Cultural Landscape of Kong Historic Port
Iranian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts
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The Kong cultural landscape is an integral combination of a port town with a unique architecture, a smart system of water collecting and irrigation beside its rich and remarkable intangible heritage which has surrounded by beautiful natural and manmade landscape. Kong is one the best interactions between the marine, architecture, land use and culture. The historic port of Kong is the most important place in manufacturing the cargo and sailing boats and ships, with a unique geostrategic location of the port and thanks to the grate advantages given to this city by nature, it became a long lasting port for trade, fishing and traditional timber boats and ships builder. Kong use to be the most important place to find the best sailors and sea folks and still is the best place for maintenance and order the traditional ships called “Lenj” which are still using for intercontinental marine trips and long fishing journeys. The integrated historical urban texture of Kong port and as well as its ancient settlements and related archeological sites around are the strong evidence of continuity of living background in this place which is reminding the traditional Iranian coastal urban planning and land use in The Persian Gulf. Kong having within itself a considerable part of the Persian Gulf history and myths is an outstanding living historic city amongst regional and international coastal cities. In addition to the cultural values of the general structure, the town comprises hundreds of historical houses with large numbers of intact wind catchers (Bādgirs), in its skyline. This is one of the most important signs of the authenticity and integrity of this historical port town in semi tropical coastal area of Iran.
Architectural concept of the historical houses of the Kong town has been deeply inspired by the culture, traditions and the environmental conditions and notably affected by the Kongy sailor’s and traders who travelled abroad frequently. Since there is no any permanent water resource such as spring or river, The Kong port town urban development and architecture is strongly based on water collecting and flood hazards. The internal spaces of the typical Kong houses are so significant that the other architectural elements are leading the audiences into them. Miansara is positioned at the centre of the houses with multidisciplinary function including, rain water collecting cistern, flowers and trees yard and cooling the air and the rooms and Sabat (porch) are picked around it. The external façade is simple and plane but slightly decorated by the light and shadows made by the different vertical and horizontal surface levels. The architects have implemented more decorations for the internal parts applying delicate designs on the openings and ceiling.
According to the historical documents, the historical centre of Kong port has been relocated for five times over 2500 years. What we know as the port of Kong today embraces a vital and valuable fabric which is more than 400 years old. Historical evidences show that it was, and to some extent still is, an important incoming and outgoing Iranian port to and from East Africa and South East Asia within the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.
Kong has been able to keep its traditional and historical texture over the long history. The outstanding elements of the traditional Iranian architectural and urban elements such as wind catchers (Bādgir), narrow alleys, shades as well as the valuable local sailing technologies and port business cultures are connecting the historical periods with the development of the town.
The other impressive features of this port is the sailing base and its shipbuilding base which has been inscribed in the UNESCO intangible list. The name of Kong can be seen in the old European maps concerning the Persian Gulf since the 15th till the 19th century. A large collection of these maps is available at the UNESCO website as the digital library. In these maps, this town has been named as Kung, Gongo, Gonga and Cong. This town has been mentioned for several occasions within the documents of the Portuguese national archive concerning the times of Portuguese occupation in the Persian Gulf. In this city, the main source of water always been a water aggregating system called Borkeh which is a large scale domed roof structure with a deep basin under dome located almost everywhere inside and outside the town. Although the limitation of water always been a matter in this port, with this smart solution, the port has notable gardens and green manmade areas around. The intangible aspects of this cultural landscape are remained intact and alive over the centuries as well. The cuisins, costumes, music, handicrafts, sailing knowledge and language are the main characteristics of this cultural landscape.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Cultural Landscape of Kong Historic Port, is amongst the most important remaining example of its kind among the Persian Gulf coastal cities and beyond with its historic urban fabric still intact, and people actually living within the old part of the town, keeping their historic bonds with the sea and related intangible heritage, namely music, foods, custom, etc. The Historic Port of Kong is the storyteller of centuries of the relations between peoples of various nations from different distant countries in such a way that one can confidently state that it can be considered as a living museum showing continued interaction of man with the sea. The entire nominated property with its historic urban fabric and the remaining and continued intangible heritage, act as a shelter to preserve this unique combination. The intelligent interaction between man and nature particularly what they did on providing water for living, turning the threats of heat and dryness into opportunities such as Borkeh and Bādgir is remarkable and still in function. The Kong cultural landscape is one of the richest place where the peace and beauty of nature meets the peace and intelligent of human.
