Manah: A Gift of God

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Manah: A Gift of God

Manah: A Gift of God

Between 1991 and 1993 a pilot study of Omani settlement types was undertaken, jointly supported by the UK universities of Liverpool and the Leeds Metropolitan. The study looked at both modern and traditional towns across geographical regions to acquire a fuller picture of differing and changing settlement characteristics in Oman. It was decided to carry out a study of the nature of space and architecture of oasis settlements, for which Bilad Manah was finally chosen. A detailed documentation has now resulted from the fieldwork, which is the theme of the current exhibition and this accompanying catalogue. Over the last eight years the deterioration of the physical fabric of this deserted oasis settlement has been extremely alarming. In this context, the present study assumes added importance; this documentation is the first step in the preservation of this unique settlement.

Soumyen Bandyopadhyay

The Architecture of a Deserted Omani Settlement

Dr. Soumyen Bandyopadhyay is a lecturer in Architecture at the School of Architecture and Building Engineering, University of Liverpool. He has researched on the settlement characteristics of traditional and modern towns of Oman since 1990. He has been a practising architect in Oman between 1985 and 1990.

The Architecture of a Deserted Omani Settlement

Manah: A Gift of God

The Architecture of a Deserted Omani Settlement Soumyen Bandyopadhyay

Historical Association of Oman

in association with British Council, Oman and the University of Liverpool

The exhibition, of which this catalogue is a part, was organised by the University of Liverpool in association with the British Council in Oman, Bait Al Zubair Museum, Muscat, Historical Association of Oman, Emirates Airlines, and the United Power Company, Muscat. Exhibition inauguration: April 15, 2001, Bait Al Zubair Museum, Muscat. This exhibition and catalogue publication is supported by the Historical Association of Oman, the British Council in Oman and the University of Liverpool. Š 2001 Soumyen Bandyopadhyay, University of Liverpool. Published by the Historical Association of Oman, PO Box 3941 Ruwi, Postcode 112, Sultanate of Oman, April 2001. ISBN 0 906370 31 0 All rights reserved. No part of this catalogue may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. All drawings and photographs, except the following, are by Soumyen Bandyopadhyay; Figure 8: courtesy National Survey Authority, Ministry of Defence, Muscat: Sultanate of Oman; Figures 6, 15, 17, 19: Soumya Dasgupta. Figures 9, 12 & 13 are drawings based on maps kindly provided by the Ministry of Post, Telegraph and Telecommunications (PTT), Muscat: Sultanate of Oman. Design and production: Philip Berridge & Soumyen Bandyopadhyay

To the people of Manah

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Contents Preface 9 Araby the Blessed 11

Gift of God Contribution to Omani Culture

Reconstructing History

Tribal Groups

North Wall and Gate G1 South Wall

Entrance Square Main Street (M1) Streets M2 and M3

12 13

The Oasis of Manah


Bilad Manah








16 21 23 25 27 29 30

Masjid al-‘Ayn Masjid al-Shara Masjid al-‘Ali Water and Places of Worship Mihrab Prayer Hall and Bumah

34 35 37 38 38 39

Sabla 41 Falaj Fiqain Sabla Wali’s Sabla Al Bu Sa’idi Sabla

41 42 42


Dwellings 45 A Large Wardi Dwelling

Epilogue 49 Bibliography 52

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Preface Between 1991 and 1993 a pilot study of Omani settlement types was undertaken. The study looked at both modern and traditional towns across geographical regions to acquire a fuller picture of differing and changing settlement characteristics. Bilad Manah was finally chosen to carry out a study of the nature of space and architecture of oasis settlements. A detailed documentation has now resulted from the fieldwork, which is the theme of the current exhibition and this accompanying catalogue. Over the last eight years the deterioration of Manah’s predominantly mud-brick settlement fabric has been extremely alarming. In this context, the present study assumes added importance; this documentation in the first step in the preservation of this unique settlement. I am thankful to H.E. Mohammed Zubair for granting permission to exhibit the work at the Bait Al Zubair and to H.E. Sheikh Salem Al Maskri for supporting publication of catalogue. Many individuals and institutions have contributed to the success of this endeavour. In Oman: Sarah White, Bait Al Zubair; Wendy Jordan, British Council; Emirates Airlines; Ahmed Al Mukhaini, Historical Association of Oman; Abdulla b. Shwain Al Hosni & Rosemary Hector, Ministry of Information; Salim Al Busaidy, NSA; Zoher Karachiwala, United Power Company. At Liverpool University: Profs. Peter Batey & Simon Pepper, Philip Berridge, Mike Knight, Steve Bennett, Paul Thompson & Mohammed Wonous. Finally, my wife Jagori.

Figure 1 (left) - The enchanting ruins of Bilad Manah; the round tower of the South wall seen through the ruins of the Al Bu Sa’idi quarter. Figure 2 (above) - Collapsing walls, falling roofs, blocked off passages, termite-eaten doorways . . . are leading to a gradual erasure of Manah’s townscape and architecture.

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10 - Manah: A Gift of God

Araby the blessed In the December of 1835 Lieutenant Wellsted of the Indian Navy was making his voyage, the first by a European traveller, through the Sharqiya and the Jawf. Sayyid Said, the then sultan of Muscat, had encouraged him on his travel, presented him with a horse, a gold-mounted sword and a pack of greyhounds, and had sought to pay all his expenses. Having travelled by sea to Sur and then overland to Bilad Bani Bu Ali, he continued his journey through the Sharqiya towns of Ibra and Samad towards the Jawf. On the 21st of December he reached the outskirts of a large oasis. Approaching the oasis of Minnà, a corruption of the name Manah, from the East, the party was astonished by its verdure, as Wellsted recounts in his 1838 book, Travels in Arabia, As we crossed these, with lofty almond, citron and orange trees, yielding a delicious fragrance on either hand, exclamations of astonishment and admiration burst from us. “Is this Arabia”, we said; “this the country we have looked on heretofore as a desert?” Verdant fields of grain and sugarcane stretching along for miles are before us; streams of water flowing in all directions, intersect our path; and the happy and contented appearance of the peasants helps to fill up the smiling picture; the atmosphere was delightfully clear and pure; and so we trotted joyously along, giving or returning salutation of peace or welcome, I could almost fancy we had at last reached that “Araby the blessed”, which I have been accustomed to regard as existing only in the fictions of our poets.

Figure 3 (left) - “Is this Arabia”! Acres of date palm stretching in all directions between Fiqain and Bilad Manah. Wellsted marvelled at the verdant exuberance of the Manah oasis. The tip of the famous square tower of Manah is visible on the horizon. Figure 4 (above) - Camel grazing on the edge of Wadi Kalbu near Karsheh. The wadi-s define the western and eastern boundaries of Manah oasis.

