Friday, March 24, 2023 | Ramadan 1, 1444 H
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SQU students embark on journey of documenting Oman archaeological villages

The Sultanate of Oman is famous for having a diverse urban and architectural heritage that extends over many different historical eras. Oman villages are considered some of the most important components of its time-honoured heritage. Even today, some of these villages are still built using the knowledge of their ancestors and Omanis still embrace and are proud of their history and identity.

Taking special interest in the home and village-building history of Oman, a group of students from Sultan Qaboos University, College of Engineering embarked on an initiative of documenting the most historically important Omani villages that are threatened by time and degradation. Fully funded by the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, the group began their documentation process in 2014 with the results printed in a book that was first published in 2021.

The project included several goals, the foremost of which was preserving the most important villages which were eventually added to the extinction list. The ministry has counted about 990 villages most of which are about to become extinct because of their fragile building materials and also because they were abandoned a long time ago. Thus, the ministry decided on documenting all the villages that are documentable. Each of the villages has its own historical and architectural value that makes them worthy of all the work done to be shown to different people interested in the field of architectural heritage.

In a different light, this project has given the students a distinctive practical experience that would make them ready for the job market as fresh graduates and expand their skills in the field of documentation and management of Omani heritage buildings.

“I was in charge of managing the project as its general supervisor along with colleagues from the department and a large number of students who participated as research assistants. They were devoted to the diligent Omani youth who were passionate about what they were doing,” said Naima Bin Kari, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering at SQU and an Expert at the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

This project has created job opportunities for Omanis in the field of conservative and restoration of heritage buildings that have never been held by Omanis formerly.

After documenting ten villages previously, in cooperation with Nottingham Trent University and the British University of Liverpool, the Ministry launched a new volume that includes engineering and photographic documentation and ethnographic studies of four additional villages in the Al Batinah Governorate and the Sayja village in the Wilayat of Samayil. The documentation process included the completion of studies and the preparation of plans for the management of some villages in different wilayats such as: Qasra (Wilayat of Al Rustaq), Sayja (Wilayat of Samayil), Hujrat Musallamat (Wadi Al Maawil), Al Khabt and Hisn Abs (Wilayat of Al Khabourah).

The 550-pages volume includes a large number of photographs and plans, as well as vertical projections of 3D drawings of the various buildings and landmarks documented in the mentioned villages. Most interestingly, the studies included in the book have been completed by taking into account the international laws and standards approved by the Unesco World Heritage Committee.

In addition to drawings, pictures and documentary texts of the buildings and landmarks of the studied villages, the book also contains detailed plans for the rehabilitation and management of the buildings. An added feather on the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism cap as well as that of Sultan Qaboos University, the books can be used as a reference for future developments or rehabilitations of these villages providing the much-needed insight into the architectural, historical and social details.

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