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Title: Urban pattern and architecture of traditional Omani foothill settlements : al-Ḥamrā and Birkat al-Mawz
Author: Al-Abrī, H. N. S.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5365 450X
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2014
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Outside of Yemen, Oman arguably contains the most significant, active vernacular heritage within the Arabian Peninsula. While some research exists on settlement pattern and architecture of large settlements on the plains (e.g., Manah, Nizwa, Bahla World Heritage Site and Ibra), little research has taken place on the nature of Omani foothill settlements. The thesis makes an important contribution to Oman studies by addressing this gap through the study of the urban pattern and architecture of two vernacular foothill settlements – Ḥarāt al- Ḥamrā and Ḥarāt as-Saybānī in Birkat al- Mawz in the Dākhliya (Interior) region of central Oman. The two oasis towns evolved during the Yaariba Imamate (mid-17th century CE onwards) and served the purpose of harnessing the tribal support of two important groups in the process of consolidation – the Abriyīn and the Banī Riyām. This thesis argues that the two settlements – new towns by Omani standards – were unique additions to Omani settlement hierarchy, introducing a new category in between the larger settlements of the plains and the small, dispersed settlement pattern of the Oman Mountains. The settlements have been studied by analysing their morphology, or how they were established and evolved over time shaped by the key factors of topography, geology and tribal movement. The thesis extends the discussion by demonstrating how such factors also contributed to the development of dwellings types, distinct in their form and spatial organization. This is accomplished through an interdisciplinary approach to the survey, documentation, analysis and interpretation of the settlements’ morphology. The research has focused on two principal factors of settlement formation: the physical influence of topography and geology, and the social influence of the evolving tribal pattern. Moving from the regional scale to the local, the topographic aspects identify the wider factors, as well as the more immediate impact of the incline and the iv distinctive rock structure on urban pattern. The steeper incline and sudden shifts at Ḥarāt as-Saybānī in Birkat al-Mawz had impacted on the irregular street pattern and dwelling cluster formation. At Ḥarāt al- Ḥamrā, however, the relatively gentle slope had resulted in a more legible order of larger dwelling clusters and wider – more orthogonal – street pattern. Here, the comparatively large open spaces act for the wider community, while at Ḥarāt as-Saybānī communal space is more semi-private and distributive in nature. The social history aspect discussed the revival of the Abriyīn and the Banī Riyām tribes; both these significant political transformations took place under the Yaariba Imamate and were actively supported by them to ensure control over the mountain hinterland. The coalescing of the Abriyīn tribe and the establishment of their own tribal capital (dar) at al- Ḥamrā was distinctive from the creation of the Banī Riyām tribal confederation, which established their capital at Tanuf. Birkat al-Mawz, for the Banī Riyām, was important, where the Yaariba Imamate had co-invested heavily in agricultural infrastructure – but it was not their capital. The confederated nature and gradual migration of groups had evidently affected Birkat al-Mawz; in contrast, al- Ḥamrā evolved more cohesively. The dwellings at al- Ḥamrā accommodated the topographic shift by introducing loftier ground floor spaces, which often accommodated a mezzanine level, adding to their grandeur. In Birkat al-Mawz the sharp shifts resulted in numerous split-levels and stretched out dwellings.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available