them, under the pressure, would flow through holes in the front face of the bed, and be collected inside terracotta jars inclined against it. Kitchens and pit latrines are usually found on the first floors. Hearths are found both in kitchens, where they were used to cook food, and in “winter rooms”, where they were used to heat. They are made of mud and straw mortar, which was moulded in situ on the floor to form a series of horseshoe-shaped pits, one next to the other, accommodating firewood and cooking pots. First floors contain also sleeping rooms, women’s meeting spaces (usually in the form of a large room or the līwan) and terraces. Most of upper floors interior walls are punctuated by niches which sometimes encompass windows and slit openings. Niches are divided by stone shelves into recesses, where objects are stored. Niches arranged in rows, regularly spaced across the wall, are multi-recess, similar in size, shape and number of recesses. Those scattered across the wall often have one recess and differ as to shape and size. The upper recess ends with a lintel in stone walls and an arch in mud brick walls. Benches are another feature of upper floors rooms. They consist either in solid platforms built by stacking stone blocks or mud bricks between opposite walls, so as to span the width of the room, or in lightweight seats of timber and mud.



Most dwellings of Дārat al-Yemen are single storied and often with open courtyards, though several of the higher status structures, such as those of the Darāmikah quarter, are spatially substantial with upper floors, at times set onto the city wall. Compared to other settlements in the area the architecture of al-Yemen appears to have been of a lower status, though this is most likely due to the successive re-building phases the settlement underwent. This also explains the existence of an unusually high number of courtyards compared to other settlements of the Dākhiliyah region. Largely following the spatial type prevalent in this part, some dwellings show typological affinity with Bowshar and other coastal areas, suggesting possible political connections and emulation. Inside the dwellings walls are punctured by niches varying in shapes, sizes and numbers, which are divided into storage recesses by stone or timber shelves. At times they are carved deeply into the walls in order to allow the safe storage of valuables. Benches of mud bricks are a common feature of dwellings. They were used either as sleeping platforms, in which case they span the width of the room and are quite deep, or as sitting structures, generally located at room corners. Cooking hearths, generally located on the floor, and coffee brewing hearths with iron perforated grills, located at the bottom of niches are a functional feature of first floor rooms. Date drying beds are a recurring feature of dark storage rooms at ground or lower-ground level. Grindstones and mortars were used to grind coffee and spices both indoors and in the courtyards. Amongst the functional features of dwellings, though present in few houses, are washbasins. They consist in solid volumes of stone and mud and are provided with a tiny iron overflow pipe which protrudes from the front. Underneath the basin is sometimes a niche for storage.



Walls are constructed by laying mud bricks in a mud and straw mortar bed and rendered on both sides with thick layers of mud and straw. This is finished either in sarooj, a reddish artificial pozzolana obtained by calcinating clay and mixing it with lime and water, or more often in a lime and natural pigments-based paint. Bricks, mostly 23x35 or 20x40 centimetres, are made of clay from soil obtained from the palm groves. Clay is first mixed with straw, immersed in water, admixed with a fermenting agent - usually a syrup from sugar cane - left to ferment for 4/5 days during which it gets stirred every couple of days, poured into wooden moulds, hand pressed and finally left to dry. Mud bricks are laid in scarfed courses of three, with an alternation of headers and stretchers set in mud mortar. In the arches at the top of niches mud bricks are laid on edge. Palm trees were fully utilized to extract a range of building materials. Floor and roof beams were made of split palm tree trunks, on top of which mats were laid to distribute loads which were manufactured by manually weaving palm tree leaves. Additional mats made of densely woven palm tree fibres were laid before the mud screed was poured. On few occasions beams and joists were made of tree branches and mats of reeds. Decoration is common on the walls and ceilings of dwellings as colourful painted geometric or floral motifs, and on wooden door panels and window shutters as intricate and elaborate carvings and mouldings which were executed by skilled tradesmen. Sometimes high-relief cornices or engravings substituted wall paintings. Paint on ceilings was applied not just for ornamental purposes, but also for further protection of the palm tree wood from deterioration due to termites as well as smoke and vapour produced by cooking. Typical of the Dākhiliyah region is also the decorated mihrab of mosques. Possibly introduced into Oman from Persia in the thirteenth century, the tradition gained in strength during the early sixteenth century with the oasis of ManaΉ assuming a central place. The Ibadi artisan managed to integrate in the mihrab wide-ranging representations of time and topography, employing diverse motifs such as, endless-knots, stars, date palm and other vegetation. Like the mihrab, door decoration show a close affinity between stellar and date palm representations, the latter held in sacred esteem across Omani oasis settlements.



