In the shadow of the palm trees: time management and water allocation in the oasis of Ādam (Sultanate of Oman)


  • Julien Charbonnier


Despite the rapid modernization of the country, oases are still a living heritage in Oman. Many Omanis possess a garden in their hometown even though they live in Musqat. Qanāts, locally called aflāj (sing, falaj), supply many of the oases, such as Ādam. The flow of a falaj has to be shared day and night: each user possesses water shares — corresponding to time periods — distributed according to a water cycle (dawrān). The traditional methods of water management are still used in Ādam, located on the southern piedmont of the al-Ḥajar mountains. They have been investigated as part of this study, which focuses on falaj al-Māleḥ. On the field, the sundial used to time the water shares has been studied, as well as the organization of the dawrān and the techniques for diverting the water into the fields. The functioning of the sundial proved to be more complex than was previously observed in other oases. This study also reveals that the water shares are managed in a very flexible way, as they can be exchanged or rented. The spatial distribution of water has been studied and mapped with a GPS device. It shows that the inhabitants of the oasis do not take into account a spatial order to allocate water. When it is his turn, each shareholder can use its share on the field he wants. This method allows the system to be more flexible and favours the cultivation of annual crops. From a technical point of view, however, it presents some inconvenience: water must sometimes travel over a considerable distance to pass from one field to another and this can penalize some shareholders. To cope with this problem, the volume of water that corresponds to each water share must be taken into account.





How to Cite

Charbonnier, J. (2014). In the shadow of the palm trees: time management and water allocation in the oasis of Ādam (Sultanate of Oman). Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 44, 83–99. Retrieved from

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