Muscat: Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Culture has moved to protect the historic Bahla Castle, which has been part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites since 1987.
According to Ministerial Decision 81/2019, any development, construction, commercial, infrastructure, tourism, or transport activity in the vicinity of the fort will be prohibited until a permit is given from the Ministry.
This means that businesses will not be able to operate in the area unless the Ministry approves their work as safe for the heritage of the castle.
The decision by the Ministry states: “No development work may be done in the site until after a permit is received from the competent authority (The Bahla Fort section of the Ministry), especially residential work and construction, commercial activities, tourism activities, infrastructure activities, transport activities, or water management activities.”
When speaking of Bahla Fort, the Ministry includes the fort itself, as well as a 12 km area around it, which includes the Souq, the boundary wall and everything they contain such as old Quran schools, mosques, and 18 residential neighbourhoods.
According to a statement by the Ministry: “Bahla Fort is one of the most important architectural cites which has been in use since 500 B.C. The fort is one of the oldest and largest in the Sultanate, with an area of almost 10,000 square metres.”
According to the Ministry, some discoveries in the fort and its surroundings over the years included four chambers hidden by falling walls. One of the most important discoveries was a cloth satchel filled with 90 silver dirhams, hidden under the floor of the mosque. Many of these coins were unknown before this discovery and, after analysis, proved to be from around the 11th century.
The Bahla Souq, included in the decision, is considered a hub for traditional crafts, which the Ministry is hoping to protect.
A statement by the Ministry of Tourism read: “Bahla Souq is close to the castle and contains many traditional crafts such as Khanjar making and copper metalwork, as well as traditional halwa makers.”
The Ministry’s decision also aims to encourage the type of development which maintain and promote the values of the area as well as commercial and other projects which will result in social and economic benefits for the area.
In addition, the department will work to document and protect all traditions, crafts, and commercial traditional activities in the area. It may also provide a recommendation to approve funding or financing from the private sector for any traditional crafts projects in or around the castle and will assist in finding buyers for the products.