Our selection criteria, that is, what we mean when we talk about Oases: they consist of traditional Oases, ecosystems developed by mankind in an arid environment as early as 3,000 BC. Places where ingenious water-capture systems made it possible to cultivate date palm trees. Oases whose original architectural heritage – today severely endangered and close to disappearing – consists of buildings made either of raw earth or stone. Thousand-year, or hundred-year old Oases, of varying size, founded at the latest at the beginning of the XX Century, where indigenous knowledge and practices are handed down from generation to generation. In some instances we find vast areas with thousands of inhabitants scattered over various villages, in others the population is limited to 30 people, the minimum number adopted by LabOasis Foundation as its survey criteria. The production cycle includes agriculture and pastoralism, the underlying activities for the integrated economy which is typical of the Oasis, where, in any event, palm cultivation is the mainstay.
OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF A TRADITIONAL OASIS
Anthropic ecosystem found in a desert or semi-desert environment with hyper-arid or arid climate characteristics that present similar structural features throughout the geographical area which includes the Saharan and Arabian deserts, such as:
- Presence of a human settlement and a palm grove;
- Economic and cultural centrality of the date palm tree;
- Climatic conditions allowing for the agriculture on three levels, typical of the Oases;
- Cultivation practices which make at least partial use of traditional irrigation systems;
- Presence of a traditional village or at least its vestiges, with buildings in raw earth or stone;
- Stable population consisting of at least 30 inhabitants;
- Settlements dating back 100 years or more;
The selection criteria refer to one single Oasis. In some cases, when multiple Oases located over an extensive area share the geomorphology of the land, as well as the traditional agriculture on three levels, and thus adopt similar water catchment systems, they are considered as parts of a whole. A few mountain Oases, which belong to such greater wholes, have been recorded, even in the absence of a palm grove.