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Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)

RESEARCH TEAM PROF SOUMYEN BANDYOPADHYAY Principal Investigator, Manchester Metropolitan University

DR GIAMILA QUATTRONE Research Fellow, Nottingham Trent University

DR MARTIN GOFFRILLER Research Fellow, Nottingham Trent University

PAUL MACMAHON Research Assistant, Nottingham Trent University

JONATHAN WREN Research Assistant, Nottingham Trent University

SMARANDA GHINITA Fieldwork Assistant, Nottingham Trent University

HAITHAM AL-CABRI PhD Student, Nottingham Trent University

ŠNottingham Trent University 2014 All right reserved. No part of this report may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the copyright holder.


Дārat Al Bū Rāshid, Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)

1.0 INTRODUCTION 1.1 OUTLINE Following agreement of collaboration between the Ministry of Heritage and Culture Sultanate of Oman (signed September 29th 2013) and Nottingham Trent University (NTU), preparations were undertaken at NTU to see to the successful completion of the projected fieldwork season during November-December 2013. The work was carried out by a group of researchers from the ArCHIAM Centre for the Study of Architecture and Cultural Heritage of India, Arabia and the Maghreb. The project encompasses a total of 4 settlements located within the Sharqiyyah Governorate of Oman. Specifically the work was aimed towards data collection and documentation at Дārat Al Bū Rāshid and Дārat as-Сuwawfah (Sinaw), MuΡayrib and the remote mountain village of Дārat al-Gilā (Кiwī). The presently described work was awarded upon the successful completion of the documentation and management plan for Hārat al-ΚAqr, Bahla WHS. The work is underpinned by previous experiences of working on and researching Omani oasis settlements, which include Дārat al-ΚAqr (Bāhla WHS), Дārat al-Hujra (Fanja), Дārat as-Sulayf (ΚIbri), Дārat al-Yemen (Izkī) and Дārat as-Saybani (Birkat al-Mawz). Drawing from the experience of previous projects a number of additional measures were implemented in the data collection effort, in particular the use of a micro-copter aerial photography platform, which aided in the production of high resolution aerial photography. The imagery obtained with this technology is expected to accelerate the production of high precision plan drawing of the settlements, but also to provide a unique record of the state of preservation of the urban fabric at a significantly reduced cost. 1.2 AGREED SCOPE OF WORK The outlined scope of work determined for the project is as follows: A. RESEARCH AND DATA COLLECTION

1. Desktop study of settlements prior to fieldwork commencement 2. Preparation of materials for fieldwork 3. Socio-economic baseline data collection 4. Aerial photography and video documentation 5. Ethnographic and plot ownership survey and documentation Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)



1. Preparation of comprehensive plans, elevations and sections as needed 2. Assessment of significance of sites and structures 3. Assessment of general site condition and detailed state of conservation 4. Assessment of community use of site 5. Assessment of ethnographic and plot ownership status 6. Assessment of pressures and threats affecting site C. HERITAGE MANAGEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT MASTER PLAN

1. Preliminary evaluation of heritage management possibilities and potential for development 2. Initial study of the approaches to conservation and categories of necessary repairs 3. Proposal for management strategy 4. Precedent research to establish methods of intervention 5. Master plan illustrating type and scope of intervention This scope of work was developed in keeping with the following: 1. The methods and approaches employed and the outputs generated for the documentation and management plan for Дārat al-ΚAqr, Bāhla WHS and other previous projects will be adopted as a model alongside the following precedents, Bāhla World Heritage Site Management Plan (MHC, Atkins) and Development of Al-ΚAqr Traditional Area (for Дārat al-ΚAqr, Nizwa; MRMWR,CES). In both the Principal Investigator (PI) of this project has been involved as lead advisor and consultant. 2. These and other guidelines (UNESCO, ICCROM) will be referred to in order to ensure that work is carried out to the appropriate international standards. 3. Capacity building through the training of teams of Omani graduates and Ministry employees is regarded as crucial to the longterm sustainability of the project. We envisage MHC’s continued support in this endeavour, and the expansion of the practice in possible future projects. 4. The development of a national and region-wide strategy on heritage management, conservation and revitalisation should be considered forthwith. Steps in this direction have already been taken by the ArCHIAM Centre, relying substantially on the experience of working in the region and the supranational outlook of the centre’s scientific setup. This approach is intended to avoid unsustainable management and development of heritage resources and their inappropriate devolution, including duplication, museumification and over-reliance on tourism related components.


Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013


The present work was carried out taking into account earlier work at some of the sites concerned. At Sinaw no significant previous studies had taken place, although the discovery in 1979 of a large earthenware jar containing approximately 900 early Islamic coins has elicited some scholarly interest in the area. From the discovery of these coins and their conclusive dating and provenance it is possible to suggest that the early Ibadi state was in fact consolidating its hold on the political substrate of the region by minting its own currency and evidently extending its area of influence towards the interior of the Sharqiyyah (Lowick, 1983, Gaiser, 2010). The paucity of older textual material on either Дārat Al Bu Rāshid or, indeed Дārat as-Сuwawfah, has added a further layer of importance to the academic dimension of the work carried out there, as the social history of Sinaw has still not been widely commented upon. The importance of the Sinaw oasis as an entrepôt for trade networks connecting the coastal and desert areas of Sharqiyyah to the Interior of Oman is attested by the annual migration of Bedouin fishermen and from the coast, who trade their products at the Sinaw sūq which is, even today, of importance to the local economy. Increasingly, it is also becoming a major highlight for foreign tourists travelling to and from the Sharqiyyah desert. MUЏAYRIB

At MuΡayrib a substantial study was undertaken in 1977 by Bonnenfant et al. discussing the tribal history of the settlement as well as providing a basic discussion on the site’s elements of architectural significance. This seminal piece, one of the earliest dedicated publications on the architecture and social history of MuΡayrib, has provided a relevant theoretical baseline for the ethnographic component of the proposed HMP. Bonnenfant’s piece, while relevant and useful to ArCHIAM’s work, was limited in scope, providing only basic cartographic material and plans which the present study intends to expand upon and complement. AL-GILĀ

The site of al-Gilā, included into the UNESCO ‘Aflaj Irrigation Systems of Oman’ WHS, has seen a limited amount of prior involvement, concentrating primarily, as expected, around the site’s highly elaborate irrigation networks. While due to the extremely short time spent on site it was not possible to map this in detail, a complete and comprehensive documentation of the built structures of Дārat alGilā was carried out in order to better assess the site’s potential for sensitive development. The remote location of the settlement makes large scale development unfeasible and indeed counter-productive. Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


Any touristic involvement will necessarily have to remain “low key” and be conducted in a sensitive manner in order not to disrupt the local way of life, and yet provide an extra source of income for the local population. 1.4 OVERALL TIMETABLE, LOGISTICS OF FIELDWORK AND PROGRESS OVERVIEW The agreed timetable of activities and delivery appears in Appendix-1. This will require further updating as the project progresses and evolves. After signature of agreement in late September 2013 a clear and achievable series of deadlines were determined for the various stages of the project. It was decided to complete the entirety of the on-site work in a single fieldwork season in Autumn 2013 which forms the subject of this document. Given the late signature of agreement very little time for fieldwork preparation was available, including the recruitment of extra staff, acquisition of fieldwork materials and aerial imagery, preparation of preliminary zoning plans and assessment of scope of work. Based on the scant information available it was decided to spend 4 weeks conducting the documentation of Sinaw (two weeks in Дārat Al Bū Rāshid and Дārat as-Сuwawfah, respectively), 10 days in MuΡayrib and 4 days in Дārat al-Gilā. ArCHIAM’s Heritage Management Plans place a high degree of importance on carrying out exhaustive and detailed documentation efforts in order to produce the most precise and complete plans of the sites. This is done not only to aid in the production of accurate analyses and master plan proposals, but also to ensure that the knowledge of the architectural past is not lost. The rapid rate of decay of the mud brick settlements of Oman places great pressure on the academic community to record and learn as much as possible about these sites prior to their disappearance.


Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013


Due to the great range in size, relevance and complexity of the various settlements, it was decided to tackle the documentation work with a holistic approach towards complete data collection, and to determine the values of certain areas, structures and elements as part of the desktop study once back in the UK. At MuΡayrib, Дārat asСuwawfah and Дārat al-Gilā a degree of selectiveness was required due to the continued occupation of certain buildings or the ruinous condition of other parts. In either case exhaustive documentation was either not possible or required. The decision to begin work at Sinaw was taken primarily for logistical reasons, and also based on the assumption that the highly complex and substantial urban remains of the two Ήārāt should be the main determinant for the overall time management of the project. The use of a micro-copter aerial photography platform (property of NTU) extended the scope and duration of fieldwork. It provided upto-date imagery of the condition of the entire Ήārah and associated agricultural lands, as well as an excellent baseline for the subsequent production of complete CAD settlement plans. It also implied dedicated allocation of time and workforce to the aerial survey. 1.4.2 FUTURE WORK (JANUARY-SEPTEMBER 2014)

All fieldwork aims were achieved during the envisaged timeframe. Archiving and analysis of the collected materials is currently being undertaken through implementation and continuing perfecting of the archiving system devised over the course of previous projects. The aim is to provide a complete analysis of the data gathered during the fieldwork campaign and to propose a preliminary Heritage Management Plan by September 2014. 2.0 PREPARATORY WORK Despite the shortage of time, extensive preparatory work was undertaken at NTU to develop the fieldwork strategy and Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)



Figure 1 Sinaw, aerial photograph 1981 Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

Figure 2 MuΡayrib, preliminary zoning plan on 1975 aerial photograph

implementation procedures, thanks to the experience, approaches and the knowledge base developed over previous projects. The following were accomplished: 1) Procurement and preparation of aerial photographs for on-site use (Figure 1); 2) Preparation of a schematic plot boundary map including buildings, other structures and open areas (Figure 2); 3) Preparation of a detailed fieldwork documentation and drawing production guideline for use on site, including a data handling and storage strategy, which was subsequently to assist trainees from the MHC to standardize proceedings (Figure 3). The following aerial photographs were acquired from the National Survey Authority of Oman by Nottingham Trent University with the liaison being carried out by its doctoral student Дaitham N. al-ΚAbrī. Settlement name Дārat Al Bū Rāshid Дārat as-Сuwawfah MuΡayrib Al-Gilā

