1.         Bahla Fort (Oman) (C 433)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1987

Criteria  (iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    1988-present

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/433/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1988-1988)
Total amount approved: USD 57,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/433/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

October 1988: ICOMOS mission; March 1994: UNESCO World Heritage Centre mission; December 1994: ICOMOS expert mission; May-June 1995: experts mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/433/

Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1995

Following information implying that restoration work being carried out on the Bahla Fort had not respected its authenticity, the Omani authorities accepted the Centre's proposal to send to the site the ICOMOS expert who had carried out its evaluation in 1988, prior to its inscription on the List, to evaluate the work methods used and make new proposals if necessary.

The expert undertook the mission from 11 to 18 December, 1994, and made the following observations and recommendations:

a) The conservation of the site has deteriorated, creating the threat of severe structural damage, particularly the collapse of the mihrab wall of the smaller extra-muros mosque and the appearance of crevices in several walls, especially of the Old Citadel, the foundations, the naves and terrace of the Great Mosque. Remedial action must be undertaken without delay.

b) As concerns authenticity, the work accomplished up to now has resulted in a renovation rather than restoration, the aim pursued being to give the monument the look of a new construction. The work was undertaken without prior archaeological, topographic, architectural and technical surveys. The original building materials (mud-bricks, mortar and plaster) were not studied nor used. Stone was often unjustifiably used in place of the original mud-bricks, and cement was added to the mud-bricks. This material containing cement (sarooj) was also widely used to coat the walls, concealing all traces of the old masonry and giving the walls a harsh and uniform appearance, which contradicts the ancient character of the monument.

During his mission, the ICOMOS expert made two series of recommendations to the Omani authorities, who received them very favorably:

I)

a) resume and complete the architectural surveys of the buildings,

b) respect their authenticity through the use of the original materials and techniques, conserve the original renderings as far as possible, and preserve the historic character of the monuments,

c) reproduce the ancient building materials through scientific laboratory analysis of their original composition

d) repair the most severe structural damage,

e) respect certain restoration priorities, given in detail in the report.

II)

Prepare a Master Plan for the rehabilitation of Bahla Fort and its Oasis, and create a coordinating unit to integrate all national and international inputs.

The consultant's report and recommendations were discussed in his presence in a working session with the Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Oman, on 31 January. This report was officially transmitted to the national authorities on 3 February, along with the proposal that an expert specializing in earth constructions be sent to the site to ensure that necessary measures are taken to respect the authenticity of material and buildings whilst the restoration work is being carried out.

In his letter of 5 April to the Centre, the Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Oman, confirmed the national authorities' agreement that this mission of two experts be jointly financed and organized during the month of May 1995, in order to decide, together with those responsible for the restoration, which kind of earthen material should be used in order to preserve the authenticity of the monument.

Action Required

The Bureau endorses the recommendations made by the expert mission and commends the Government of Oman on its positive response. The Bureau invites the Secretariat to report to the World Heritage Commitee at its nineteenth session on the outcome of the expert mission that will be undertaken in May 1995.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1995

Since the eighteenth session of the Committee in December 1994, two missions were fielded to the Sultanate of Oman to monitor and evaluate the ongoing restoration work at the Fort.

The first of these missions was carried out in December 1994 and resulted in observations and recommendations which are set out in a Consolidated Report transmitted to the national authorities, following a meeting with the Permanent Delegation. At that point, it was confirmed that the work carried out over the last two years was of a clearly "renovation" type, risking to irremediably compromise the authenticity of this historic monument. The UNESCO expert advised that a reorientation both conceptual and technical be implemented without delay.

Following this report, and in order to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations concerning the use of materials and traditional construction procedures, - particularly the manufacture of mud bricks (adobe), the mixture and the use of mortar and plaster - the Omani authorities proposed to the World Heritage Centre to share the costs of a second mission of two consultants, one of whom being an internationally renowned specialist in mud brick constructions from the CRAterre Group. This mission took place from 27 May to 11 June 1995.