Manah: A Gift of God - 11

Figure 5 (above) - A falaj official ensuring precise distribution of water in Misfat Al Abriyeen. The importation of this sophisticated technique of artificial irrigation date back to about 1000 BC. Figure 6 (above-right) - Jabal Al Fay marks the northern boundary of the oasis.

The next few pages continue with an excited description of Manah, the town, its people - happy and contented, and his encounter with the local sheikh of the Hinawis who were in conflict with the Ghafri groups occupying a neighbouring “settlement”. Forty years later, Colonel Miles, an excellent Arabist who was also meticulous in his observations and recordings, found this “large and straggling oasis standing in a rich and well-watered district”. Standing out amidst the arid barrenness of the regional landscape, defined by a rocky outcrop of Jabal al-Fay on the North and restrained by the desert-bound wadi courses of Kalbu and Mu’aydin, the oasis once truly affirmed the Arabic meaning of its name, “the gift of God”.

The gift of God

The beginnings of oasis settlements date back to the very early days of human habitation in the region. The ancient Arab-Omanis did not fail to spot these areas of natural exuberance in an otherwise inhospitable terrain; they, as W. Robertson Smith noted, “seemed to be planted and watered by the hand of the gods”. Initially supported by the surface flow in the wadi-s but also utilising water from natural springs, these early agricultural communities were soon to develop, and later import (from Persia), sophisticated techniques of artificial irrigation we know today as the falaj. According to the Kashf al Ghumma, an 18th-century historical chronicle attributed to Sirhan bin Said 12 - Manah: A Gift of God

al Izkawi, Malik bin Fahm, the legendary forefather of all Omanis of Yemenite origin, excavated a falaj on the outskirts of Manah on his arrival in inner Oman. On leaving Yemen, so the legend goes, Malik’s party travelled up the coast to Qalhat where the women and children were left in safe custody. Malik then made his way to the interior and routed the Persian occupiers in a battle at Salut near Bisya, about 30kms West of Manah. Thereafter, Malik and his descendants ruled over Oman. Skeet, in the late 1960’s, found the local wali uninterested in the falaj; Skeet nevertheless “went off and found it, broken and dusty in a field and half covered with dead grass”, and it did not appear very archaic at all! However, the legend is very much alive today, even amongst the younger generation of Manhis, who are keen to point out the remains of a falaj within the oasis, close to the fortified settlement of Bilad Manah.

Figure 7 - Throughout history, Manah and the Manhis have contributed to the study of the Islamic and secular sciences and the arts.

Contribution to Omani culture

This natural gift was also to translate itself into a range of human endeavours that made Manah one of the important cultural centres of the interior. Throughout the “Golden Period” of the first and the second Ibadhi Imamates, Manah had remained a seat of learning for the Islamic and secular sciences and the arts. Even in the so-called Dark Ages of Nabahina power, as tyrannical petty rulers usurped control of some of the major oasis towns, the Ibadhi state (misr) continued to survive in and around Nizwa and Manah. The Portuguese traveller de Barros, who never actually visited the Dakhliya, listed Manah alongside Nizwa, Bahla and Izki as the principal fortified centres of the 15th century interior (Jawf). As part of the earnest but sadly fragmented effort to revive Ibadhi Imamate in the late 14th and early 15th century, the people of Manah in 1560 AD elected a Manah resident, ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad al-Qurn (al-Hina’i), as the Imam. Another important Manhi contribution to the 16th-century was the work of the school of craftsmen based in Manah, who created a series of richly decorated mihrab (prayer niche) in mosques of the interior, including four in Manah.

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14 - Manah: A Gift of God

The oasis of Manah Deep within Jawf, the Jabal al-Akhdar breaks down into smaller mountain massifs of receding heights and helps to divert some major wadi courses which run down the Western Mountains (Al Hajar Al Gharbi). One such outpost, the isolated mountain mass of Jabal al-Fay (altitude 999m) along with a smaller outcrop (altitude 792m), mark the northern edge of the oasis of Manah. The sand and gravel beds of the combined wadi-s Nizwa and Mu’aydin establish the western boundary of the oasis. The small outpost oasis of Karsheh utilises the alluvial deposits where the two wadi-s meet. A minor course of Mu’aydin and the Wadi al-Hajar joining near Mahyul define the eastern edge of Manah. The wadi flows East and West of Manah meet near Izz, 15km South of Manah, and combine eventually with the great Wadi Halfayn even further South. Manah oasis with its principal settlement of Bilad Manah lies 20kms Southeast of Nizwa, East of the main highway linking Muscat to the southern city of Salalah. Far removed from her earlier glory, Bilad Manah has remained uninhabited over the past twenty-five years and is soon attaining a state of extreme dilapidation. A similar fate has befallen the other constituent towns of the oasis, Ma’mad, Ma’ra and Fiqain; collapsing walls, falling roofs, blocked off passages, termite-eaten doorways and the parasitic spread of weeds and shrubs, are leading towards a gradual erasure of the town configuration and its architecture. The oasis, however, is still cultivated; the plantation between Fiqain and the Bilad is watered by the Falaj Fiqain, while the oasis around Ma’mad is irrigated by the Falaj Sulaymani. While modern planned settlements with administrative and governatorial facilities have been established beyond

Figure 8 (left) - The oasis of Manah on an aerial photograph taken in 1993. New road development was already making its mark on the topography. Manah: A Gift of God - 15

Figure 9 - The oasis of Manah with its main constituent settlements. The new town developments are on the eastern periphery of the old oasis.

the eastern edge of the traditional oasis, scattered dwellings have mushroomed within the plantation itself.

Reconstructing settlement history

Popular stories hint at the establishment of a settlement by the Fars or more precisely by Kasrau Anusirwan. It is certain that the combined Halfayn-Kalbu wadi system was settled as early as the Umm an-Nar period (c. 2500-2000 BC). This older form of oasis settlement, primarily an agricultural and commercial (market) centre straddling the developing trade routes on the desert periphery, depended on the perennial water flow through the wadi surface gravel and supplemented that with water from natural springs (‘ayn) and wells. They also had a symbiotic relationship with industrial (copper producing) settlements, such as Maysar. A developed oasis settlement would surely have existed in the present location of Manah before the Achemenid To Karshah/N izw a Fiqain


Suq Ma nhia H aratal-Ma w ali B ilad Ma nah H usn Ma nhia Ma sjid al-Ja'ma'alKabir


