Bahla fort may soon be thrown open for public

Muscat - 

The Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MoHC) is planning to open Bahla fort, a Unesco World Heritage site, to the public after excavation and restoration work that took nearly a decade ended recently.

An MoHC official connected with the restoration said that the ministry is planning to keep the fort open for public visits on Thursdays and Fridays.

“This is an initial plan before the fort will be handed to the Ministry of Tourism (MoT),” he said. He added that public amenities along with a museum and other attractions will be overlooked by MoT.

“There is a high chance that the fort will open for the public before year-end,” he said. The fort was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1987 and was included in the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1988.

No restoration work had been done before 1987, so it was in a critical stage until first restoration work began in 1988. Revealing the findings of excavation work at the fort in a recent presentation, Sultan Saif al Bakri, director, excavations and archaeological studies, MoHC, said that the restoration of the fort and the adjacent Great Mosque were accompanied with excavations in order to identify the early occupations and to get a complete understanding of the history of these monuments. Three seasons of investigation during 1993, 1998 and 2006 were carried out by a joint team of Omani (MoHC), French and Italian archaeologists.

The Bahla fort is built on a flat outcrop in a triangle form with six towers in the corners, completely built by mud-brick with a stone foundation. Excavations at Al Qasbah, the oldest part of the fort, revealed the foundation of an earlier tower and the team also unearthed the foundation of four rooms.

“A number of pottery pieces including local pottery which is known as Bahla pottery and some Chinese wares were also found along with fragments of steatite vessels,” said Bakri.

A number of camel and horse figurines were also unearthed. Arabic epigraphy documenting several events that happened in the Bahla oasis was also found. The excavation at the Great Mosque, located south-east of the Bahla fort and built on an outcrop by mud-brick with a stone foundation and dating back to 6th century, revealed walls of an earlier mosque and a treasure of Islamic coins.

“Late Iron Age pottery, a number of steatite vessels dating to the Bronze Age, and beads were among the other finds,” he said. Bakri said that future plans include excavation at Bahla souq, restoration and conservation of the Bahla wall and souq, and studying the pottery which has been found in the fort and the Great Mosque

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