Friday, February 10: The Falaj Daris is the biggest falaj in Oman, and one of the five collectively listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2006. Nizwa’s former prosperity was due to its plethora of water supplies, with over 134 aflaj (plural for falaj) in the Nizwa wilayat (village). One hundred of these are still in use today.
A short section of this falaj has been restored and turned into a little park and picnic area about 7km north of Nizwa. Only about 200 meters of falaj are visible before the channel disappears underground at either end.
From the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, I found the following about the five irrigation systems in Oman: “The property includes five aflaj irrigation systems and is representative of some 3,000 such systems still in use in Oman. The origins of this system of irrigation may date back to AD 500, but archaeological evidence suggests that irrigation systems existed in this extremely arid area as early as 2500 BC.
“Using gravity, water is channeled from underground sources or springs to support agriculture and domestic use. The fair and effective management and sharing of water in villages and towns is still underpinned by mutual dependence and communal values and guided by astronomical observations. Numerous watchtowers built to defend the water systems form part of the site reflecting the historic dependence of communities on the aflaj system. Threatened by falling levels of the underground water table, the aflaj represent an exceptionally well-preserved form of land use.”
I visit the park on Friday afternoon and find lots of Omani families picnicking in the park and alongside the falaj. I also see a western-looking couple who both happen to be Turkish. The man tells me he and his wife are visiting all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the World. I ask how many there are and he says there are 936 properties. I say, with some shock, “Oh my gosh, you have a lot of ground to cover!” He says happily, “We’ve already seen over 600 of them!” I’m impressed.