Walls are built in mud bricks on foundations made of dressed limestone which was quarried out of the rocky outcrop on which the settlement sits. Stone ashlars of various sizes are interspersed with each other so as to achieve better interlocking and reduce the amount of mud mortar required for the joints. Windows comprise an external frame and an internal double leaf shutter. Frames are of different types, from plain timber mullions to timber mullions with iron bars to carved timber mullions. Frames act both as checks, to stop window movement, and security devices. Smaller windows are placed within niches, either in the lower or middle recess or both, whereas bigger windows are placed in the wall at average height. Lintels of doors and windows are comprised of tree branches and a palm frond mat laid on top. They form a support for the wall above. Floors and roofs are comprised, sequentially from intrados to extrados, of: palm tree beams from old trunks, woven palm leaf mats or, alternatively, reed mats, palm organic fibres mats, mud screed, lime finishing. Beams, which are left exposed in order to be easily repaired in case of termite damage, rest on the mud brick walls’ recesses, which form as walls taper out on the inside. Arches are made up of a frame of timbers or palm fronds, with the round ends at the apex to support each other by compression. The palm fronds are found both exposed and covered in mud mortar, naturally curved or straightened out. The wall above is made up of mud bricks, which become longer and thinner as the arch span widens. Arches are pointed and round, with or without impost. Single arches are generally used to frame internal doorways or support the steps across the flight. Multiple arches are conceived to support staircases all the way along the flight. Staircases are made of stacked stone slabs or mud bricks supported either by mud brick arches or timber beams. Drip courses and channels enable the rainwater runoff from roof terraces. Drip courses consist in stringcourses of thin stone slabs, which jut out external walls in order to throw water away. They are usually placed at ceiling or window level. Sometimes they support the returns of walls that taper out from top to bottom on the outside. Drip channels consist in vertical chases, which carry water away from the roof down to the terrace floor or the ground. Parapets are a constant feature of terrace and roof floors. Built out of mud bricks as a continuation of external tapered up walls, they end flat or crenellated. Those with flat ends are lower around light wells and wells and at party walls with adjoining properties. Those with crenellations are found both in partition and external walls. The crenellated motif is merely decorative when it shapes the wall edge, but it can be functional when it involves the wall thickness, in which case it generates recesses used as niches. Light wells are devices conceived to enhance lighting as well as natural ventilation of rooms and circulation spaces. As proper light wells, which run from the roof down to the ground floor, or openings in walls and roofs, shafts also let the smoke out by stack effect. When shafts are obtained by stopping the roof structure at one corner of the room, thus leaving it uncovered, a ladder of timber battens embedded in the wall allows to go up onto the roof. This would not be otherwise reached for maintenance purposes.