Year 1981, 1993 1981, 1993 1975, 1993 1981

3.0 HARAT AL BU RASHID Following arrival on site in November 2013, an extensive reconnaissance campaign lasting two days was undertaken to determine the actual size, characteristics and condition of the settlement. In the course of this it became clear that the condition of the Ήārah had decayed substantially since the 1970s, and that Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


consequently the documentation of the site would have to take into account the continued deterioration of the settlement in the near future. This process, which the team witnessed during the heavy rains of late-November 2013 when they had to stop work for 3 consecutive days, is expected to accelerate substantially with the currently evident collapse of roofs and coverings. At the current rate of deterioration it is expected that within 8-10 years Дārat Al Bū Rāshid will be beyond repair. Work on Дārat Al Bū Rāshid started 8th November 2013. The precise reasons behind MHC’s inclusion of this particular settlement into this heritage management project were not evident, but from the team’s work it is clear that the site offers some interesting characteristics for study. Indeed, the social history of the area is of great relevance to the field in Oman as a whole as the important inter-tribal and overseas links of the local communities are still traceable to a large extent. The urban morphology of Дārat Al Bū Rāshid demonstrates a high degree of organicity, with the street pattern constantly adapting and changing to the requirements of the inhabitants. The limited amount of space available within the fortified enclosure of the Ήārah required


Figure 3 Sketching guidelines Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

Figure 4 Sinaw, Дārat Al Bū Rāshid, sketch zoning plan

Figure 5 Sinaw, Дārat Al Bū Rāshid, CAD zoning plan

Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


creative solution to the creation of new living space for the growing community. To a large part this was achieved by the construction of rooms overhanging the narrow winding streets. The features are so ubiquitous, at times covering entire stretches of road for several dozen metres, that the aerial imagery provided proved somewhat ineffective in determining the overall street layout of the settlement as this was simply obscured by the superstructures. 3.1 FIELDWORK METHODS Following reconnaissance and general site evaluation a two-pronged documentation approach was devised whereby part of the team would undertake the complete ground work in terms of sketching, measuring and photographing, while the rest would carry out the aerial documentation of the settlement with NTU’s proprietary micro-copter. This latter element, new to ArCHIAM’s documentation efforts, provided high resolution imagery and video from a range of altitudes. The ground work was begun with the development of systematic zoning plans, assigning alphanumeric designations to each individual building unit (letters for zones and numbers for buildings and structures) (Figure 4). These zoning plans, which were generated and updated in CAD as fieldwork progressed (Figure 5), ensure a cohesive and organised approach to the documentation effort by clarifying the various sectors under study at any given moment. The following approaches were undertaken to physically document the settlements: 1) Preparation of sketch plans and where necessary sections, elevations and axonometric projections; both white-paper and graph paper drawings were employed (Figures 6, 7, 8) – the latter aiding the representation of proportion in the case of largely orthogonal structures; 2) Taking measurements using tape measures (5m, 7.5m, 30m, 50m,


Figure 6 Sinaw, Дārat as-Сuwawfah, sketch section of A5, A8 and A9 Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

Figure 7 Sinaw, Дārat as-Сuwawfah, sketch elevation of J4

Figure 8 Sinaw, Дārat Al Bū Rāshid, axonometric section of A7

as required); this provided accurate measurements using methods of triangulation of sides and diagonals of units’ rooms as well as open spaces, streets and alleys; 3) Taking measurements using laser measurers, especially at locations where long distances or the dilapidated state of the fabric made it infeasible to undertake measurement using tape measurers. However, a degree of error had to be factored in. This is due to the uneven surfaces of the building fabric, as well as the difficulty of maintaining absolute level while taking laser measurements; 4) Extensive photographic documentation of interiors and exteriors taken in sequence and ensuring comprehensiveness, but also recording significant elements/objects in detail, which follows established standardised guidelines; 5) Geo-location of selected features using a Garmin handheld GPS unit, which is expected to enhance the accuracy of the drawn documentation; 6) Collection of datable material, such as pottery and organic remains, and artefacts where necessary; 7) Tracing and evaluation of water channels, where applicable. Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


In addition to the architectural documentation carried out on the urban fabric a series of semi structured interviews were made at each site, in order to record first hand aspects of the social-history of the sites. In Дārat Al Bū Rāshid a total of about 15 people (primarily members of the Būrāshdi tribe and local client groups) were interviewed on site by the project’s PhD student, Дaitham N. al-ΚAbrī. The interviews were conducted using both audio and video recorders from various angles. The information from these is currently being transcribed to evaluate the information received (Figure 9), but it has already become clear that Дārat Al Bū Rāshid’s complex morphology is the product of the unusual tribal history of the site. A number of datable surface finds were identified and documented at Дārat Al Bū Rāshid, in particular pottery shards of various ages and provenances, but also an Early Iron Age soapstone compartmented bowl and what appears to be a Neolithic biface.These documented finds are currently being examined in order to establish the site chronology and occupational history. In particular a large number of Chinese Jingdezhen ware might shed some light on the international connectivity of the local trade networks, as well as provide relevant information on the buying power of the local community. A number of structures, in particular those of the greatest architectural interest, were drawn not only in plan, but also in section and isometric perspectives. These are expected to significantly enhance the recorded material, and also aid in the production of 3D models of the buildings which may be exhibited at international exhibitions and conferences as has already been the case with selected structures from Дārat asSaybanī, Birkat al-Mawz and Дārat al-Yemen, Izkī. In addition to photographs and drawings, physical models are an excellent way of showcasing Oman’s architectural heritage internationally and also to the local community. 3.2 TRAINING AND CAPACITY BUILDING On site were various teams of MHC employees whom the NTU/


