Photo provided by Philipp Peterer (2011)
|2006||Inscribed||Reasons for inscription|John Booth (New Zealand):
Of all the aflaj in Oman and the UAE, only one that I saw in 2010 is included in this WHS. That is the falaj al Muyassar that flows through Rustaq, and beneath the fort (on WH tentative list). The portion I have seen flows through a date plantation, then beneath the fort, and in an open channel out into Rustaq village. It then continues in an open channel through the village.
In 2011, while staying in Nizwa I visited several others, at Falaj Daris, at a spot where steps are provided for washing prior to attending mosque. The Falaj Al-Khatmeen was easily located at Birkat Al Mawz in a date plantation adjacent to the fort. Less easy to find was Falaj Al-Malki, located in what is now a new housing estate. It was not in a very clean state either.
Date posted: May 2010 Sue Hutton (UK):
I personally took all the photos of aflaj shown at the link to the newsbriefsoman gallery from this page, (please note the spelling error - Photos of Aflay (sic) in Oman), and I am delighted that they are being used as a resource for this World Heritage Site.
I worked at the Ministry of Water Resources in Muscat from the end of 1991 to mid-2000, and would be happy to answer any queries.
There are other entries on the newsbriefsoman blog about Oman. You can read a description of the three types of falaj found in Oman and see a diagram of a cross-section of a dawoodi falaj at http://www.newsbriefsoman.info/index.php?itemid=50.
An archived article from the Oman Observer, dated March 2003, entitled 'Historical water supply - the aflaj of Oman' by Patricia Groves, is at http://www.newsbriefsoman.info/index.php?itemid=93
Date posted: July 2006 Paul Tanner (UK):
Most Omani villages possess a falaj irrigation system which collects and distributes water from source to houses and fields. Their origin dates back centuries and they are a central aspect of Omani agriculture and social organisation. However when I saw that “A Falaj system” was on Oman’s Tentative list I had little hope that a single one chosen from among the c3000 in the country would be one that I had seen in 2005! It then appeared that the T list actually called it “Aflaj systems of Oman” and that “aflaj” is the plural – so it was the entire concept which was being proposed! In the event Oman chose 5 such systems as representative of the country’s entire stock and luckily – yes, we had visited 1 of those chosen – the Falaj Daris at Nizwa (photo)
Nizwa has a population of around 60000 and is a tourist center - this, more than the example itself, may have had something to do with the selection (which also increases to 3 the number of WHS within a short drive of this town!). The system is 8 kms long and, as is the way with aflaj, much of the channel from the source is underground (There are 3 types of Falaj and Nizwa’s is a Daoudi which taps into underground water as opposed to using a spring, river or dam. Where the water appears from the tunnels for distribution is called the shari’a and, in Nizwa, a small park has been created there, which is no doubt a pleasant place to escape the summer heat and enjoy the shade and running water. It is clearly signed on the outskirts of town to the right on the road to Bahla. Our photo is of this spot and also shows the cement mortar used in restoration to cap the channels. This caused ICOMOS much consternation (they wanted traditional mortar to be used) and was one of the factors which led them to recommend deferral rather than inscription in 2006 (Quite what caused WHC to ignore this advice in a year when they threw out so many other nominations is not yet clear!). They also disliked the lack of historical documentation of age and the lack of management plans etc. In the background it also seemed that they were concerned as to whether the irrigation systems were, per se, special enough worldwide either in terms of technology or history to justify inscription and very much wanted the whole “Cultural Landscape” aspect to be covered.
Certainly we have seen similar underground water movement technology used in China (There is a good site at Turpan) and in Iran/Turkmenistan (where they are called Qanats) so ICOMOS were right to be concerned about the “Universal Value” of aflaj. As for the 5 sites inscribed, well I can’t comment on the other 4 (Of these the Khatmee is also near Nizwa and the Al Malki is on the main road from Muscat to Nizwa near Izki), but we saw far nicer ones than the Daris at Nizwa. These tended to be in villages – we particularly remember Al Hamra, Tanuf and Misfah near to Nizwa and the A’samdi Falaj near Sumail. Omanis are friendly and courteous - express an interest in the village Falaj and you may be invited in for Coffee and dates (we were!). In the villages you will be more able to see and understand the overall layout and the gradual change in use of the water as it flows – from collection for drinking through male/female ablution areas, clothes washing and finally into the date fields. You will also see the Sun dials used traditionally to time the distribution of water.
To visit Oman and not try to see and explore the Aflaj system would be to miss an important aspect of Omani culture – for that reason this inscription is to be welcomed whatever the merits or otherwise of the sites chosen.
Date posted: July 2006
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