Walls are built in mud bricks on foundations made of rubble set in mud mortar. In older buildings foundations sit on stone boulders. Walls between adjacent units are usually double, partition walls are often double and in some cases triple, e.g. when including arches. City walls are in rubblework with mud brick parapets. Stones are externally laid in courses and internally compacted with mud mortar. Roofs, which follow the traditional construction pattern, sometimes present ventilation holes. Doors are single or double leaf, with a frame embedded in the mud brick wall. With exception of a few iron entry doors, door panels are usually made of palm tree wood planks, which are laid vertically and joined together, on the inside face, through roughly cut timbers. These are nailed over the planks by means of iron studs having flat or pointed heads. A central post, fixed to one of the panels, acts as a check to stop movement. Locks range from basic wire to iron latches and chains. An iron knocker may be present. Openings in mud brick walls have different shapes and functions. Arched slit or porthole openings let air into the living spaces. They are located in the upper part of the wall below ceiling level, sometimes contained within small niches. Window openings are located in first floor walls to allow natural lighting and ventilation. They are lintelled or pointed arched. The latter have a horizontal wooden tie provided with iron hooks which used to hold porous water pots for evaporative cooling. Lintels of doors, doorways and windows form a support for the mud brick wall above. They differ in construction, and include: mud brick fillings of triangular arches, timber logs, palm tree wood trunks, wood boards, tree branches with a palm frond mat laid on top, timber planks. In the first lintel type, the door frame is in direct contact with the filling, whereas in the other types a supporting and load distributing element is interposed. The shelves of niches may also act as lintels for the windows included within. Arches span walls and pillars, varying in shape and size, thus ranging from triangular to semicircular, from Tudor to parabolic to multilobular, and they may or may not have imposts. Arches are built out of mud bricks, which are sometimes thinner and longer than wall bricks. Arched doorways can be partially walled to encompass a door frame. Arches are also used to support stairs, in which case two or more timbers prop up each other at the arch apex, supporting the flight of steps. Staircases are made of exposed stone slabs or mud bricks lined in stone or finished in mud render. Various types of solid linear or L-shaped stairs exist according to their position in relation to walls: stairs leaning against a “spine” wall, stairs enclosed between walls and stairs supported by arched under crofts. Flying stairs, which are always located between facing walls, are supported by multiple semicircular arches, which are made of mud bricks. Spouts, which throw rainwater away from roof terraces, were originally built in stone finished in sarooj, split palm tree trunks or fired clay. These materials have recently been replaced, following maintenance and repair, with iron and PVC pipes.



Walls are often painted bright colours, especially those accommodating niches. Paint is spread on limewash or directly on mud render, for ornamental purposes as well as for protection. Decoration is present on painted as well as rendered walls, and involves both the inside of the niches and the wall around. It ranges from stripes and bands to floral and geometric patterns. Bright colours are generally used, the most common being red, white, green, pink, yellow, blue and sky-blue. Doors and windows are often decorated with repetitive geometric and floral patterns. Ornamental motifs are carved in timber doors and windows and moulded in iron doors. The central post, the frame of doors and the external mullions of windows are carved. Mouldings are, instead, applied to the panels. Doors are sometimes painted, usually red, green and sky-blue, sometimes left unpainted. Ceilings often have beams and mats painted and decorated with varied motifs. Decoration of beams ranges from simple geometric patterns, such as stripes and squares, to more elaborate geometric and floral motifs to calligraphic inscriptions. Mats are painted green or red. Beams are mostly painted red and have white, green and sky-blue decorations.



Walls are often decorated with painted motifs, engravings or high relief geometric patterns. Painted decoration, which encompasses geometric and floral patterns, is present on the inside of niches and the wall around. Bright colours are generally used, mostly red, white, green, yellow and sky-blue. High relief decorations are made in mud render, usually on the wall around the niches and on wall cornices, which alternatively may be painted. Timber doors, generally at the entrance of dwellings, are decorated with geometric and floral ornamental motifs. These are carved across the central and side posts and the horizontal top frame, which are sometimes themselves shaped. Non carved internal doors are sometimes painted, usually red, green and blue. Ceilings often have beams ornamentally painted with varied motifs. Motifs range from geometric figures, such as stripes, dots, grids, crosses, circles, triangles and squares, to floral patterns and calligraphic inscriptions. Beams are predominantly painted red with white, sky-blue and yellow decorations.