Figure 9 Sinaw, Дārat Al Bū Rāshid, preliminary tribal mosaic based on interview conducted on 30th November 2013 Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

ArCHIAM team trained to assist in the fieldwork process. As part of a nationwide capacity building effort this was repeated over the following weeks at Дārat as-Сuwawfah and MuΡayrib (Figure 10). The continued aim is to build up local expertise and provide greater flexibility in future fieldwork campaigns, as well as instil a greater sense of responsibility and pro-activeness on questions of cultural heritage amongst locals. The key focus of the training sessions was the development of fieldwork and documentation skills, such as sketching, measuring and photographing structures, domestic and civic spaces and assessing their state of preservation. In total 6 Ministry employees from various parts of the country were trained at the different sites under the guidance of the NTU team (since the training programme started, in March 2012, 12 Ministry employees have been trained), and in particular at MuΡayrib this practice resulted in some good drawn material being produced by the trainees (Figure 11).

Figure 10 Sinaw, Дārat Al Bū Rāshid, training of MHC trainees

Figure 11 MuΡayrib, sketch plan produced by MHC trainee Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


The advantages in having a trained and competent workforce within the local authorities are obvious, but success will depend upon further expansion of this practice by MHC in future projects, implying better organised and longer training periods as well as real motivation on the part of the trainees. 4.0 HARAT AS-SUWAWFAH As already established, the fieldwork methodology at Дārat asСuwawfah followed the same general principles of documentation already employed at Дārat Al Bū Rāshid and other past projects. Located only about 150m north of Дārat Al Bū Rāshid, Дārat asСuwawfah is a surprisingly differing site in terms of morphology and architectural appearance. The slightly grander appearance of the fabric, higher quality of materials employed (stone masonry and copious amount of sarooj render) required a slightly more detailed approach, with greater attention being paid to architectural and decorative details than at the previous site. Judging from the relatively high status and distinct architecture of Дārat as-Сuwawfah it is apparent that the anthropological dimension between the two proximate settlement cores differed substantially. It is likely that certain socio-economic factors linked to inter-tribal connectivity and the consequent variable mercantile capacity led to this visible economic gradient. The more distinctive character of the architecture warranted a more detailed look at particular decorative, material and structural elements during the documentation process. This has resulted in the extensive drawing of sections and isometric perspectives in order to have a more complete record, but also facilitate the production of 3D and physical models for exhibitions and public outreach efforts domestically and internationally.


Figure 12 Sinaw, Дārat as-Сuwawfah, civic space between zones F, G, H, I Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

4.1 SETTLEMENT STRUCTURE AND MORPHOLOGY Дārat as-Сuwawfah is of a similar size to Дārat Al Bū Rāshid, but in terms of its morphology the urban fabric appears less cluttered and there are more and larger open spaces within buildings (Figure 12). A large square in the middle of the Ήārah gives the impression of a more developed public dimension in the habitation of Дārat asСuwawfah which is clearly absent form Дārat Al Bū Rāshid. It is plausible that what we see here is the gradual coalescing together of two smaller settlement quarters that originally emerged, separated by an esplanade: the one on the north end on a comparatively higher ground. As the quarters expanded and coalesced, the esplanade took the shape of a defined civic square. The broader passages, generously proportioned dwellings and generally more regular layout also give the appearance that Дārat as-Сuwawfah is the younger of the two settlements. A further distinguishing feature in comparison with Дārat Al Bū Rāshid is the comparative lack of a fortified perimeter. While there are hints and remains of towers and fortified structures within the Ήārah, the overall appearance of the settlement is one of openness and permeability. There are no substantial walls or other fortifications evident along the outline of the settlement and the two significant fortificatory elements are the two tower-like structures at the centre of Дārat as-Сuwawfah. All public accesses to the interior of the Ήārah (three gates) were located on the downhill/falaj side of the settlement, whereas a series of private accesses leading to individual dwellings are located on the eastern side of the town. This is not unexpected as the prime route of travel would have been along the agricultural lands and the falaj channel which lay to the west of the Ήārah. The smaller doors and gates of individual dwellings oriented towards the East would have been used primarily for livestock.