Criterion (ii): Kong has been in the centre of political and economic activities in the Persian Gulf since Parthians and Sassanid dynasties who ruled over a considerable part of the ancient world, and thus it is safe to say that the region has always been an important location from the standpoint of its cultural, political and economic position. The architecture of Kong is outstanding in its characteristics and features showing the manifestations of cultural and technical interchange between Kong and other countries of the region. Moreover, the relations between the architecture, the sea and people represent a unique expression of sea-bound activities which has helped Kong to be an important trade hub throughout centuries. In addition to its old architecture, the Historic Port of Kong is a living historic city in which the historic urban fabric, sea-bound trade, customs and beliefs, have remained fully intact showing full interchanges between various nations of Africa, India and the Persian Gulf, still customary and surviving. This port use to be a centre for Portuguese settlement for centuries, so their architectures remains shows the combination of Persian – Portuguese mixed architecture in castles within the port.
Criterion (iii): Cultural landscape of Kong historic port shows a distinctive tangible and intangible heritage all of which rooted in close association between man and the sea throughout the history. The effects of this co-existence can be traced in every aspect of the community including houses, livelihood, ethical characteristics such as patience, bravery, contentment, traditional customs and beliefs, arts, etc. This way of life, or cultural tradition, is being practiced in Kong since ancient times. In fact, the sea has been the determining factor in forming the common culture, or traditions, which can still be observed as a common heritage between the regional and beyond territories. The smart way of collecting water and saving it for long time is one of the historical tangible and intangible heritages of this area which still works.
Criterion (iv): Urban planning and architecture of urban heritage of Kong enjoys a unique pattern fully matched with surrounded environment. In terms of technology and engineering, elements of this urban heritage prove high standards of knowledge and data on the northern margin of the Persian Gulf coast. Wind catchers (Bādgir) which contains 9 different types are one of this elements and traditional water Cistern (Borkeh), are as the most complicated traditional technologies, which require knowledge on nature ranging from groundwater to management. This source of knowledge behind these systems can be ranked among the wonders of human civilizations.
Enclosure and shading of roads for climatic and cultural reasons, synchronized rhythm and harmony of town planning within the historical range, motion continuity in the passages, complexity harmony between the ground line, the body of buildings and the sky line, simplicity and purity of form on the walls, applying decorations and details to key points of space, entrances and corners, features and contrasting shadows on the walls and providing a comfort city environment for living and a small paradise in houses to enjoy are other signs of outstanding example of a type of architectural, technological patterns which illustrate significant stages in human history of northern margin of the Persian Gulf coast.
Criterion (v): To respect to water and keep it clear and far from pollution and to manage with the requirements of life a series of water reservoirs (Borkeh) outside the houses and reservoir inside houses, was constructed by the people of Kong in order to collect rain water for their daily use as well as for agricultural purposes and for providing the ships requirements, in other words for tangible and intangible purposes. Kong is an outstanding example of most advantageous land as well as sea-uses which noticeably is representative of different cultures and manifests human interaction between man and its environment. Despite having its ups and downs throughout history, the Historic Port of Kong still possesses strong and clear historic records and evidences showing, based on its geographical position, its location on the coasts of the Persian Gulf, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, its outstanding political as well as economic significance during last almost 2000 years.
Criterion (vi): Kong Directly and tangibly associated with living events and traditions, ideas, beliefs, literary and artistic works which bears outstanding universal value. The traditional knowledge of making ocean liners, which is still alive in this port and also the knowledge of building the huge timber ships are a sign of the history of the traditions left from ancient times to the present.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The proposed site fulfils the criteria of authenticity as regards to urban structure, well preserved historic houses, monuments, as well as architectural complexes. To these the well preserved urban landscape and old customs should be added. The historic city of Kong has developed as a dynamic and lively city throughout its history meeting the requirements of the times. However, the city has fully retained its authenticity in forms, building materials, construction methods and use and functions. The very living intangible heritage of the city continues to interact and interrelate with the tangible part of the site, making it an outstanding and unique site in the Persian Gulf region and beyond. Furthermore, the integrity of the property has remained intact from visual, structural, and functional point of views.
Comparison with other similar properties
Cultural land scape of Kong historic port has many similarities with a number of national as well as international cities such as Laft, Old fabric of Bushehr, Soro district of Bandar Abbass, Bastak, Hormuz Island, Bandar-e Lenge in Iran, in terms of either architecture, landscape, or intangible heritage, showing long interrelations and interexchange between them. However, in comparison with other coastal cities in Iran, it is unique with regard to its sheer extent, authenticity and integrity. It is also unique, as a living city, having its age- old customs and traditions interwoven with its urban fabric, the sea and the people, still being continued and endured. In comparison with some other important historic or world heritage sites such as in Bahrain: Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy, Qatar: Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, Sharjah: The Gate to Trucial State, Kenya: Lamu Old Town, and Tanzania: Stone Town of Zanzibar with which it had enjoyed close historical relations, in some aspects the cultural landscape of Kong can be comprised with the Naphlio port, Elefsina and also the Xios Island in Greece. The most significant difference could be observed in its existing cultural diversity rooted in these societies through long-lasting cultural exchanges. Foods, music, dances, poetry, expressions, and many other features in Kong show the influences of the other cultures, while preserving its own authentic cultural characteristics and significance.