16 - Manah: A Gift of God

Ma sjid B ostan New Governor's Offices

influence over inner Oman began in the 6th century BC, possibly forming part of the kingdom of Kade, whose king Pade, resident in Izki, paid tribute to the Assyrian king Assurbanipal. Although a physical presence from this strong northern civilisation can be discounted, a degree of indirect Mesopotamian influence on the local culture can nevertheless be surmised. Even though the Achemenids are generally credited with the introduction of the falaj irrigation system, recent archaeological evidence suggests its much earlier, albeit Persian, introduction into inner Oman. The Achemenids, or possibly the Parthians, made the region subordinate to their major centre at Salut. The Bilad, as its defence mechanism and the falaj water sharing structure suggests, worked in close conjunction with the other settlements within the oasis, Fiqain, Ma’mad, Ma’ra. A falaj channel near Bilad Manah, as we have seen, is said to have been dug by Malik bin Fahm, the legendary forefather of all Arab Omanis, giving Manah a central cultural location in the myth regarding the Yemeni origin of the Omani people. Along with Nizwa and Bahla, Manah further played a pivotal role in the spread and sustenance of Ibadhism in inner Oman. In the early 16th century Manah contributed in a major way to the Ibadhi renaissance and briefly enjoyed a high degree of power that resulted in the accumulation of some wealth, and made it a sanctuary for artisans. Over the next hundred years this school of craftsmen, aided by the redistribution of Nabahina wealth, produced some exquisitely decorated mihrab-s which now dominate the mosques of Manah, Nizwa, Bahla and other important towns of the interior. Possibly towards the end of the Ya’ariba period (mid-18th century), the walled settlement of Manah underwent a significant extension, which appears to have resulted from the Manadhar clan moving into the settlement under the aegis of the Al Bu Sa’idi, who were gradually gaining power in the region. Both tribes established themselves within the arable land behind the settlement walls leading to a restructuring and extension of the zarah (garden).

Figure 10 - An articulated mihrab in a destroyed mosque next to Bahla fort. The richly decorated mihrab in Bahla’s main mosque is the creation of a Manhi, Abdullah al-Humaimi.

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18 - Manah: A Gift of God

Suq Manhia H arat al-Ma w ali B ilad Manah

Ma sjid B ostan

H usn Manhia

Bilad Manah The market (suq), the settlement (bilad), the fort (husn), and the Friday Mosque (masjid al-Ja’ma’) stretches from North to South like beads on a string. The axis running through these could be extended further North to meet Fiqain. The traditional mud-brick structure of the suq, an important regional centre for livestock trading in the past, has recently been replaced with a concrete-block building set around a large courtyard. Beyond, a square straddling the course of a minor wadi, is still the focus of much morning and late afternoon activities. The only extant traditional structures are in the dilapidated residential quarter, Hara’t al-Mawali, partly defining the southern edge of the square. Beyond the northern edge of the suq, tracks and pathways disappear within the extensive and dense date plantation watered by the Falaj Fiqain, where other fruit bearing trees, e.g., lime, and grains, like barley and wheat, are also grown. Traditionally, Omanis, especially the well off, spent the hot summer within the oasis, in seasonal dwellings built with reed mat and palm frond or using sun dried mud bricks, under the shade of palm trees. The activities of the suq and the square have always taken place under the imposing and watchful presence of the square tower attached to the northern wall of the Bilad, the Burg Juss, which derives its name from the gypsum (juss) rendered appearance of its stone masonry. Visible across a sea of date palm from the fort in Fiqain and also from a distance as one approaches the oasis, the tower is still an imposing presence over the landscape, although its upper two tiers have virtually disappeared. The tower was noted and described by Wellsted, who was genuinely impressed by its

Ma sjid al-Ja'ma' al-Kabir

Figure 11 (left) - The activities of the suq have always taken place under the imposing and watchful presence of the square tower, Burg Juss, which derives its name from the gypsum (juss) rendered appearance. The suq (left) has been recently reconstructed using modern construction materials. Figure 12 (above) - The suq, the settlement, the fort and the Friday mosque stretch from North to South like beads on a string.

Manah: A Gift of God - 19

(1) Western extension, (2) Eastern Extension, (3) Burg Juss, (4) Qala’t al-Mansuri, (5) Masjid al-‘Ayn, (6) Masjid al-Shara, (7) Masjid al-‘Ali, (8) Masjid al-Rahba, (9) Wali’s sabla, (10) Sabla for Falaj Fiqain, (11) Abdali sheikh’s sabla, (12) Sabla’t al-Mutai’lah (Abdali), (13) Sabla’t al-Addanain (Wardi & Amri), (14) Sabla’t Sa’id b. Nasr (Al Bu Sa’id), (15) Masarir sabla, (16) Aghbira sabla, (17) Manadhar sabla, (18) Wardi dwelling, (19) Communal water point, (20) Communal water point.

15 G1



3 11


M1 1 19 13






6 12 M2 20


14 M3 G2

5 M3

M1 Zarah

4 G3

Figure 13 - The reconstructed plan of Bilad Manah showing the important civic and communal structures and dwellings. A few are discussed in this catalogue. 20 - Manah: A Gift of God





height considering the construction technique employed. The Bilad, the main focus of this exhibition which hereafter we shall call Manah, was originally a rectangular walled settlement, with subsequent easterly extension, and an even later extension beyond the western wall which continues to be inhabited. The southern wall contains a circular tower, of a slightly lesser height, but almost intact in its external appearance, which Wellsted had mistaken for yet another square-plan tower. Seen from the East, the two towers push into the sky, well above the height of the dwellings, defining the North-South extent of the settlement. The derelict remains of the fort, Husn Manhia lies at the southern end of the open ground that separated it from the Bilad. This ground once contained stables and a mosque, Masjid Sulaymani. The husn, a fortified enclosure, contains a number of extremely dilapidated structures used for defence, public, religious and secular purposes. Further South, beyond the Husn, is the extensively renovated Friday Mosque.

Tribal groups

There were no less than twenty tribal groups residing within the settlement around the time of its desertion, of which the ‘Abdali were by far the most numerous. The Al Bu Sa’idi were also influential within the oasis, while other groups may have gained importance at various times as a result of important socio-political changes taking place within the region. Although the majority belonged to the Hinawi political moiety, there were elements of the Ghafri faction present within the settlement. Processes of sedentarization not only invented such complex geo-political exclusion mechanisms as the “tribal dar”, but adopted physical measures such as fortifications (e.g., the southern wall), gateways and importantly, in the peripheralization and segregation of certain housing clusters (e.g., the Harat al-Mawali).

Figure 14 - Husn Manhia, the fort, is today visible through the gaping hole of the South gate, thanks to dilapidation.