Figure 13 Sinaw, Дārat Al Bū Rāshid, interview with Nasr Bin Salim Al Burashdi Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


The majority of structures have at least two floors and in all cases accessible roofs, which tended to be used for the drying of dates and other such activities. Courtyards are a relatively unusual feature in Дārat as-Сuwawfah, though in a selected number of buildings there are large open spaces adjacent to the dwellings where livestock could be held. In other cases, usually located closer to the core of the settlement, there is some evidence that the gradual growth of the dwellings encroached on previously existing open spaces that could have functioned as courtyards in the interior of a given dwelling. In general, however, unlike at Дārat Al Bū Rāshid there is little evidence of urban saturation. 4.2 ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH As already established over previous campaigns, a central aspect of ArCHIAM’s documentation work is the recording of first-hand testimony on the settlement’s social and material history from erstwhile inhabitants (Figure 13). This work is absolutely essential as the local knowledge and memory are for the most part not preserved in any literary form. The advanced age of many of the interviewees


Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

Figure 14 Sinaw, Дārat as-Сuwawfah, panoramic view obtained using image-stitching software

gives this part of work additional urgency, as memories of the past are quickly fading in Oman’s dynamic and rapidly expanding economy. At Дārat as-Сuwawfah the interviews were conducted staggered over a number of days with several members of the Сuwawfī tribe, who were kind enough to devote a significant amount of their time to the team’s questions. Members of all ages were interviewed on site, whilst walking through the Ήārah over several hours. The aim was firstly to learn more about the Ήārah’s history and the role of the inhabitants within the larger context of the Sinaw oasis, but also to ascertain in greater detail the social history of the Ήārah. Particular attention was given to the tribal distribution pattern within the settlement itself as this provides useful data in attempting to reconstruct the morphological evolution of the Ήārah. Transcription and evaluation of the interviews is currently taking place at Nottingham Trent University, and completion is expected to occur within the next months. The results from these will be fed into the various historical, social, morphological, urban and architectural analyses conducted for the Heritage Management Plan. 4.3 PHOTOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTATION As elsewhere, at Дārat as-Сuwawfah too the ArCHIAM team was engaged in exhaustive photographic documentation of the built heritage and the contextual environment. The process of producing large amounts of photographic material (up to 100 images per unit and up to 600 photos for the oasis context), allows for the production not only of the required record of the built fabric, but also of stitched panoramic images which provide a better understanding of the space and its context (Figure 14). The photographic record at Sinaw extended beyond the urban fabric of the settlements and also concentrated to some degree on the irrigated lands that are the oasis’ lifeline. The gradual decay and intentional destruction of these areas, either due to environmental

Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


factors or the construction of grand new villas within the groves, is probably the greatest danger to the future potential of Oman’s vernacular environments. The lack of appropriate legislation coupled with a reticence to enforce existing heritage preservation guidelines is resulting in the loss of large areas of fertile ground and green zones. It must be noted at this point that once the palm groves have disappeared the successful implementation of heritage management policies is, in essence, futile. 5.0 OTHER HARAT IN SINAW At Sinaw the fieldwork season also collected data on the wider oasis and its environs, as it is important that the two settlement quarters are not seen and managed in isolation from the rest of the oasis. Also, a number of settlement quarters and isolated sites suggested architectural, urban, social and historical significance, which need to be considered in developing the Management Plan. The neighbouring settlement quarters of ar-Rāshidi, at-Tal, alArqub, as well as the suq quarter (Hellat as-Suq) were visited and

Figure 15 MuΡayrib, public female access to falaj


Figure 16 MuΡayrib, private access to falaj from Bayt Awlād ‘Alī b. Кālib (A1) Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

some photographic data collected. Дārat ar-Rāshidi, was home to the Rāshidi tribe with some Mahruqi presence, while Дārat al-Tal was mainly dominated by the latter. Of particular interest was the large tell (Hisn al-ΚAqiq) around which the quarter of Arqub evolved. Evidently, this high tell, as its name suggests, indicates the ruins of a large fort which had continued to evolve over time, and on which the suq quarter (Hellat as-Suq) and a mosque was located. The suq, surprisingly well preserved, was an enclosed market area with two access gates, with a single street looping through it. A number of mostly single-cell shops lined the street with a shallow loggia fronting the majority of these. The derelict mosque - typical of the design found in the Dākhilīyah and Sharqiyyah regions of Oman – contains the remains of a mihrab, which was once decorated with porcelain bowl inserts (Chinese or copies of this make); these were later removed or were destroyed and the indents filled in with mortar. The Sinaw mosques show the extent of penetration of such a decorative style, initiated in Manah in the early 17th century CE, but also the cultural debate surrounding such aesthetic innovations. The outlying - but now completely ruined - quarter of Dastar, reputedly the earlier location of the Suwawfi (Дārat as-Сuwawfah), Musallami (Дārat Al Bu Rāshid) and Burtumani tribes, was visited. There, while the remains of a mosque foundation and a water facility are clearly identifiable, the dwellings and other structures have all but disappeared. The passage of the ghayli falaj, Mushaqq, watering the land of the Сuwawfah tribe was also studied as far out as Wadi Andam. In March 2014 the on-going excavation of the extensive site of Stone Age to Iron Age graves located south of ΚUyun (about 22 kms from Sinaw) was also visited to ascertain the relevance of integrating such sites into the Management Plan. It was felt that such sites could indeed add value and attraction of the heritage ensemble centred on Sinaw. 6.0 MUDAYRIB The town of MuΡayrib, located along the important Sur-Ibrā Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


