Omani Falaj systems Attracting tourists, scientists and the UNESCO

 

YAHYA ALSALMANI & TITASH CHAKRABORTY   –

Falaj Al Khatmayn, located in Birkat Al Mawz in the Wilayat of Nizwa attracts the attention of tourists from all around the globe. In 2006, after the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) classified this site along with four other Omani Falaj systems in the World Heritage list, Falaj Al Khatmayn gained significant popularity amongst tourists from abroad and within the country.
Since the announcement of this inclusion, tourists have gained a keen interest and sought better understanding of this unique irrigation system which has been part of Oman and its people for over 2000 years. As the oldest irrigation system and the key to this arid regions agricultural advancement, to this day many regions still depend on these falaj systems as their main source of drinking, cooking and irrigation water.
The UNESCO recognised the ancient intricate structures of the water canals that formed the falaj and this was the main reason for its inclusion on the heritage list. Locally classified as ‘Daudi Flaj, an official from the Ministry of Municipalities and Water Resources shared that “its electrical conductivity of the Falaj water is about (440 Maikarosmonz / cm). The total length of the falaj reaches to about 2450 metres. The most important wadi that feeds the Falaj is Al Me’aidin Wadi, which flows from the versant of Jabal Al Akhdhar Mountain”.
The Ya’ariba Mosque is one of the historic landmarks of Birkat Al Moz, it was built right next to Falaj al Khatmayn, the mosque was constructed in the eleventh century by Imam Sultan bin Saif bin Malik Al Ya’aribi. Close to the falaj, Bait Al Ridaidah castle still stands and to this day has accessible drinking water fresh from the falaj. The falaj canals run to the inside of the castle and around the interior mosque, providing ablution water for the prayers and drinking water at all times.
With the sudden increase of footfalls from all the tourists visiting this newly celebrated site, many archaeologists and environmentalists have argued that these sites need to be restored and secured in order to avoid erosion and other detrimental effects that might be caused by the high number of visitors. Although these concerns are being raised, they are also grateful to the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources for all its efforts to promote these sites whilst keeping in mind the safety and preservation of these a and cultural treasures.
Keeping up with the rapid development of technology along with the improvement of government performances, the Ministry is now working around the clock to document data related to the 4112 Falajs that still exist in the Sultanate today. This is important as falaj’s not only shared their long history with this nation but are still an important part of many people’s identity, last but not least, to the Omani people, traditions are important and the falaj system is an important part and has been for many thousand years.
With a detailed and documented information about all the falaj’s in the Sultanate, the project will provide specific information for each and every falaj — maintenance data and updates, water levels, structural integrity, maps and routes, etc. The project aims to be able to classify important information in a systematic order making the maintenance of these ancient lifelines easy and effective. This would also ensure that specialists and experts from any part of the world are able to access this information to get a better understanding of the falajs of the Sultanate.
PHOTOS BY: YAHYA ALSALMANI