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22 - Manah: A Gift of God

Fortification The Bilad is a fine example of a fortified town on the desert borderlands, pierced only by the four entrances from the four cardinal directions. The settlement was surrounded by a high mud-brick wall, its height varying between 4m and 10m, with two formidable watchtowers - one square and the other circular in plan, and with at least two prominent turrets. The enclosure was pierced on ground level by four gateways: one on the North, opposite the suq (gate G1); the second on the East, near the Masjid al-Bostan (gate G2), the third on the South, opposite the fort Husn Manhia (gate G3), and the fourth on the West, opposite the later extension to the settlement (gate G4). Only the southern and part of the eastern boundary was defined by a free-standing wall, enclosing the garden (zarah) behind it, while predominantly two-storied dwellings replaced the wall on the North and on the West. Sections of the wall, including the gateway G3, have entirely disappeared, while a significant part of the wall is in a very poor state of preservation. A large L-shaped hall on the upper level of G4 was used by the Wardi and the ‘Amri clans as their meeting hall (sabla).

The North wall and gate G1

The best preserved, the most formidable and important is the gateway opposite the suq (G1, see figure 21). Even after the desertion G1 continued to be used, first, as an access to the communal facilities which outlived the dwellings in their function, and more recently, as an access to the zarah or as a short-cut to the Friday mosque. East of this entrance, projecting beyond the wall, stands the slightly tapering tall square

Figure 15 (left) - Part of the southern fortification seen from outside the settlement. The South gate (G3) is to the right of the tower. Figure 16 (above) - The only covered passage in the settlement originates from the gateway opposite the suq.

Manah: A Gift of God - 23

Figure 17 (above) - The Burg Juss viewed from inside. Figure 18 (right) - Plan of the southern fortification. The fort and the settlement had had a history of uneasy co-existence.

tower, Burg Juss; the top two floors of this originally six-tiered structure have almost disappeared. The entrance archway reaches a height equal to the first tier of Burg Juss. Two small slits (kuwwa) on the projected floor above allowed boiling water or other deterrents to be thrown at the attackers. The tall entrance space, 2.5m wide x 6.5m deep, with its flanking walls adorned with raised seating and sculpted niches, terminates with a large pointed-arch on the southern edge, from where the main settlement route (M1) begins. On its western wall, a tall arched opening leads into the only covered route of the settlement that runs behind the northern settlement wall; its covered nature the result of a series of overhead interventions. Access to the upper floor is from the lane behind the gateway, through a staircase, which ends on the terrace above the entrance space, open on the South overlooking the settlement. On the East the ‘Abdali sheikh’s dwelling terminates the terrace, while on the North a shallow corridor containing the floor slits gave access to the second tier of the Burg. The terrace provided access to the next tier of the Burg through a staircase placed above the covered route. The subsequent levels of the tower were accessed through a rung ladder set in a corner and passing through successive floor hatches.

The South wall

Very little remains of gate G3 except for a large gap in the settlement wall; the wall stretching on either side of the gateway runs roughly parallel to the North wall. West

Co urty ard w ith w aterwe ll Al Bu Sa'id

Bani b Aduw (SaifM ajid) Al Bu Sa'id

Bani b Aduw Bani b Aduw Irrigation we ll

al-Saqri (H arub)

Al Bu Sa'id

Al Bu Sa'id


R ound tower

24 - Manah: A Gift of God


of the gateway, the circular tower stands proud of the wall line. Beyond, the wall carries on with a slight intermediate directional shift to meet the turret at the southwestern corner of the settlement. Midway between the circular tower and the turret, another turret, rectangular in plan, barely projecting beyond the settlement wall but pushing its head above the wall line, once stood with dignity. All this was part of an elaborate defence arrangement that stretched between gate G3 and the southwestern corner, whose most important feature was the still-largely-intact circular-plan tower. An elevated sentry-walk runs between the tower and the corner turret, complete with access steps, a well and a water trough. Another flight of steps from the sentry walk led up to the upper level of the rectangular turret. East of G3, the freestanding wall rising to a formidable height encloses the zarah (garden), the ground sloping away from it making it appear even more substantial.

Manah: A Gift of God - 25

26 - Manah: A Gift of God

Townscape The three main routes which, hereafter, we shall call M1, M2 and M3, respectively, originate from the entrance gates (G1- G4) into the settlement (see figure 13), are wider than most other routes and contain longer unobstructed stretches with no sharp bends to punctuate these. Running between gates G1 and G3 and following the main North-South axis of the oasis, M1 is the longest and consistently wider of the three and was, during the life of the settlement, the most important. More routes (18 in all) branch off M1 than any other route within the settlement; this includes M2 and M3 confirming their subordinate status to M1. A number of public and communal amenities, including mosques, meeting halls (sabla-s) and covered gathering areas are located on these, especially on M1 and M2. M1 had the most mosques and sabla -s, while M2 had a few shops and an extensive covered resting area. Other routes branch off these main streets to create a complex web of lanes, alleyways and deadend darb-s with hidden corners, unexpected views and exciting openings. While broadly following a known Islamic townscape typology, Manah’s settlement characteristics also make it very unique.

The entrance square

Behind the northern gate G1 we find what was once the most public zone of the town, separated from the rest of the settlement by an arch spanning the width of the street; a dwelling extends above and with seating below completes the separation (C1). This public area gives access to the northern fortification and the Burg al-Juss, and con-

Figure 19 (left) - The main entrance square denotes the beginning of the main NorthSouth street. This was the most public end of the settlement. Figure 20 (above) - Secondary routes branch off the main streets to create a complex web of lanes, alleyways and deadend darb-s with hidden corners, unexpected views and exciting openings.

Manah: A Gift of God - 27

tains the wali’s sabla and residence, the detention cell, the tannur (roasting pit), the sabla (or bayt) for Falaj Fiqain and the Masjid al-‘Ali. The roasting pit was used on the occasion of marriages and festivals; in its refurbished state it is now used during Eid festivities. Sabla, a word unique to Omani architecture, is used in connection with the male gathering hall, a communal equivalent of the private majlis. Sabla-s of various clans are found dotted around the Bilad; not all clans had sabla-s, and some sabla-s were used by more than one clan. Here, the male of a particular tribe and their client groups and alliances gathered to discuss communal matters, either before or after the obligatory prayers and during the evenings, or during times of conflict and war. The wali’s sabla, raised above ground within a courtyard, performed a more stately function. The older inhabitants still remember how, on his first visit as Sultan, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said was received by the sheikh-s and elders of Manah, who pledged their support. His Majesty then strolled down the main street to meet the inhabitants of Bilad. The bayt (house) for the Falaj, recently rebuilt in concrete blocks, is where the falaj water auctions are normally held; the price of a unit of irrigation water varies with its availability in a particular season. The covered northern entrance was also the work place of the blacksmiths who lived in a lane opposite the Masjid al-‘Ali. Covered route



B urg al-Juss


R oasting pit

Abdalisheikh W ali's sabla Co nfinem ent cell

Sabla for FalajFiqain


W ell Sahn M1

Figure 21 - Plan of entrance square showing the collection of religious, administrative and communal facilities. 28 - Manah: A Gift of God

M asjid al-'Ali

W ell Coveredseating C1

Figure 22 - A view of the main street of Bilad Manah, looking North. Consistently the widest, the street stretches between the North and the South gates (G1 and G3). The resting space C1 is under the archway through which the Falaj sabla is visible.

