On 12 February 2010 a report on the state of conservation of the Bahla Fort and its Oasis was submitted by the State Party. The report outlines progress made on the management plan and institutional framework at the property, as well as updates on ongoing restoration works at various parts of the property. The report also covers progress on the souq rehabilitation project and improving traditional skills in earthen architecture.
From 18 to 23 December 2009, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM monitoring mission visited the property as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009).
a) Management Plan
The State Party’s report states that a first management plan was developed for the site in 2003 and completed in 2005. It also states, however, that only part of the 2005 management plan has been adopted by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture: that part which deals with policies for safeguarding and enhancement of the property.
The reactive monitoring mission found that the management plan was still in the phase of being finalized. The mission team met with the consultants carrying out the work and were presented with a draft of the updated plan, still to be officially endorsed by the State Party. Assurances were given to the mission that the State Party would be shortly adopting the management plan, probably through a royal decree.
b) Institutional development
The State Party reports that a new regional office of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture has been established in the Dakhliyah region which is responsible for the Bahla Fort. A site office has also been established at Bahla and additional staff has been appointed. Local community involvement in the site has also been encouraged through the work of these new offices. Building regulations have also been adopted.
c) Project proposal for the restoration and rehabilitation of the souq
The original project proposal for the rehabilitation of the souq was reviewed by ICOMOS in 2009 and a number of significant changes were requested. The State Party reports that as a result, an ICOMOS specialist architect has been appointed to work with the project consultants on an updated proposal. The State Party reports that it will not take any further action until the proposal is approved by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies.
The mission team had the opportunity to review progress on the new design concept for the souq and found that the project addressed many of the concerns outlined by ICOMOS. In the meantime, the mission also noticed significant issues related to the state of conservation of some of the earthen buildings in the souq, caused primarily by flooding and that the drainage system needs to be significantly improved in order to alleviate risks from flooding.
d) Improvements in earthen construction know-how
The State Party reports that in order to allow for the traditional techniques of working with earthen architecture, a new sustainable source of the basic material needed to be located. A sustainable source was found and the Ministry of Heritage and Culture has established a centralized production facility for making earthen bricks for the property.
The mission noted that while the establishment of this new production facility was a positive step, there was still some concern about the need for proper research and guidance on the use of the correct materials and mixes for the earthen bricks. Such research will lead to improvements in the quality of the bricks and, therefore, fewer conservation problems.
e) Other issues
The mission noted that the currently defined boundaries may not provide adequate protection. It therefore recommended that a study be carried out with the aim of enlarging the protected area and establishing a buffer zone..
Another issue examined by the mission was the Falaj water system, which is an important component of the Oasis. The mission recommended that conservation work be carried out on some parts of the system.
The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies feel that the completion of an updated Management Plan would constitute a significant achievement for the establishment of an appropriate management system at the property. They urge, however, for the full adoption of the final plan by the State Party as soon as possible, as has been requested in the past by the World Heritage Committee.
The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies feel that the strengthening of the institutional framework and the involvement of the local community at the Fort should be seen as a very positive step in the long-term sustainability of the property.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are pleased with the steps being taken by the State Party to improve the design approach to the souq, and will examine the new proposal when it is finalized by the State Party and submitted to the World Heritage Centre.