The development programs which have been implemented in Oman since Sultan Qaboos bin SaΚīd’s accession to power have triggered off a rapid transition from traditional to modern living. The modernization and simultaneous globalization of lifestyles, needs and aspirations, have induced people to abandon the oasis settlements which have inexorably decayed. When inhabitants have stayed, physical alteration of urban structures, buildings, open spaces and agricultural land has occurred. Passages have been opened in city walls, roads widened and clusters of traditional structures torn down to make room for cars. Encroaching on arable land modern building development has caused the loss of century-old synergistic relationships between the Ήārahs and the oases, their spatial connectedness and the social cohesiveness resulting from intricate kinship, neighbourly and patron-client relationships, the sharing of a common lifestyle and tribal identity and the dependence on the aflāj for livelihood. Furthermore, changes in building practice have been produced by large availability of modern materials and simultaneous loss of traditional building skills. As a consequence, the maintenance of traditional houses has become prohibitively expensive. Home owners find it more profitable to rent them out, which inevitably leads to traditional dwellings being altered in order to provide basic services such as running water and electricity, or torn down to make room for modern houses which disfeature the historic townscape with alien spatial and volumetric configurations.



Дārat as-Сaybanī currently remains uninhabited barring two dwellings, whereas Дārat alYemen is entirely uninhabited. The lack of dayto-day maintenance and conservation arising from abandonment is a significant threat. Fallen debris, as well as those deposited by local inhabitants, poses significant health and safety threats as well as conservation challenges. The tourism activity within the settlement, with visitors allowed to roam unchecked, constitutes a threat to their safety. Vehicular access to the immediate surroundings of the settlement and into it – both as a result of increased wealth and affordability but also due to unplanned tourism – is affecting the historic built fabric.



The wide range of constructional, structural and architectural issues arising from the derelict state of the structures poses an extremely important threat. The majority of the structures within the Ήārahs are in a state of significant damage, with key architectural features of the settlement being lost through erosion and collapse. Structures decay due to the eroding action of the elements, bacterial action as well as altered levels of stress and strain on building materials and components resulting from fluctuating levels of humidity and collapsed structures. The inevitable loss of the richness and cultural/material value of the earthen architecture is also caused by abandonment and resulting dilapidation, as well as repair and maintenance malpractices in the case of the still inhabited dwellings and used structures. The overall state of preservation of the structures can be best described according to four broad categories – “adequate”, “acceptable”, “inadequate”, “ruinous” – which are defined according to the state of preservation of roofs, floors and walls. Failure types affecting the mud brick envelopes have been identified under key structural and nonstructural defects in order to accordingly devise conservation and rehabilitation strategies. Structural failures are mainly wall cracks, non-structural failures encompass three types of surface erosion and two types of detachment of surface coatings.



Through culturally and technically informed Heritage Management and Development Plans a revitalization of Omani traditional heritage settlements has been advocated centred on education, training and skill development focused on traditional knowledge of the built environment and the crafts. The intention is to move away from an entirely tourism focused development, which necessarily leads to cultural commodification, towards a more sustainable alternative, where traditional and everyday activities may play an important role in the local economy. The guidelines produced for Дārat as-Сaybanī and Дārat al-Yemen take a holistic view of development, which goes beyond the idea of the settlement as an assemblage of built structures and artefacts to give specific attention to the present state of life and future aspirations of the inhabitants, ownership status of structures and the opportunity for publicprivate partnership. Conservation and development strategies are informed by internationally accorded ICOMOS Charters and UNESCO Operational Guidelines, which set out the ways in which the significant values of a settlement, its integrity and the heritage and material culture are to be safeguarded within a context of sympathetic development. A key theoretical concern is the need to look at alternative definitions and models of development, questioning the close nexus between development and economic growth. Through the diverse suggestions of making heritage meaningful to future generations – ranging from alternative methods of evaluating heritage resources to alternative methods of energy production – the proposals urge to acknowledge the essentially intertwined nature of development and heritage, unleashing the development opportunities of heritage to the fullest. At the core of the approach to heritage management lies the creation of a local appreciation for the heritage, which notions of modernity have often tended to erode. Integrating local communities into the development process helps not only to provide an economic incentive for local stakeholders to become involved, but also aids in the preservation of traditional skills in construction and crafts. The strategies employed for development of the oases as a whole draw from similar approaches that have been taken at a number of precedent oasis sites in Islamic countries. At the settlement level the goal is to avoid heritage museumification and, instead, focus on the settlement’s revitalisation and reintegration into the country’s economy. In the long term tourism, energy production, agriculture, as well as a host of associated creative industries, will ensure not just the survival of these ancient villages, but also their sustained growth into a post-oil economy. Apparently incongruent programmes and spatial/ formal devices, which draw on precedent strategies such as repair, renewal, adaptive reuse, extension, encapsulation of building envelopes, building inside existing building envelopes, incorporation of architectural facades and architectural remains, superimposition and juxtaposition, are employed to act as catalysts allowing development to operate within a critical contextual – yet global – framework (source:



The key idea underlying the Heritage Management and Development Master Plan for Дārat as-Сaybanī is to think about programmatic input from an integrated economic, social and cultural perspective. The goal is to generate economic activity and social capital by involving the erstwhile inhabitants, new stakeholders and the local community, while ensuring sensitive interpretation of the past through multidisciplinary study of the historical, archaeological, anthropological, architectural and technological features of the settlement. Research and skills training in heritage and traditional crafts are at the core of the new programme, dovetailed with touristic and commercial activities. The focus is on the substantially extant built fabric along the two falaj channels, concentrating here the visitor-related facilities for easy access. The dwellings close to the entrance square are to be restored and partly rebuilt to provide an understanding of the complex settlement and dwelling organization. The pink zone is proposed for redevelopment into education, training and tourism related facilities, by retaining the existing walls and fragments of structures, in order to reinstate the original density of the fabric. Within the green zone the aim is to encourage inhabitants to employ their dwellings to economic and related activities. The ruins in the grey zone are to be consolidated and reached through prescribed routes for tourists to enjoy the panoramic view of the oasis from the apex of the hill.



Fortification 1. Restoration, consolidation and/or rebuilding of fortification and associated defensive features such as towers, sentry walk, gateways, passages and staircases. 2. Retention of all natural, manmade, agricultural, irrigational, urban and townscape features associated with the fortification. 3. Enhancement of all extant fortification features and qualities through appropriate presentation. 4. Highlighting of all morphological and evolutionary features, evidences and traces.

Streets, lanes and communal spaces 1. Retention of haptic and townscape qualities of all streets, passages and civic spaces, and introduction, wherever necessary, of new stone steps to provide easy access to visitors. 2. Adequate consideration of disabled access opportunities, within the limitations of the site topography. 3. Introduction of appropriate and sympathetic lighting along the streets as recessed inground spotlights (fixed/tilting/rotatable) to highlight facades and features and provide ambient lighting during the night.



Access and car parking 1. Restriction of vehicular access to the main streets within the oasis and appropriate location of car parking provisions around the Î‰Ä rah. 2. Pedestrian access only within the walled and gated settlement. 3. Location of small parking areas along the main vehicular access road to Barkat al-Mawz. 4. Creation of small disabled and emergency parking areas in clearings within the date palm gardens.

Electricity and water 1. Burying of new and existing infrastructural elements related to electrical and water supply provisions underground or within walls. 2. Appropriate location of concealed solar panels to provide for at least part of the electricity demand. 3. Optimization of access to the falaj fresh water to reduce piped water supply. 4. Provision of water storage facilities.



Waste water and sewage 1. Installation of ecological toilets and waterless urinals in individual properties and public toilets, as and where necessary. 2. Creation of drainage channels along identiďŹ ed and appropriately protected over-ground and underground areas which, through devices crossing the two falaj channels, pour storm water into the gardens to be used for irrigation.

Waste and garbage disposal 1. Removal of debris and creation of disposal points in communal areas. 2. Collection and recycling of organic and inorganic waste for energy production and/or fertilizer production. 3. Creation of deďŹ ned points of modern waste disposal along streets, passages and civic spaces.



Agriculture and irrigation

Buffer zone

1. Conservation and revitalization of surrounding agricultural land as a vital component of settlement structure and evolution and land devoted to animal husbandry. 2. Controlled and sympathetic development within agricultural land only as exception and consideration on an individual basis. 3. Revitalisation of agriculture through improved irrigation infrastructure and regular maintenance of falaj. 4. Demolition and rebuilding in mud brick of washing cubicles for use by residents and visitors, strictly not for washing clothes, dishes and other unclean objects. 5. Provision of alternative washing and toilet facilities for the small number of residents.