road within the Wilayat of al-Qābil, is one of the most relevant settlements within the otherwise sparsely populated Sharqiyyah Governorate. Hemmed in by the Sharqiyyah desert on the south and the al-Hajjar range on the north, areas for successful and long-term urban development are confined largely to the narrow strip of land between desert and mountains. The proximity to the alluvial fans of the southern slopes of the al-Hajjar Mountains does, however, provide a comparatively large amount of water for domestic and agricultural application. MuΡayrib, located around 15km southeast of Ibrā, is an interesting and important site for heritage management policies for a number of reasons. Firstly, the very large and well preserved agricultural lands, a product of the regular and copious flow of water from its falaj, is one of the central assets of the oasis. Secondly, the urban core of MuΡayrib counts with a number of grand and well-preserved buildings which showcase the architecture of Oman’s wealthy merchant classes. Thirdly, the sophisticated and quite elaborate defensive disposition of MuΡayrib with its ring of towers and hill-top hisn, has the potential for more in-depth study when taken in the context of the Ibra region as a whole. Finally, an interesting anthropological aspect of MuΡayrib is its obvious links with Oman’s past overseas connections, visible in the large number of Swahili speakers and oft-mentioned family ties to Zanzibar. The predominant groups in MuΡayrib, the al-Дārthī (Дīrth) and Khanjarī (Khanājira) tribes, are testament to the region’s close supra-regional ties and international connections. This legacy to Oman’s great mercantile and seafaring past connects neatly with the splendid architecture still visible there today. 6.1 MORPHOLOGY AND LAYOUT The Ήārah of MuΡayrib is the main quarter of the MuΡayrib oasis, in addition only to a few much smaller clusters of habitation located in and around the irrigated area of the oasis. To a large extent the morphology of MuΡayrib is a product of the falaj irrigation channel which runs down the centre of the village from north to south and acts


Figure 17 MuΡayrib, orthorectified aerial photo generated by micro-copter flying at 200 metres Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

as a spine and main thoroughfare for circulation. The falaj, though running underground through much of the village, is accessible from a number of points, both publicly and also privately within specific dwellings (Figures 15, 16). Its construction has been dated by various local informants to the year 1856 and funded either by the heads of the Дīrth or the Barwanī (Brawna/ Barawīna) tribes. The settlement, however, is significantly older and was originally irrigated by a different falaj, which likely approached the settlement and agricultural lands from the east. Prior to the arrival of the Дīrth clans from Ibrā during the mid-19th century, the MuΡayrib area was inhabited primarily by the Сūqūr, MaΉarma, Al Ba SaΚud, Khanājira, Samrat and Ghuyūth tribes, who are still residing in the area today. The grandest structures are located at the core of the settlement, an area here designated as ‘zone D’. The urban fortress of the Qal’a alKhanājira located atop a low hill overlooking the sūq, together with the Sablah of the MaΉārma, also known as ‘Sablah of the Mountain’, and the great fortified house of Bayt SaΚd b. MuΉammad al-Tashash form and define an important part of the settlement’s skyline and are visible from far afield in the midst of MuΡayrib’s recognisable ring of towers. The remainder of the street pattern radiates outward from the core of the settlement (zone D), which is located on a low rise immediately westwards of the sūq.

Figure 18 Дārat al-Gila, panoramic view

6.2 FIELDWORK AT MUDAYRIB In principle the fieldwork methodologies employed at MuΡayrib did not differ substantially from those implemented on other locations, though certain aspects were given greater emphasis than elsewhere. MuΡayrib stands out amongst many of Oman’s traditional settlements in that it is not a completely abandoned site, but instead very much inhabited. While a substantial part of the town has indeed been abandoned, a larger part of the settlement has continued in use and, therefore, exhibits a large degree of ‘modernisation’,

Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


with partial rebuilding or rendering in cement and concrete. This has unfortunately not been done in accordance to any conservation guidelines which detracts significantly from the site’s architectural significance and overall potential. Due to the high degree of post-1970 ‘modern’ interventions the documentation work at MuΡayrib was forced to take a rather selective approach, concentrating on those areas that are of significance to the heritage management effort. In particular the core of the settlement (zone D) with its large dwellings, sablah and fortifications, as well as the adjacent sūq were addressed in depth. Beyond these central structures a number of large buildings within the palm groves (zone E) were also documented as far as accessibility permitted. Skirting the perimeter of MuΡayrib is one of the characteristic features of the settlement, visible in the ring of seven round towers positioned atop small hillocks that surround the urban core. These towers, mostly well preserved and standing to full height, formed a surveillance shield that protected and warned the inhabitants of MuΡayrib from unwanted intruders and potential attackers. These distinctive structures were built by the various factions or clans of the many tribes that made up the demographics of MuΡayrib (primarily the al-Сūqūr, the MaΉarma and the Al Ba SaΚud). They are simple structures, built on a narrow base from stone masonry and tapering in slightly towards the top, with an average height of around 10m. Access was made difficult by locating the door at a height of around 2-3m above the ground, reachable only via a ladder or small stone treads placed into the wall. Their interior floors were basic platforms of palm trunks and mud floors reachable via wooden rungs embedded into the walls. This style of tower is fairly characteristic of most of Oman’s oasis fortifications and the likes are visible on most of the hilltops of the Governorate of Sharqiyyah. In addition to the towers, which functioned more as part of an early warning system than as active defensive elements, a simple fortified


