UAE on the world heritage map

Sajila Saseendran, 5 November 2011, 7:21 AM

DUBAI – As the UAE gears up to celebrate its 40th National Day, the country wishes to make it known to the world that its cultural heritage is not limited to just four decades, but dates back to several centuries.

Archaeological officials in the UAE are currently striving to make sure that the desert country gets more space on the world heritage map.

In an ambitious venture, they are pitting six more historically important sites in the country to be inscribed on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

In June 2011, the cultural sites in the City of Al Ain became the first and only entry from the UAE to the list of World Heritage Sites. A preliminary list of six more sites including the historic parts of Dubai will be submitted to the UN body by December, a senior official told Khaleej Times recently.

The National Council for Tourism and Archaeology is currently working with officials from different emirates and the experts from the UNESCO to prepare a preliminary list of six more UAE sites for their inclusion in the prestigious list of the World Heritage Sites, said council member Rashad Mohammed Bukhash.

Also the Director of Architectural Heritage Department of Dubai Municipality, Bukhash said heritage areas along the Creek, surrounding Bastakiya and Shindagha, in Dubai will be among the six sites. The traditional forts, houses, souqs and mosques in these sites are expected to earn international repute once UNESCO recognises the cultural importance of the areas.

Archaeological sites in Sharjah’s Maleeha area and Umm Al Quwain’s Al Dour, where evidence of Hellenistic era has been traced, and a place with old barracks of the British army in Ras Al Khaimah are among the other sites that are likely to be short-listed from over 20 sites that may be included at later stages. A newly elected member of the UAE Federal National Council, Bukhash said officials had already held meetings with experts from the UNESCO on the registration of the sites and the preparation of a tentative list.

Placing historical Dubai on the world cultural map is one of the main goals of Bukhash’s department. After the historic parts of Dubai along the Creek win entry into the UNESCO list, the department plans to nominate an archaeological site in Jumeirah that dates back to the 2nd Islamic century (or 900 AD) and the Hatta village, which represents a typical traditional Arabian village with mud construction.

Apart from all these sites, the UAE is also striving to get international recognition for many elements of its intangible cultural heritage as well. In November 2010, falconry was included in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Bukhash said some of the traditional dance forms in the UAE are among those being mulled for this recognition in future.
UAE Heritage Week

Obeid Salem Al Shamsi, Assistant Director-General for Administration and General Services, Dubai Municipality, said the country will dedicate a whole week to honour cultural heritage buildings across all seven emirates in December next year.

The UAE Building Heritage Week will run parallel to the 3rd International Architectural Conservation Conference and Exhibition that will be hosted in Dubai from December 17 to 19, 2012. Al Shamsi said the brand new initiative will feature a lot of activities and competitions to promote awareness about the cultural heritage of the country.

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