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    1988-2004

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

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

Previous monitoring missions

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

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

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:

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 Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

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:

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.

Decision Adopted: 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.