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Bahla Fort

Oman
Factors affecting the property in 2018*
  • Housing
  • Legal framework
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Other Threats:

    Deterioration of the earthen structures of the Fort

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Use of inappropriate conservation techniques
  • Urban pressure
  • Lack of a management plan and appropriate legislation
  • Housing
  • Legal framework
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Deterioration of the earthen structures of the Fort
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2018

Total amount provided to the property: USD 25,000 (private funding)

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2018
Requests approved: 2 (from 1988-1988)
Total amount approved : 57,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2018**

2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003: World Heritage Centre expert missions; December 2009: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018

On 31 December 2017, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/433/documents/, outlining progress made in response to Decision 40 COM 7B.26 and the recommendations of the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission of March 2017, and noting the following:

  • A ‘World Heritage Sites Department’ has been established within the Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MHC) and a site management office will be provided at Bahla;
  • The Management Plan was completed in 2010, but has not been submitted to the World Heritage Centre. It identifies 19 ‘Character Zones’ and required conservation and management actions for each zone. Further co-ordination with other Ministries will enable key actions from the Management Plan to be implemented, including creation of a wider buffer zone, regulation for the use of the agricultural land in the oasis, and irrigation systems;
  • The request for a minor boundary modification, including an enlarged buffer zone, will be submitted when the necessary legal framework is established;
  • The mission team did not have access to numerous project documents and it is acknowledged that this documentation should be accessible. MHC prepares comprehensive documentation before intervention to any monument and works follow the original morphology and building techniques, including use of adobe. Information has been provided concerning works carried out in the Souq, the Shaikh Bin Baraka Mausoleum and the Alkhair Mosque. The approach to conservation of the Wall includes cleaning and root removal, avoiding moisture transmission, preventing the construction of new buildings nearby and making local people aware of the need for protection;
  • Comprehensive restoration work in Harat Al-Aqr is challenging owing to its size and the extent of earthen construction. MHC is preparing plans for the maintenance of facades and visitor pathways, in accordance with the mission findings. Adobe workshops have been held to build capacity for conservation works;
  • Some negative impacts identified by the mission at Harat Al-Ghuzeili, Al-Hawuiya and Harat Al-Aqr, particularly concrete interventions, pre-date the inscription of the property on the World Heritage List. However, the need for urgent action to save Harat Al-Aqr from abandonment and loss of authenticity is acknowledged.

Finally, the State Party indicates that although it appreciates the proposal to change the property’s name to mention the word ‘oasis’, as proposed by the mission, which argued that this addition would facilitate better understanding of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and its national and local heritage values, the priority is currently the conservation of the property.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2018

The State Party continues to make efforts to improve the management and legal status of the property, including the creation of a ‘World Heritage Sites Department’ within MHC, and a site management office at Bahla. Moreover, it has undertaken restoration works, and engaged actively with the 2017 mission and its findings. However, key actions previously requested by the Committee have not occurred; these include submission of a finalized Management Plan, a minor boundary modification request, and documentation of the conservation and management actions already undertaken and planned at the property. This delay is hampering the ability of the State Party and its agencies to respond to major challenges, such as rapid development, encroachment of concrete construction and abandonment of vernacular buildings in traditional settlements (harats). For example, the mission report observes that the authenticity of Harat al-Aqr settlement is endangered by construction pressure. The Falaj irrigation system also appears to be at risk through abandonment, and parts of the surrounding ancient oasis wall are in decay, impacted by adjacent concrete buildings, or have been destroyed. Although, during recent years, projects have been undertaken on the Bahla market (souq), the mosque, the mausoleum, the gate, and the property’s fortress, large areas of the property remain vulnerable.

In response to these circumstances, the mission made recommendations related to:

  • Control and monitoring of new construction;
  • Provision of maps indicating clearly the defined boundaries of the property and buffer zone boundaries, plus on-site sign markers;
  • Preparation of comprehensive documentation of the state of conservation of the property showing: original fabric, interventions with the different earthen building techniques, interventions with other traditional materials, and new concrete construction;
  • Submission of the Management Plan and the newly approved legal framework and heritage law to the World Heritage Centre;
  • Establishment of a local management office with a site director and a technical management team;
  • A conservation plan/strategy defining procedures for conservation and maintenance;
  • Enhancement of architectural records with further scientific analysis and historical research, as a basis for future projects;
  • A range of recommendations specific to particular monuments and precincts.

The mission concluded that the State Party should adopt a more consistent and dynamic approach to protecting the property from encroachment, in order to address the continuing threats. The focus needs to be broadened to preserve the entirety of the property components, including the fortress, the Falaj irrigation system, oasis, ancient settlements, natural and built environment, surrounding ancient oasis perimeter wall, Bahla market (Souq), and the old souq, as well as all dynamic living structures of the community that contribute to its authenticity, integrity and, therefore, its OUV.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2018
42 COM 7B.57
Bahla Fort (Oman) (C 433)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.26, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Commends the State Party for its efforts to ensure the sustainable management and conservation of the property, and welcomes the creation of a ‘World Heritage Sites Department’ within the Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MHC), and a site management office at Bahla;
  4. Regrets that, despite previous requests, neither the finalized version of the Management Plan nor a request for a minor boundary modification have been submitted;
  5. Urges the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre the finalized and updated version of the Management Plan, including the legal framework that will support its implementation;
  6. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, as soon as possible and based on Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, a detailed document summarizing the conservation and management actions already undertaken and planned at the property, (original fabric, interventions with the different earthen building techniques, interventions with other traditional materials, and new concrete construction), and showing the articulation between them and the finalized and updated version of the Management Plan;
  7. Noting the recommendations of the 2017 Reactive Monitoring mission to the property, also requests the State Party to implement them, and in particular provisions for improved control and monitoring of new construction, and preparation of a conservation plan;
  8. Further requests the State Party to submit, by 1 February 2019, a minor boundary modification enlarging the buffer zone, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above.
Draft Decision: 42 COM 7B.57

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.26, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Commends the State Party for its efforts to ensure the sustainable management and conservation of the property, and welcomes the creation of a ‘World Heritage Sites Department’ within the Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MHC), and a site management office at Bahla;
  4. Regrets that, despite previous requests, neither the finalized version of the Management Plan nor a request for a minor boundary modification have been submitted;
  5. Urges the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre the finalized and updated version of the Management Plan, including the legal framework that will support its implementation;
  6. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, as soon as possible and based on Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, a detailed document summarizing the conservation and management actions already undertaken and planned at the property, (original fabric, interventions with the different earthen building techniques, interventions with other traditional materials, and new concrete construction), and showing the articulation between them and the finalized and updated version of the Management Plan;
  7. Noting the recommendations of the 2017 Reactive Monitoring mission to the property, also requests the State Party to implement them, and in particular provisions for improved control and monitoring of new construction, and preparation of a conservation plan;
  8. Further requests the State Party to submit, by 1 February 2019, a minor boundary modification enlarging the buffer zone, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above.
Report year: 2018
Oman
Date of Inscription: 1987
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iv)
Danger List (dates): 1988-2004
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2018) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 42COM (2018)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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