The main street (M1)

Beyond the covered seating (C1), M1 fully establishes its own identity as it swerves and stretches North to South through the rest of the town; this emergence is linked with a directional change as the axis now shifts due South. As one progresses South on M1, this shifting axis begins to alternate between a South and a Southwest direction before ending at gate G3 facing the fort, having described a great arc through the settlement. This continually shifting axis allows M1 to reveal itself gradually, and has an initial disorientating effect on the visitor. However, one learns to establish a few visual markers or points of orientation en route ; these are not only the secondary routes which meet M1 at almost regular intervals, but also certain structures located on the eastern edge of the arc and visible from a distance. The first such marker is the Masjid al-Shara, followed by the entrance to the shop located at the intersection of M1 and M2, and finally the Masjid al-‘Ayn. From al-‘Ayn the fragmentary remains of gate G3 are visible, and so is the fort beyond, lying across an open esplanade. West of G3 there is the dominating presence of the well preserved circular tower. Travelling North from G3, the square tower, Burg Juss, attached to G1, acted as a beacon throughout; resolving thereby the problem of orientation and expectation experienced while travelling in the opposite direction. The secondary routes, which branch out at regular intervals, possess varied characteristics. The ones to the East of M1 are all dead-end alleyways (darb), while to the West all routes except one are connected Manah: A Gift of God - 29

Figure 23 (left) - View of M2 looking towards West gate (G4). Next to the gate is Masjid al-Rahba. Figure 24 (far-left) - Detail of resting area (C2) on M2. On the hottest days the makeshift afternoon suq would operate here.

to other settlement routes.

Streets M2 and M3

M2 originates from the western gate G4 through a much less articulated transition than G1. Beyond, the axial shift on M2, associated with an attenuation and the dark beckoning hollowness of the covered resting area (C2), attracts our attention. C2 truncates M2, and with its great depth enhances the spatial containment between G4 and C2. Beyond G4, on the northern edge of M2, is the entrance to the ablution block of Masjid al Rahba. From the point of axial shift the connection with M1 becomes apparent. The focal point now shifts to the recessed opening of the sweet (halwa) shop marking its point of intersection with M1. C2 with raised seating on either side of the route, is punctuated by a light-well, and together with the coffee (kahwa) shop on M2 and the sweet shop on M1, functioned as a focus of social interaction within the settlement. Beyond C2, M2 widens considerably as the northern edge loses the strong built-up character present earlier, its corner marked by the narrow end of an important sabla. M3, unlike M1 and M2, does not exhibit a continuous built-up edge, having never fully developed into a dense fabric. Only a few dwellings survive in a cluster around the axial shift midway between G2 and M1, the majority appears to have been two-storied structures.

30 - Manah: A Gift of God

Figure 25 - A view of East gate (G2) at the end of street M3. M3 never really developed into a dense built up area.

Manah: A Gift of God - 31

32 - Manah: A Gift of God

Mosques The four mosques within the settlement, Masjid al-‘Ayn, al-Shara, al-‘Ali (or Awla) and al-Rahba, once used for daily prayers (salat), are no longer functional, although they remained in use long after the desertion of the settlement. Three located on the eastern edge of the main route M1, contain fine examples of early 16th century mihrab decoration in Oman. Only Masjid al-‘Ali has been refurbished recently, while the others lie in a very poor state of preservation. The doors and windows have disappeared and roof cracks allow rainwater to drip down over the mihrab decoration. Al-Rahba, without a decorated mihrab, sits on the northern edge of M2, close to gate G4 and is the only mosque where the ablution block is placed against the qibla wall. The elements common in their spatial organisation are the covered prayer hall (masjid), an open courtyard (sahn) and the ablution block (wudu), while auxiliary facilities are attached to these core functions in two mosques. The other mosques found immediately beyond the settlement walls and currently lying derelict are, the Masjid al-Bostan with its madrasah beyond the eastern gate G2, Masjid al-Sulaymani, beyond the southern gate G3, and a small prayer hall within the fort Husn Manhia. Masjid al-Ja’ma’, the large Friday Mosque located South of the fort, the fourth mosque with a decorated mihrab, has undergone significant restoration and is now in use. A unique feature of mosques in central Oman is a small dome called the bumah, often located over the northeastern corner of the prayer hall.

Figure 26 (left) - Masjid al-‘Ayn viewed from the garden (zarah). The mosque sits over a natural spring (‘ayn) which also waters the zarah. The state of preservation is very concerning. If the mosques are not conserved, we are soon to preside over the erasure of an important chapter of Oman’s cultural history. Figure 27 (above) - Masjid al-Shara, interior view of prayer hall.

Manah: A Gift of God - 33

Figure 28 - Masjid al-‘Ayn, axonometric view. The main spatial components are the sahn, the masjid and the wudu.

Masjid al-‘Ayn

Masjid al-‘Ayn, the largest mosque complex within the fortified settlement, is located on M1, close to the southern gate G3, with the zarah on the East. According to local knowledge, this was the first mosque constructed; although the date remains unclear. The main entrance to the complex is from M1 through a simple gateway structure, which leads into the main sahn. A low wall with an external mihrab niche connecting the gateway and the prayer hall makes the sahn an open-air extension of the prayer hall. Opposite the entrance, the wudu cuboid projects partially into an otherwise rectangular sahn. The heart of the wudu is the well (tawi), which in fact is a vertical shaft over a seasonal spring (‘ayn) that gives the mosque its particular name, while the ‘ayn in turn is called the ‘Ayn Kubbah. A gallery under the eastern edge of the sahn brings the ‘ayn out into the zarah. Behind the tawi, two ablution cubicles receive their water supply through thin copper spouts (mirzab) from an elevated trough. The northern edge of the sahn is defined by the large cuboid (11m x 8m x 6.5m high) of the prayer hall. A balcony wraps around its southern corner to connect the sahn to a smaller rear sahn . The hall can be accessed from both sahn-s. The length of the hall is divided into three bays by two sets of two pointed arches with two circular columns falling on the central axis passing through the exquisitely decorated mihrab. The mihrab, 2m wide x 4m tall with inscription and exquisite decoration in Bumah Prayer hall


W udu





34 - Manah: A Gift of God

Prayer hall


Ablution cubicles

W aterTrough

W udu W ell Sahn

M1 Entrance

gypsum plaster, executed in 911 AH/ 1505 AD, is indeed one of the finest examples of mihrab decoration in central Oman. On the northeastern corner, a rung ladder provides access to the roof through a square hatch surmounted by the bumah. The scant remains of juss on the external surface suggests that the prayer hall was once rendered entirely in juss to give it a finely finished appearance. A two-storied single-cell structure, separated from the smaller sahn and the mosque by a staircase leading down to the zarah, marks the eastern edge of the complex.

