Omani Towns: Tradition of the Desert and the Sea

February 28, 2019
6:00 pm-7:30 pm | London

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

The sixth in a series of ten public events interrogating how heritage and contemporary creativity enhance and affect both quality of life and sustainability in a range of Muslim contexts, co-produced by Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and held  in the iconic Aga Khan Centre.

This lecture will illustrate how social, historical and morphological research on settlements could shape sustainable development of vernacular towns and villages of the Arabian Peninsula. Oman, in the south-eastern corner of the Peninsula, is distinctive and yet typical of this significant Asian landmass. Like many other parts of the Peninsula, the settled region of Oman is indeed like an island bound by the sea on the one side and the desert ‘sea’ on the other. The Oman Mountains that extends across the landmass also impart a distinctive character to its settlements. Thus, Omani settlements, which range from the introspective oases of the interior to cosmopolitan coastal towns, are products of exchanges between the sea and the desert.

Tribal organisation and nomadic culture – characteristics of desert life – underpin Arab-Omani society and shape oasis towns and villages across the country. Maritime trade and Omani achievements overseas, likewise, extends its influence to settlements close to the desert deep inside the Peninsula. The discussion on the diverse settlement qualities will be followed by the illustration of a tourism development and heritage management project in central Oman, Misfat Al-‘Abriyin, where the social, historical and cultural understandings have been employed to develop a forward looking master plan that aims to safeguard heritage and bolster local community and tourism development.  


Soumyen Bandyopadhyay is currently the Head of School and Sir James Stirling Chair in Architecture at the Liverpool School of Architecture, University of Liverpool. He has previously held professorial positions at Manchester School of Architecture and Nottingham Trent University. At Liverpool, he heads the Heritage Research Group and directs the research centre, ArCHIAM (Architecture and Cultural Heritage of India, Arabia and the Maghreb).

ArCHIAM has recently embarked on a major research initiative funded by the Qatar National Library. The Gulf Architecture Project (GAP) aims to bring all extant material on the Persian/Arabian Gulf architecture and urbanism under one open-access digital platform. This will initially span a period from 1625 until 1970 and include extensive digitisation and metadata research on drawings, maps, photographs, slides, prints, and other visual and textual material on Qatar and the other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, as well as will aim to create a new digital encyclopaedia.

Soumyen’s teaching and research interests are focused on the historical, theoretical and contextual approaches to architectural design and the art and architecture of India and the Middle East. Soumyen has researched and published widely on aspects of Omani vernacular and contemporary Indian architecture, supported by grants from the government of Oman, the Arts and Humanities Research Council - UK, the Historical Association of Oman and the US government.

Soumyen has extensive experience of architectural and urban practice in Oman and India. He has been involved as advisor and lead contributor to a number of prestigious projects in the Middle East, including the Bahla World Heritage Site and the Muscat Urban Renewal projects in Oman.

This event is free but booking is essential: 
To attend in person, please click here.
To attend online, please click here.


Atrium Conference Room,
Aga Khan Centre, 
10 Handyside Street, 
London N1C 4DN