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Al Aqar an oasis of traditional architecture

The Wilayat of Bahla in the Governorate of Al Dakhiliyah is one of the most famous tourist and heritage destinations in the Sultanate. It is noted for its diversity of heritage and tourist sites such as castles, forts, markets and ancient neighbourhoods that are frequented by visitors from within and outside the Sultanate.

In the Wilayat of Bahla, Al Aqar is one of the oldest localities with historical buildings of the traditional Omani architecture, locally called ‘Al Harat’. It is located in the ancient Bahla Oasis, which has been included in the World Heritage site by Unesco since 1987.

Al Aqar is located within the boundaries of the 12-km-long wall of Bahla, which is militarily fortified. The place is also attached to two urban centres: Al Ghuzaili and Al Hawaya.

Zakaria al Humaimi, a researcher in the history of Oman, said: “Remains of tombs were found in Al Aqar, in the site of the mosque, which indicate that it was inhabited in the pre-Islamic era and date back almost to the third millennium BC. The place consists of large clay buildings, some of which are located in its centre. Among them,177 mud brick buildings still retain their original form and 23 of them are built with mixed materials (traditional and modern).”

Zakaria al Humaimi told Oman News Agency that Al Aqar is bounded to the north by the historical Bahla Mosque and Bahla Historic Castle. The neighbourhood lies at the foot of a high hill, which provides it with a direct protection at Wadi Bahla by Bahla Castle. This also provides the visitors of Al Aqar with a wide view of the south.

He affirmed that a number of manuscripts and scientific documents were found in old houses in Al Aqar by a group of scholars who lived in the area, including Shaikh al Faqih Omar bin Said bin Abdullah al Maad al Bahlawi Abu Hafs (1009 AH/1600 AD), author of Minhaj al Adel (an encyclopaedia in Fiqh in four large parts) that included many answers of scholars and their fatwas. He also left collections of poems and Fiqh answers. Al Maad Library is one of the most important Waqf libraries in the Wilayat of Bahla.

Zakaria al Humaimi pointed out that a study was conducted on Al Aqar at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom in collaboration with the Ministry of Heritage and Culture in the Sultanate.

The study team of the university visited Al Aqar in 2012 to assess its importance, the policies and strategies of the ministry in conservation, and the feasibility of documentation by the research team from the university. Al Aqar, with several features that made it eligible for inclusion in the World Heritage site list in 1987, is a cultural reservoir and a major tourist attraction. — ONA

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