Falaj Irrigation System

 

Aflaj are an important heritage that illustrates the diligence and determination of the Omani people in building a civilization and enriching global human heritage. This unique water system gave a boost to agriculture in Oman, which represents, alongside fishing, a heritage that enabled Omanis to establish an inveterate civilization throughout centuries and provided subsistence for generations who survived in harsh climatic and environmental conditions.

Aflaj rise from within mountains, flowing down in channels like waterfalls and passing through vast hills and plains to bring life to land and spread greenness and foliage all around.

Aflaj date back more than two thousand years, during which Omanis developed special tools and means that enabled them to maintain these aflaj and create new ones that meet the growing subsistence demands and the development of agriculture which has always been an important part of Oman's economy despite being short on rainfall. Providing fresh water has been a major challenge faced by Omani generations who insisted on overcoming any obstacles to preserve the cherished heritage of agriculture.

 

The Aflaj Inscribed in the World Heritage List

The inscription of Falaj Daris and Falaj Al-Khatmeen in Willayat Nizwa, Falaj Al-Malaki in Willayat Izki, Falaj Al-Mayssar in Willayat Al-Rustaq and Falaj Al-Jeela in Willayat Sur in the world heritage List is not only restricted to the falaj channel, but also includes the location and the surrounding ancient monuments, buildings, farms, industries and other on-site activities.

 

Types of aflaj

Different types of falaj were built to suit the water sources available. Aflaj are divided into three types:

  • Iddi or Daudi Aflaj: Attributed to Prophet Suleiman bin Dawood, are characterized by their length, which may be as long as 12km, and their perennial flow, which is continuous throughout the year and can be found on upstream plains of Sharqiyah, Dakhiliyah, Dahirah and the Batinah regions.Al Malki falaj in Izki is the largest falaj in Oman in terms of its number of branches, with a total of 17. It should be noted that Daudi aflaj account for 23.5 percent of the total number of Oman’s aflaj.
     
  • Ghaili Aflaj: They are so called because their flow is seasonal and determined by the availability of groundwater and rainfall. They mainly draw their water from wadi channels and lower mountain slopes. Most of these aflaj stop flowing during dry periods as a result of their dependence on water that accumulates in pools downstream of wadis. These are the most prevalent type of aflaj in northern Oman and constitute about 48.5 percent of the total number in the Sultanate.
     
  • Aini Aflaj: These aflaj are fed by springs flowing from the foothills and peaks of mountains where water runs in open channels from deep geological layers formed in ancient times. The water usually contains sulphur and is sometimes hot, and is used to cure diseases such as rheumatism. There are many hot springs in the Sultanate; the most widely known are Ain Al Thawarah in Nakhal, Ain Al Kasfah in Al Rustaq and Ain Arzat in Jebal Al Qara in Dhofar. Aini aflaj constitute about 28 percent of the total number of aflaj in the Sultanate.

 

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