Figure 29 - Masjid al-‘Ayn, the wudu block, section (above-left) and axonometric (above).

Masjid al-Shara

Masjid al-Shara, set on a high plinth (1.8m), sits mid-way between gates G1 and G3. An abrupt directional shift on M1 has resulted in a narrow low-height wedge-shaped attachment to the western façade of the imposing prayer-hall cuboid, with the entrance to the complex lying at the deeper end of this volume. Masjid al-Shara acquires its name from the word shari, a term attributed to the true Ibadhi. A narrow winding lane originating from M1 defines the entire southern edge, becoming increasingly constricted before finally widening again to end up in a small zarah behind the mosque. The sahn is a rectilinear terrace (7m x 14m) separating the prayer hall from the wudu. The main access from M1 is through a fairly deep palm-frond vaulted entrance space with a set of steps leading up to and cutting into the passageway to the elevated sahn. On the left are two of the doors to the prayer hall. Between the entrance and the prayer hall is the entry to the narrow wedge-shaped sabla (or majlis). While the northern edge is defined by the solid wall of the neighbouring property, the low parapet on the curving southern edge, effectively the top of the earth-retaining structure for the elevated sahn, is pierced by a secondary entrance door set within a free-standing arched masonry frame. The prayer hall façade, with its two symmetrically disposed access doors, Manah: A Gift of God - 35

Figure 30 - Masjid al-Shara, plan.

A D4 D3

M ajlis



C E2


Prayer hall


E3 G2 Sahn








I I1



has a shallow mihrab between them. The mihrab shows traces of some fine decoration in juss, surrounded by a rectangular band in bas-relief with stipple motifs on top. The bumah is located on the northeastern corner of the prayer hall. Inside the prayer hall, at the centre of the qibla wall is the mihrab set within a nicely decorated 2m wide x 5m high rectangle with a small niche for storing sacred books to its left; the general scheme of decoration, executed in 922 AH/ 1516 AD, is similar to the one found in Masjid al-’Ayn. The hall interior is divided into two bays by a single three-arched arcade.

Masjid al-‘Ali (al-Awla)

Recently conserved, Masjid al-‘Ali is located near gate G1 (see figure 21), amidst other important civic facilities within the most public space of the settlement, and therefore its role can only be appreciated in relation to these structures. This mosque also received people visiting the suq. 36 - Manah: A Gift of God

The only entrance to the complex is from M1 opposite the Falaj Fiqain sabla, making it unique in this respect among the mosques; narrow lanes on the other three sides separate the complex from dwellings, giving rise to its island-like nature. The entrance is through the wudu situated on the southern edge of the complex. To the left of the entrance, along the external edge on M1, facing the sabla, is a long raised seating. The steps leading up to the raised level of the complex cuts deep into the gallery in front of the ablution cubicles. The water well is at the far southeastern corner of the wudu; water poured into the raised water trough was shared between two ablution cubicles with the third situated behind the entrance steps. The wudu and the sahn are mediated by an arcade. Although externally, the reconstructed wudu roof gives the impression of uniformity, the slightly lower roofline over the entrance steps can be seen and accessed from the sahn, and was possibly used for Friday sermons towards the end. The sahn, rectangular in shape, has a parapet with an accentuated mihrab niche on the West. On its eastern edge, drinking water in earthen jars were once suspended on iron hooks from a timber beam. The two double-leafed doors from the sahn, are the only means of accessing the prayer hall, with four high level narrow openings, two over each doorway, completing the fenestration pattern of the southern façade. Once again the central focus of the prayer hall interior, divided by an arcade into two equal bays, is the richly decorated mihrab located at the centre of the qibla wall. The bumah, exceptionally for this settlement, instead of its customary northeast corner location, is on the southeast corner of the prayer hall. This is the earliest decorated mihrab completed on the 13th of the month of Rajab 909 AH/ 1503 AD and uses prefabricated gypsum panels created employing a cylindrical mould. The scheme of decoration is very similar to the ones found in the two other mosques.

Figure 31 - Masjid al-Shara, mihrab decoration.

Water and places of worship

Interpretation of the Quranic wudu (ablution) verses resulted in slight variations in the mosque spatial organisation: an insistence on ritual purity of a stranger or traveller resulted in the provision of a direct access into ablution facilities in mosques next to settlement entrances (Masjid al-‘Ali and al-Rahba). Ritual impurity became linked with a notion of territoriality centred on the settlement, encapsulating the hadr (settled population) worldview. Thus spatiality of mosques in desert foreland regions is, in effect, not only a result of Islamic doctrinal requirements, but also a product of the complex processes of sedenterization amongst Arab tribes.

Manah: A Gift of God - 37


Figure 32 (above) - Masjid al-‘Ali, bumah. The Ibadhis preferred this diminutive structure to the tall minaret. Figure 33 (above-right) - Masjid al-‘Ayn, detail of mihrab decoration with Chinese porcelain insertion. 38 - Manah: A Gift of God

The mihrab-s give the four mosques of Manah a special place in Omani cultural history. Masjid al ‘Ali’s is the oldest; today it is the known second oldest decorated mihrab found after the one in Sa’al, Nizwa (1252 AD), leaving it unclear to us whether mihrab decoration continued within the interregnum. The decoration executed in gypsum using cylindrical moulds with circular impressions was the work of Abdullah al-Humaimi, the foremost exponent of this art during the early 16th century, a Manhi, who was also invited to decorate mihrab-s in Bahla and Nizwa. A very interesting feature of this scheme of decoration is the insertion, for the first time, of 15th century porcelain bowl of Chinese origin, another version of which could be found in the Topkapi palace in Istanbul. This may indeed relate to the increase in Chinese porcelain trade in the Arabian Peninsula. Such an interesting scheme of decoration, begun in Nizwa in the 13th century, developed and refined in Manah in the early 16th century, was followed in the subsequent decades and centuries in other mosques throughout central Oman. The two mihrab-s with the decorative schemes heavily influenced by the central focus of oasis life - the date palm, again, are the work of al-Humaimi and his followers. It appears that the revival of the art of mihrab decoration coincided with a period of numerous attempts to revive and restore the Ibadhi Imamate and the subsequent redistribution of wealth confiscated from the tyrannical Nabahina rulers.