1. Creation of 100 m deep buffer zone to retain the traditional context and reduce pressure on the settlement form. 2. Retention, revival and, if necessary, creation of visual corridors to enhance the imageability and signiďŹ cance of the settlement, its experience and to consolidate and safeguard the immediate context. 3. Extension of conservation measures to important structures such as mosques, sablah and defensive structures within the buffer zone.



The Heritage Management and Development Master Plan proposed for Дārat al-Yemen to holistically address conservation issues and sustainable economic and social development, envisages the settlement as becoming home to research, training and outreach centres dedicated to heritage tourism, agriculture, energy and alternative technology. A cultural experience zone, short-stay accommodation, catering and commercial outlets, on-site traditional crafts production as well as guided experiential tours would bring a seasonal influx of capital. Greater reliance on local produce through the exploration of alternative methods of food production, small-scale and low-tech cropping would ensure Oman’s food self-sufficiency and the continuation of ancient traditions through modern techniques. Harnessing of solar energy and improving the indoor thermal comfort and associated research and technological development would reduce reliance on fossil fuel. A parallel focus on education and training in the three key sectors is to be established, possibly in conjunction with the local Nizwa University and other governmental and non-governmental bodies.



Izkī oasis development

Urban design and development

1. Preservation of the palm groves and associated agricultural land and infrastructure. 2. Ban on construction within a set perimeter containing agricultural land. 3. Provision of developed land for housing outside the agricultural perimeter. 4. Restoration of the Falaj al-Malkī to reirrigate previously abandoned areas. 5. Introduction of electronic water management technologies to reduce water loss and labour. 6. Introduction of advanced soilpreparation techniques to improve water retention and plant growth. 7. Provision of market access for local produce. 8. Creation of an advanced agriculture information centre for experiences exchange and training.

1. Preservation of key urban components, such as the mosques, madrasah (QurΜanic school) and sablahs, water wells, raΉās (grindstones), communal bathing areas and latrines. 2. Consolidation and restoration of towers, walls and gates. 3. Protection of archaeological areas. 4. Provision of public spaces for events for the local community, such as weddings and other festivities.



Water and electricity 1. Provision of mains water source. 2. Integration of photovoltaic panels and solar water heaters into architectural designs to complement mains power, with possibility of feeding excess electricity back into the grid.

Grey water and storm water 1. Collection of grey water in treatment basins outside of the settlement to be reused for irrigation or domestic purposes depending on purity achieved. 2. Collection of storm water in large settling and storage tanks located beyond the road on the eastern side of the settlement.



Sanitation 1. Installation of composting toilets, aerator taps and low-flow showers.

Garbage disposal 1. Synthetic waste recycling and collection of organic waste for energy production in microbiogas plants and/or fertilizer production.

Agriculture 1. Restoration and gradual expansion of the Falaj alMalkī to re-irrigate previously abandoned areas. 2. Introduction of electronic water management technologies to reduce water loss and labour. 3. Introduction of advanced soilpreparation techniques to improve water retention and plant growth.



Access 1. Pedestrian access only within the settlement, with designated paths and routes for visitors. 2. Unblocking of west gate to allow for a oneway system for transport vehicles. 3. Creation of parking areas outside the north and west gate. 4. Creation of a pedestrian entry route from the east gate and exit route via the west gate.

Public spaces 1. Location of information centre at the square inside the north gate, to host tourism related activities and performances, but also traditional festivities and performances. 2. Reuse of the tannur (underground oven) next to the north-east tower during receptions held in the square. 3. Redevelopment of the Darāmikah quarter at the north-west end as the core of the cultural experience. 4. Rebuilding of house N1 as the administrative centre for managing heritage activities within the Ήārah. 5. Redevelopment of courtyard-focused houses as workshops, for tourists to watch craft production, and of street facing houses as shops to sell the goods produced. 6. Development of a communal event area to cater for local civic and religious celebrations.



ArCHIAM Inaugural Exhibition July 2013  

This exhibition took place at the Bonington Gallery of Nottingham Trent University.

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