Figure 19 Дārat al-Gila, dwelling A10 Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

enclosure was placed above the hill that forms the eastern edge of MuΡayrib. This fortress, called Hisn MuΡayrib, is a simple rectangular enclosure built from solid stone masonry with two round towers located on the eastern edges. While there is no visible evidence of any permanent structures within the curtain, the now ruined access gate appears to have been a substantially fortified structure built from large stone slabs. The comparative simplicity of the Hisn MuΡayrib follows a typology of fortification on the Arabian Peninsula known in German as Fluchtburgen: a simple defensive perimeter located on the high ground and adapting to the topography, used in times of threat for the local population and their livestock. These types of buildings served no representative or residential roles, and were instead strictly functional in nature. 6.3 AERIAL SURVEY Once permissions were granted from the National Survey Authority, it became possible to obtain aerial photographic material for MuΡayrib by flying Nottingham Trent University’s proprietary microcopter over the site. A number of videos and stitchable still images were taken which permit the creation of a single orthographical image of the settlement (Figure 17). This is in turn expected to provide a useful base plan which will significantly accelerate the drawing-up process back in the UK. In addition to this practical application of the aerial photographs, NTU’s images also provide an invaluable record of the condition and general disposition of MuΡayrib’s architectural past. 7.0 AL-GILA The small mountain oasis of al-Gilā, located in a narrow valley deep within the eastern al-Hajjar range (Figure 18), was the last of the four settlements studied in the course of this project. Reaching alGilā is currently not very easy as it is a long drive of around 5 hours from either Ibrā or Кiwī along a graded track which requires a 4x4 vehicle. The remote location, the relatively untouched nature of the settlement and its surroundings, and the still traditional way of living based on livestock herding and farming are what gives al-Gilā its

Figure 20 Дārat al-Gila, Falaj al-Gila WHS Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


great appeal and yet makes its touristic development problematic. While on the one hand it is desirable for the local population to have an additional source of income beyond their limited subsistence economy, any development at al-Gilā will have to be conducted with great sensitivity in order not to disrupt the local way of life. The very small size of the settlement, composed of roughly 26 small dwellings and livestock enclosures (Figure 19), was documented in 1,5 working days. The fact that al-Gilā is included in the UNESCO ‘Aflāj Irrigation Systems of Oman’ WHS has meant that al-Gilā has already seen some past scholarly involvement, though on a very limited scale and concentrating almost exclusively on the Falaj alGilā (Figure 20) which irrigates the settlement’s agricultural area and forms the basis of the villagers’ livelihood. ArCHIAM’s work consequently focused on documenting the built environment and on recording the social history of al-Gilā in order to gain a more holistic perception of the site in conjunction with past studies. In addition to a full ground based documentation, which consisted in sketching and measuring the various architectural units and their relation with the surrounding terrain and falaj, an exhaustive aerial survey was also carried out. This was complicated somewhat by the lack of a strong GPS signal which was blocked by the high surrounding mountains. A large format high-resolution photographic documentation of the settlement as a whole, within its surrounding context, was also carried out, covering the valley, settlement and falaj from various angles and recording also the reconstruction work being carried out on the two aqueducts which carry the water across the wadi. 8.0 PRELIMINARY STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE The following is a brief indication of the settlement’s significance: 8.1 HARAT AL BU RASHID, SINAW • Unique example of settlement exchange between the Hawashim and the Al Bu Rashid of Adam. The effects of such drastic ownership change has not yet been studied. • The settlement quarter retains clear physical evidence of the merger of two distinct quarters (or at least a settlement quarter with its peripheral client group area). • The morphological complexity of this settlement is a product of the site’s tumultuous history and periods of rapid growth followed by periods of apparent stagnation. • The comparative lack of textual material or a full historical record for the area makes the study of this Ήārah of great importance to Omani scholarship. • The still close involvement of the original inhabitants with their Ήārah and their continued use of the local mosque suggests that a sensitive redevelopment of the site would be welcomed by the local stakeholders. This has been further confirmed during the interview process.


Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

• The location, close to the palm groves and in the vicinity of the increasingly popular Sinaw sūq, gives some potential to limited touristic development. • The mosque with its decorated mihrab. 8.2 HARAT AS-SUWAWFAH, SINAW • Дārat as-Сuwawfah’s built heritage is a prime example of the architecture of wealthy mercantile groups which settled the edge of the Sharqiyyah dessert and profited from the inland and overseas trade. • The comparatively well-built structures, with copious amounts of sarooj, jus and stone masonry are relatively unusual in this concentration and warrant deeper insight. • The open and permeable structure of the settlement hints at the comparatively secure local standing which the Сuwawfī tribe appears to have enjoyed. • The location, close to the palm groves and in the vicinity of the increasingly popular Sinaw sūq, gives some potential to limited touristic development. • The richly decorated mosque at the core of the site is in danger of being vandalised and its study and documentation are therefore of the utmost importance. • The hitherto undocumented mihrab in mosque (does not feature in Baldissira, 1998 or Costa, 2001). • The strong evidence of morphological changes resulting from important social-historical changes. 8.3 MUDAYRIB • A key significance is the strong Swahili/ East African connection mentioned before resulting from Oman’s maritime expansion in the Ya‘aribah and Al Bu SaΚid periods. • The comparatively good preservation of the grand architecture of MuΡayrib makes the settlement a likely destination for domestic and foreign visitors. • Recent plans to demolish the sūq and adjoining areas to be substituted by modern shops give the documentation work and proposal for a dedicated master plan a high degree of urgency. • The good infrastructural set-up of MuΡayrib, close by to the main road and with large empty structures, makes the site a potential candidate for limited touristic development. • Local interest in heritage management is high and appears to have significant support amongst the town’s inhabitants. • The very well-preserved oasis and falaj network are a prime example for Oman’s traditional agricultural techniques and skills irrigation engineering which could be showcased to foreign visitors and Omani stakeholders. • The interesting defensive setup makes the site an interesting location for the study of Omani fortificatory practices. 8.4 AL-GILA • The comparative authenticity of the settlement of al-Gilā and the Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