This specialist was able to provide valuable advice to the responsible architects and staff working at the site with regard to the choice of material, its preparation and utilization. Together with the architects and two civil engineers mandated by the Ministry of Culture, solutions were found for the conservation and/or restoration of certain very dilapidated parts, including the "mihrab" of the small outer mosque and the reception rooms of the ancient residence of the Governor.

During the working sessions held with high officials of the Ministry of Culture, including the Under-Secretary of the Heritage Office, crucial questions concerning the progress of the project and its outcome were discussed: carrying out of architectural surveys with the use of photogrammetry and archaeological research; establishment of historical records, cartography and iconography on Bahla, setting up of a rehabilitation project and enhancing the group comprising the Fort and the oasis, establishment of a Management Plan for the oasis of Bahla requiring the involvement of several ministries.

The responsible Omani authorities have clearly indicated their willingness to safeguard Bahla in accordance with the recognized standards of the international community. They have openly welcomed advice and recommendations from the consultants and have expressed their wish for continued cooperation with UNESCO, especially through a further monitoring mission. The technical report established following the second mission was transmitted to the Permanent Delegation of Oman on 11 July 1995.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The Bureau could recommend that the Committee adopt the following text:

"The Committee thanked the Omani authorities for their active collaboration with UNESCO towards the preservation of Bahla fort. They particularly appreciated their desire to follow the advice of the experts, specialists in mud-brick architecture, who were sent to the site. This action seemed to be the only way to preserve the authenticity of the monument, to which continued importance is accorded. It thanked the authorities for their financial support towards the safeguarding of this heritage and requested that the outer mosque and the ancient residence of the Governor be also considered for restoration in accordance with the international recommendations for the preservation of authenticity.

The Committee suggested to the Omani authorities that a further mission of two experts be organized in 1996 under the same cost-sharing conditions, in order to evaluate the work and the state of conservation of the monument and to examine whether Bahla Fort may be removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger in the future."

Decision Adopted: 19 BUR VI.21

After having taken note of the Secretariat’s report on the two expert missions organized with the cooperation of the national authorities, (December 1994 and May-June 1995), the Bureau thanked the Omani authorities for their active collaboration with UNESCO for the preservation of Bahia Fort. It particularly appreciated their willingness to follow the advice of the specialists in earth constructions, sent to the site. The Bureau was of the opinion that this was the only way by which the authenticity of the site would be respected and that great importance should continue to be given to this. It thanked the national authorities for the financial support granted for the safeguarding of this heritage and hoped that the outer mosque and the ancient Governor’s residence would also be the subject of restoration work in conformity with international recommendations for conservation materials and authenticity.

The Delegate of Oman expressed his satisfaction with the results of the expert missions and warmly thanked the Centre for its efficiency and excellent collaboration with the Delegation and the national authorities.

Decision Adopted: 19 COM VII.C.1.29

VII.29 Bahla Fort (Oman)

The Committee was informed that since its eighteenth session two expert missions had visited the site. The observations and recommendations of the first mission are set out in a Consolidated Report transmitted to the national authorities, confirming that the work being carried out was of a clearly "renovation" type, risking to irremediably compromise the authenticity of this historic monument. The second mission, carried out from 27 May to 11 June 1995, with the financial support of Oman, by a specialist in mud-brick architecture, provided valuable advice on the methods and choice of material to be used. It also noted the involvement of the national authorities in the safeguarding of the authenticity of the monument and the neighbouring buildings.

The Committee thanked the Omani authorities for their active collaboration with UNESCO towards the preservation of Bahla Fort. They particularly appreciated their willingness to follow the advice of the experts, specialists in mud-brick architecture, who were sent to the site. This action seemed to be the only way to preserve the authenticity of the monument, to which continued importance is accorded. It thanked the authorities for their financial support towards the safeguarding of this heritage and recommended that the outer mosque and the ancient residence of the Governor be also considered for restoration in accordance with the international recommendations for the preservation of authenticity.

The Committee suggested to the Omani authorities that a further mission of two experts be organized in 1996 under the same cost-sharing conditions, in order to evaluate the work and the state of conservation of the monument and to examine whether Bahla Fort may be removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger in the future. The Committee requested the Secretariat to present a report on this at its twentieth session.