The Oases Database originates from a specific need: we want to make a tangible contribution to the safeguard of those extraordinary places called Oases, in the Saharan and Arabian deserts. Our aim is to carry out new projects and for this reason we think that knowing what has already been done is very important: how, when and by who. Thus, the Oases Database is the result of complex research and cataloguing work, an hypertext database now available on our website. Within this archive different kinds of info can be found, sometimes dating back early as 30 years ago: on the ground actions carried out by international development cooperation, and the scientific output that the academic community has dedicated to Saharan and Arabian Oases, following observations and fact-finding practices. The Oases Database can be searched either by category, or by keywords and is directly linked to the Map drawn-up within the Project Atlas of Saharan and Arabian Oases, also attainable on our website, offering for each Oasis – by means of a chart – all the related files.
It has to be said that, in the first phase of our web search, a prominent contribution came from the studies that have codified the knowledge of the Oases’ civilization: “on field” research carried out by Pietro Laureano, architect, urban planner, UNESCO’s main consultant for arid areas. Then, we began by looking both the big million-dollar projects (such as those funded by the World Bank via the GEF) and the effectiveness of actions promoted by skilful European associations such as Terrachidia and, in the area of philanthropic funding, Bambini nel deserto and Enfants du désert. During our survey we also virtually met, under the shade of the Oases’ palm trees, a crowd of university professors from Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy, the US and Spain, together with their students, each establishing different workshops. Agronomists, anthropologists, archaeologists, architects, engineers: in the Oases Database a full record of their work is stored, be it a degree thesis, or a paper published on an academic journal, everything we could find so far in the capacious university libraries online. In the same way we have documented the expertise of their colleagues in the Universities of Maghreb and Oman and the preparatory studies for on the ground interventions carried out by the Agronomic Institutes of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. We also note that, more than half a century ago, Desert Research Centre had already been established in Cairo – still a driving force for specific research activities – and that Morocco recently created a new special body, Andzoa, after having long launched national programmes of great interest for the safeguard of Moroccan Oases. We also have observed that Oman (also though advisors such as Archiam) has launched an effective campaign for the revitalization of their architectural heritage, as well as their ancient Oases’ irrigation systems, the Aflaj, already classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the Oases Database we include international Foundations – The Ghetty Conservation Institute, Agha Khan Trust For Culture, Intbau – which can boast their support of important restoration projects for historic buildings in Moroccan Oases, and we include experiences – such as the Khalifa Date Palm Award one – aimed at stimulating the recovery of the agricultural production in many Oases. We also list, thanks to the extraordinary networking effort of Raddo together with Cari, the countless Associations working within local communities, those agents who carry out actions coordinated by NGO such as Tenmiya, in Mauritania and Cospe in Egypt, where SlowFood also has established one its Presidiums, in Siwa Oasis. We verified that the Ministère de l’Environnement et du Développement Durable in Tunis has finalised a monography on the Country’s Oases a useful standard for comparative studies; we can emphasise the importance of the GIAHS programme, initiated by FAO in 2002, which has contributed greatly to enhance the systems and traditional practices which gave birth to the historic landscape of North-African Oases. Last, but not least, with the Oases Database we also aim to create the opportunity for an historical/chronological analysis of those financial flows which, in the last 30 years, have funded a wide range of development cooperation activities in Saharan and Arabian Oases. LabOasis Foundation wishes to offer it, therefore, as a working tool for scholars and international experts with the purpose that, through their collaboration, it may continue to acquire new content and record new projects, all aimed at protecting the places where the thousand-year old alliance between man and nature is rooted: the Oases.