Al-Ahsa Oasis, an Evolving Cultural Landscape [ Saudi Arabia ]

cultural landscape

        2015-2018 | listed in June 2018 | english



SCTH (Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


Sept. 2015 / June 2018
listed in July 2018


UNESCO World Heritage Centre / Al-Ahsa Oasis, an Evolving Cultural Landscape

Heritage sites in Saudi Arabia

The Nomination File of Al-Ahsa Oasis, An Evolving Cultural Landscape, was realized by a team composed of RCHeritage and IPOGEA, an Italian company specialized in desert environment, water management and oases. The support of oasis experts was instrumental in the definition of the nomination principles and in the identification of the property perimeters.

This nomination is the first example of cultural landscape proposed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and a very large serial property comprising not only desert land and palm trees groves, but also urban neighbourhoods and agricultural lands.

The work was carried out in coordination with the STCH (in Riyadh and in al-Ahsa) and the Municipality of Al-Ahsa. A series of presentation meetings took place in Al-Hofuf to involve the local community and the ensemble of the institutional stakeholders. Two management seminars were also organized before and after the submission of the file to UNESCO in January 2017.

Located in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Al-Ahsa Oasis, an Evolving Cultural Landscape is a serial cultural property constituted of twelve components covering an area of 85 km2, surrounded by 7 buffer zones extending over 215 Km2.

It is an organically evolved landscape that developed by association with, and in response to, its natural environment, and an example of continuing landscape retaining an active social role in Al-Ahsa contemporary society. The nominated property shows the sustainable evolution of the oasis and of its associated human settlements, where the physical and functional relations between the natural landscape, the water springs, the water canalization system, the villages, and the cities create a continuously evolving human-created oasis environment. The association of large watered date palm groves and urban areas creates an exceptional cultural landscape presenting, through its continuous practice, a unique evolution of an ancient cultural tradition bearing testimony to the sedentary human occupation of the area throughout the millennia and to its evolving sustainability until the present day.

Al-Ahsa Oasis is the largest oasis in the world with more than 2.5 million palm trees, and it preserves material traces representative of all the stages of the oasis history, since its origins in the Neolithic to the present. The unique role the oasis of Al-Ahsa played for hundreds of years — and continues to play in the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia — is witnessed by the many fortresses, historic mosques, springs and canals that dot the modern city and the orchards. Al-Ahsa Oasis, an Evolving Cultural Landscape, remains today the largest agricultural area in the Arabian Peninsula, and a working and living environment that has developed in direct continuity with its origins and its past.