Prayer hall and bumah

Another unique feature of the mosques of central Oman is the form of the prayer hall; unlike the liwan (pavilion)-type mosques on the coast and in Saudi Arabia, these are approximate cubes with fewer openings. This is a form that can be traced through the mosques of Dhofar and the Hadhramawt, into upper Yemen and San‘a’, and as far back in time as the pre-Islamic era. Also unique is the use of the bumah, a small dome normally placed on the north-eastern corner of the prayer hall, for the purpose of call to prayers. The Ibadhis, professing simplicity in their mosques, preferred this diminutive structure to the tall minaret. The bumah is yet another example of a synthesis of some very deep-rooted, complex, and often conflicting, themes and beliefs representing a compacted culture resulting from many centuries of human habitation in the region.

R oof hatch

Rung ladder

Figure 34 - Rung ladder, giving access to the bumah.

Manah: A Gift of God - 39

40 - Manah: A Gift of God

Sabla Male communal meeting halls in Oman are usually known as sabla-s. While some are more complex in spatial organisation than others, they all essentially perform the function of bringing the male of a tribe and its alliances together at appointed times during peace, but also during wars. In Bilad Manah a number of such tribal sabla-s were dotted around the settlement: two for the ‘Abdali clan (one in the sheikh’s dwelling and the other, Sabla’t al-Mutai’lah), one for the Wardi and the ‘Amri (Sabla’t al-Addanain) and one each for the Al Bu Sa’id, the Masarir and the Agbari. In addition, communal reception halls of a more general nature, known by the same name, are not in short supply in Manah either: the Wali’s sabla, the Falaj Fiqain sabla and a small wedge-shaped space attached to Masjid al-Shara, served as official, business and general meeting places, respectively. Informal meetings and exchanges would have taken place within the covered seating areas (C1 & C2) on the two main streets. The fort, Husn Manhia, had a meeting hall close to its entrance.

Falaj Fiqain sabla

A single-storied cuboid opposite Masjid al-‘Ali on M1 and lying back-to-back with the elevated Wali’s sabla (see figure 21), the Falaj Fiqain sabla has recently been entirely rebuilt. Externally, the structure is about 15m x 4.5m x 4.0m tall and physically exhibit an evolution independent of the Wali’s sabla. The façade on M1 has three large pointed-arched openings, each 1.2m wide x 1.7m tall and equidistant from each other, interspersed with a symmetrically disposed fenestration pattern that continues

Figure 35 (left) - Falaj Fiqain sabla with the Wali’s sabla visible behind. The falaj water auction took place here. This photograph was taken in 1994 before the sabla was pulled down and rebuilt in modern materials.

Manah: A Gift of God - 41

on the other two exposed façades. Finally, six narrow apertures placed immediately below the roof, and two flattened tin-canister waterspouts replacing their palmfrond predecessors, complete the symmetrical composition. Originally intended as a single oblong meeting hall, the northeastern third is partitioned off to create a secure storage with a steel door, used for falaj administration. The remaining two-third now forms a covered loggia where falaj matters are discussed and water auctions held every Friday. Its use as a sabla for visitors to the Masjid al-‘Ali (both residents and strangers), and intermittently, as a school (madrasah), are also worth noting.

Wali’s sabla

Access to the Wali’s sabla is from a large courtyard, through a passage and a small square from M1. The sabla is raised about 3m above ground, its undercroft once connected to the Falaj sabla and used as stables for horses. An L-shaped staircase leads up to a landing with the decorative door to the sabla; the staircase continues further up to culminate on the sabla roof. Sultan Qaboos, on his first visit to Manah, was received in this sabla. Guarded by a watchtower, the courtyard also gives access to a prison cell for minor offenders. The inmates were provided food and water through a service hatch in the wall; the water came from a well located close to the opening. In the post-1970 period, a small telegraph office appeared within the courtyard. These exhibit the central role of this courtyard in the affairs of the settlement, the oasis and the district (wilayat).

Al Bu Sa’idi sabla

This sabla with its distinctive “broken parapet”, located at the intersection of three routes, appears on the settlement plan as a wedge-shaped projection locking the three into position (see figure 13). The dwellings surrounding the sabla, all belonged to the Al Bu Sa’idi clan making it the focus of the sizeable Al Bu Sa’idi community occupying the south western corner of the settlement. Evidently renovated or rebuilt close to the desertion of the settlement, this sabla is still well preserved, in contrast to the state of the neighbourhood. The oblong space of the sabla has a door leading into an adjoining room with a collapsed roof. Against the eastern wall of this room a now-dilapidated staircase once led to the terrace. Yet another room once existed above this room, accessed through a door from the sabla terrace.

42 - Manah: A Gift of God

Figure 36 - The Al Bu Sa’id sabla with its distinctive broken parapet.

Manah: A Gift of God - 43

44 - Manah: A Gift of God

Dwellings The dwellings in Bilad Manah vary from humble ones to very large sheikhly dwellings. While the majority are double-storied, a small section of these houses are single-storied. Only a few go up to three floors, however, some double-storied dwellings contain a mezzanine level. Some of the larger dwellings can put today’s middle class villas into shame. Compact yet spacious and sophisticated in their organisation, they show a very clear segregation of functions. The lower level had the storage cells for agricultural produce and the animal pens. The family lounge, where the women sipped their morning coffee and the children played, the water well, the bathing facilities and the date cooking area were also found on the ground floor. Some houses close to the centre had shops selling items of day-to-day use. Sleeping rooms, kitchen, latrine and other domestic facilities were normally on the upper level, all organised around a terrace, the focus of the family’s private space. The way these dwellings worked is easily grasped from the daily temperature pattern. The upper floor is only comfortable and therefore can be used during the early mornings and evenings; these are also the times when the male are at home. During the hottest part of the day the first floor was deserted and all domestic activity took place on the ground floor. The unique feature of the central Omani domestic arrangement soon becomes clear: if we are looking for the quintessential courtyard of the Arab-Islamic house, we shall be frustrated. Unlike coastal houses built around courtyards, the dwellings in central Oman do not always have courtyards; in fact, it is a very rare thing in Manah. Instead, we find an ingenious superimposition of domestic living activities over agriculture-related functions.

Figure 37 (left) - The staircase leading up to the first floor terrace from the women’s lounge. The Manhi dwellings show a very clear segregation of functions. Sleeping quarters and private activities always took place on the first floor. Figure 38 (above) - If we are looking for the quintessential courtyard of the Arab-Islamic house, we shall often be frustrated. Instead, the upper floor terrace acts as the pivotal open space.

Manah: A Gift of God - 45

A large Wardi dwelling 0





R3 K T



Figure 39 (above) - First floor plan of a typical Manhi dwelling belonging to the Barwani clan. The interesting thing about this dwelling is the presence of a mezzanine level room. Latrines are always on the first floor. Figure 40 (right) - A cluster of Sawaqi dwellings, upper floor plan. This group of three interlinked dwellings, belonging to related Sawaqi families lie beyond the northern edge of M3. The living room in one of the dwellings probably indicates the early move from the communal male sabla towards the majlis of modern Omani dwellings.