way of life of its isolated semi-nomadic (shawawi) inhabitants must be protected from mismanaged development practices. • The inclusion of the settlement in the UNESCO World Heritage List warrants sensitive and measured approach to any heritage management work on the site and requires a fully informed Management Plan. • The presence of a strong intangible heritage in the way of life of the local population, their skills, traditions and cultural practices which will require special protection. • The extraordinary natural beauty of the valley of al-Gilā and the surrounding mountains are one of the defining features of the site and must also be subject to strict protection. 9.0 CHALLENGES ENCOUNTERED DURING FIELDWORK The following challenges and issues were encountered by the ArCHIAM team during the fieldwork campaign: • In particular in MuΡayrib a significant number of dwellings are uninhabited but locked, impeding a cohesive and complete documentation of the urban fabric. • Some buildings were partially accessible due to structural collapse. • Much time and resources had to be spent in Sinaw locating suitable individuals for interview, a task initially agreed to be taken over by MHC. • Late acquisition of aerial photography by MHC had an impact on the thoroughness of the preliminary desktop study, which had to be conducted within a working week. • Lack of provision of topographical data or survey materials complicate the documentation of townscapes in complex terrain. • Of particular importance was the issue of vandalism at Дārat asСuwawfah. On several occasions youths from the nearby communities were seen wilfully destroying walls, roofs and entire buildings within the Ήārah. Apart from defeating the object of preservation, this also posed a significant danger to the team as rocks were thrown over walls and structures weakened.


Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

10.0 SUGGESTED STRATEGIES FOR FUTURE FIELDWORK Pending future investigations and fieldwork in Oman there are a number of points which may be addressed in order to maximise the results of these campaigns. 10.1 LOCAL COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT • Organizing a meeting with local community members of all ages prior to fieldwork start to introduce the team and explain aims and outcomes of the project. This was attempted at Sinaw. • Spreading awareness and generating public support among the inhabitants will aid in the maintenance and preservation of the built fabric and generate a positive institutional image. • Arranging access to locked or inhabited dwellings for documentation purposes. • Encouraging inhabitants to observe the documentation process to better understand the motivations and outcomes of the project. • Instilling pride of ownership among the inhabitants to develop a self-sustaining conservation process. • Sensitising the residents of the settlements to the removal of debris and domestic waste to improve the sensory experience of the sites and encourage the arrival of foreign visitors. • Establishing construction and development guidelines in accordance with Oman’s vernacular urban fabric for the residents to follow. 10.2 INSTITUTIONAL ASSISTANCE • On-site assistance by MHC employees, though sporadic, has been much appreciated, and expansion on this practice could yield greater productivity on site in the future. • Reliable and motivated assistants could have the potential to greatly accelerate the fieldwork process as a whole, therefore reducing the cost of the project and helping in meeting deadlines. • Rather than training many groups of MHC employees for short periods of time, it may be more productive to train a smaller number of individuals in greater depth. This would also add to the speed and quality of the documentation effort rather than detract from it, as has been the case on previous occasions. • Training graduates and government employees will promote interest in traditional architecture and settlements, encourage research and populate the academic landscape as a whole. • Better provision of carto- and photographic material ahead of fieldwork campaigns would significantly improve awareness of site characteristics, context and condition and accelerate the documentation process. • Supply of existing publications and knowledge of previous research carried out in respective locations by MHC will enhance contextual awareness of locations and increase research output quality. • Organising suitable accommodation (i.e. with furniture and internet access) in the proximity of sites ahead of the team’s arrival would avoid unnecessary delays and allow to make the best use of the available time, thus reducing costs in terms of fuel and transport. Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)



Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)



Fieldwork Report, November-December 2013

Дārat Al Bū Rāshid & Дārat as-Сuwawfah (SINAW), MuΡayrib (AL-QĀBIL) and Дārat al-Gilā (КIWĪ)


CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF ARCHITECTURE AND CULTURAL HERITAGE OF INDIA, ARABIA AND THE MAGHREB Nottingham Trent University School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment Maudslay 202, Goldsmith Street Nottingham NG1 4BU Email: Web: Phone: +44 (0) 115 848 2776 Fax: +44 (0) 115 848 6450