Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bahla- Ad Dakliyah Region

My husband's tribe used to war alot with the folks at Bahla. Why? I don't know really, nor does he, but I am sure it had to do with water or good farms or something. Either way, my husband's tribe is rather superstitious about the people of Bahla, mumbling alot of stories about witches and Jinn [which I love to hear because some of them are SOOOOOOOOo funny, and others give you chills] and attributing them to the ill will of those from Bahla towards those from [____]. Yet, being that the family farm sold dates in Bahla souq, it remains one of his favourite souqs. Yet I am not allowed to go, because apparently it is not a souq Omani women frequent. Which just means I will go without him with my Western friends;). Best of both worlds, I tell you. MOP will ask us "What are you OPNO girls doing this weekend?" "Going to the tailor in such-and-such place near Bahla" we will recite innocently, then head down to the souq, where he will never hear tell of it, because those folks at Bahla don't care much for him anyways:). Actually, I think that whole tribal blood feud thing died out with MOP's father, but I'll ask the folks of Bahla how it all started. MOP's stories of Jinn and witches, while colourful, are probably not the most historically accurate rendition of Bahla's tribal past. ***benefit of not going with MOP: we will be allowed to eat & drink things/foods cooked by the people of Bahla without fearing poison or spell craft*** Old Bahla really fascinates me. It was quite important to Oman historically.The ruins of the immense fort for which Bahla is famous, with its walls and towers of unbaked brick and its stone foundations, is a remarkable example of this type of fortification and attests to the power of the Banu Nebhan. At the foot of the Djebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) lie the fortresses of Rustaq to the north, and Izki, Nizwa and Bahla to the south. These have all been capitals at some time in their history, and as a consequence have played an important role in the history of Oman. It was here that the Kharijite communities resisted all attempts at 'normalization' by Caliph Harun Al-Rashid, and put into practice their religious concepts, which were at once radically puritanical and democratic. [Alot of that copied directly from Wikipedia :D] . OPNO wouldn't write "puritan". I tend to like Puritans so long as they are hypocritical persecuting 'Scarlet Letter" kinds :)
Not far from the capital of Oman, the oasis of Bahla owed its prosperity to the Banu Nabhan who, from the mid-12th to the end of the 15th centuries, imposed their rule on the other tribes. Only the ruins of what was a glorious past now remain in this magnificent mountain site.
Yet the town and village is very much alive, as the souq being MOP's favourite attests to, and Bahla pottery being some of the most prized in Oman... Turn left – just opposite the Fort and visit the old Souq and Market place – many Omanis believe (including MOP & KH), that the huge Sycomore Tree in the centre of the Market place is bewitched and spreads its power over the village. However, should you dare to enter the village, and explore the narrow old lanes, they will lead you to the famous pottery. Many families still make their living out of designing and burning clay for Water buckets (to be seen all over the country), Flowerpots etc… Bahla Fort is an outstanding example of the characteristic military architecture of the Sultanate of Oman.
Built on a stone base, the adobe walls and towers of the immense fort probably include some structural elements of the pre-Islamic period, but the major part of the constructions dates from the prosperous time of the Banu Nabhan, with the latest reconstruction dating from the beginning of the 16th century. At the foot of the fort, to the south-west, lies the Friday Mosque with its beautiful sculpted mihrab (prayer niche) probably dating back to the 14th century.
These monuments are inseparable from the small town of Bahla and its souk, palm grove and adobe ramparts surrounding the oasis, a remarkable work with towers, doors and underground irrigation channels. The monuments of Bahla were in a critical state when it was inscribed on the World Heritage List. It had never been restored (thereby conserving a high degree of authenticity), and was not protected by any conservation measures. The terrace of the Friday Mosque had not undergone maintenance work, and it collapsed between 1981 and 1983, causing the arches to cave in and the wall plastering to be torn away, thus endangering the mihrab (prayer niche) in the building, which the Ibadite community had abandoned in favour of the new mosque. A detailed survey was made in 1977 by the Omani Archaeology Department, but restoration work did not make any headway until 1988. This was entirely financed by the Omani Government, with photogrammetric recording by the Mining Museum in Bochum (Germany). By 2005 it was virtually complete. I am also a fan of Bahla's giant new-ish Mosque/Masjid.

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