46 - Manah: A Gift of God

This was one of the largest dwellings within the Bilad and belonged to the most important Wurud (s. al-Wardi) family. Located almost at the centre of the settlement, this dwelling occupies a very large square next to the covered resting area on M2. Here we observe a more articulated spatial organisation characterised by the inclusion of a shop, a female majlis, a central light shaft, a complex bathing and washing room, pens, a confinement cell and a large yard at the back with rear access. A doglegged staircase leads up to the first floor terrace. The room contiguous to the staircase has a grain store (khalil) that appropriates the space above the stair landing. The produce stored through an opening (450mm x 600mm high) at a higher level was reached by standing on a date-palm bench, about 750mm above floor level. The inclined base of the store allowed grain to come out through a smaller opening near the floor. The light shaft appears next to a large loggia, reducing the terrace to a narrow elongated space. The loggia gives access to two rooms, one of which occupies part of the extension over the covered resting area C2. A smaller loggia separates the latter from a work space; these two complete the extent of the extension over M2. A third loggia leads to the kitchen and through a small opening on its eastern wall, opens on to a smaller terrace with the latrine. Finally, two other rooms on the East enclose the terrace. The entire dwelling is in a remarkable state of preservation.


Courtyar d Below




T1 R

Terra ce



DN 0

1 2

3 4m



Courtyar d Below DN Terra ce

13 14 11

12 11


11 15


12 17 0

16 4m

FirstFl oor 3

1 Lane




Figure 41 (left) - Wardi dwelling, floor plans. This was one of the largest dwellings located at the centre of the settlement.

8 7

5 4


M2 9 Covered



G round Fl oor

(1) Entrance (madkhal), (2) Shop (dukkan), (3) Women’s living (ka’a julush), (4) Well (tawi), (5) Bath (hammam), (6) Open-to-sky, (7) Pen, (8) Slave/confinement (khadm), (9) Passage, (10) Pit, (11) Room (gurfa), (12) Terrace, (13) Granary (khalil), (14) Store, (15) Kitchen (matbakh), (16) Latrine, (17) Workshop. Figure 42 (above) - Wardi dwelling, grain store (khalil) on the upper floor. It utilises the space above the stair head-room.

Manah: A Gift of God - 47

48 - Manah: A Gift of God

Epilogue Development under the direction of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos has brought welcome changes to the life of the Manhis. The people see these changes as the new gift of God, and quite rightly so. Today there is a renewed sense of optimism. It was partly the complex problem of introducing running water and electricity, and partly the lure of modern and safer construction, that prompted the inhabitants to desert the old settlement in the early days of the making of this modern nation. To retain historic and cultural continuity, important pieces of architecture, mostly forts but also palaces and mosques, have been restored to their past glory. By conserving towns such as Bilad Manah in their entirety, with their institutions and dwellings, their mosques and sabla-s, their public and private spaces, we can now take a step further and place such architectural masterpieces in true perspective. In doing so we shall not only page-mark important events in Omani cultural history, we shall also highlight the unique features of Omani material culture and social life. In other words, we shall arrive at a deeper understanding of Omani identity. At night, sculpted out of darkness, she stands desolate and derelict. The sense of desolation is only heightened in the mid-day heat through the incessant activity of the cricket, the beetle and the termite. The occasional visitors – some Omanis, a few expatriates – visit the Bilad; they roam around aimlessly recording picturesque ruins – for some it is their second or third visit. Decades to disinterest has begun to take its toll: a collapsed wall here, a fallen roof there, the disappearance of a passage they had noticed earlier, a sleeping room precariously suspended in mid air revealing fragments of inhabitation and negotiation. Utensil, clothing, toys, possessions, books – all left behind, all strung within a disappearing framework of building fabric;

Figure 43 (left) - Inscription as decoration. Omani doors are an open book of beliefs, of cultural continuity and of wide ranging interactions. Manah: A Gift of God - 49

Figure 44 (right) - Door decoration show the continuation of age-old methods of representation. Here techniques of decoration exhibit knowledge of working with the most commonly available ingredient of an oasis settlement, date palm leaves. Figure 45 (far-right) - Utensil, clothing, toys, possessions, books . . . all left behind, all strung within a disappearing framework of building fabric; decay has resulted in painful revelation.

decay has resulted in painful revelation.

50 - Manah: A Gift of God

Manah: A Gift of God - 51

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of Oman Studies, Vol. 6(2), pp. 247-68. Hastings, A., Humphries, J.H., & Meadow, R.H., (1975) Oman in the Third Millennium BCE, Journal of Oman Studies, Vol. 1, pp. 9-56. Ibn Ruzayq, Humayd b. Muhammad (tr., Rev. G. P. Badger, 1871), History of the Imâms and Seyyids of Omân, London: Hakluyt Society. Lorimer, J. G., (1908, 1915) Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, ‘Oman and Central Arabia, Vol. i (Historical and Genealogical), Vol. ii (Geographical), Calcutta: Superintendent of Government Printing, Gregg reprint, 1970. Miles, Col. S. B., (1910) “On the Border of the Great Desert: A Journey in Oman”, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 36(2 & 4), pp. 159-78 & 405-25. Potts, D. T, (1990) The Arabian Gulf in Antiquity, Vols. I & II. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Potts, D. T., (1985) “The Location of Iz-ki-e” Revue D’Assyriologie et D’Archéologie Oriental, Vol. 79(1), pp. 75-6. Sirhán bin Sa’íd b. Sa’íd b. Sirhán b. Muhammad al-Izkawi (attributed), Khahf al-Ghumma (tr. E. C. Ross, 1874), “Annals of Oman, from Early times to the Year 1728 A.D . . .” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. 2, pp. 111-196. Skeet, I. (1974) Muscat and Oman: The End of an Era, London: Faber and Faber. Wellsted, Lt J. R., (1838) Travels in Arabia, Vol. 1, London: John Murray. Whitcomb, D., (1975) “The Archaeology of Oman: A Preliminary Discussion of the Islamic Periods” Journal of Oman Studies, Vol. 1, pp. 123-58. Wilkinson, J. C., (1987) The Imamate Tradition of Oman, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wilkinson, J. C., (1983) “Traditional Concepts of Territory in South East Arabia”, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 149 pp. 301-15. Wilkinson, J. C., (1977) Water and Tribal Settlement in South East Arabia: The Study of the Aflaj of Oman, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Wilkinson, J. C., (1976) “The Ibadi Imama”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol. 39, pp. 535-51.

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