Arab States like the UAE possess a rich cultural and natural heritage as well as World Heritage Sites.
The ‘Modern Heritage Initiative’ has been launched by Dubai Municipality to protect buildings of cultural, social, architectural and tourist values and is done jointly by the Planning Department and the Architectural Heritage Department in the municipality, as per a Gulf News Staff Report.
For example, the Trade Centre, Clock Tower, Al Baraha Hospital, Al Khuloud Nursery and Al Ras Library are some of Dubai’s landmark buildings from the sixties and seventies that are preserved under this project.
The UAE has taken a coordinated approach for the safeguarding of its foundations and protecting cultural heritage with concrete measures and new tools to protect the legacy of its ancestors through projects for the restoration and reconstruction of its historic landmarks.
“The Modern Heritage Initiative is in line with recent global and regional trends to protect cultural heritage. Unesco has begun to incorporate many of these buildings into the World Heritage List as part of the heritage of humanity, the civic body [Architectural Heritage Department in the municipality] said.”
Thankfully, these sites can still be shown to many of the millions of visitors that are expected for Dubai Expo 2020 who will get a glimpse at Dubai’s past and heritage by visiting these testaments of the emirate’s rich history. They will be able to see restored historic structures and visit some of the world’s oldest permanent settlements, which are now among the UNESCO sites.
Classified by UNESCO as ‘cultural sites’, for example, Al Ain world heritage locations (i.e., Cultural Sites of Al Ain: Hafit, Hili, Bidaa Bint Saud and Oases Areas) are “testimonies of sedentary human occupation of a desert region since the Neolithic period, with vestiges of many prehistoric cultures.” Read more of each site, here.
As stated by the National Geographic Society, the Al Ain Oasis spreads over nearly 3,000 acres and contains more than 147,000 date palms of up to 100 different varieties, which explains why it’s known as the Garden City. It has been opened as the UAE’s first curated UNESCO World Heritage Site. This city is now home to over 600,000 people and is a popular weekend getaway for locals. Tourists appreciate the region’s traditional ways of desert life. Al Ain is also the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed, the founder of UAE.
The driving distance from Dubai to Al Ain is 147 kilometers; while from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain is 171 kilometers.
There are more UAE Sites on the Tentative List (8) of UNESCO:
- Abu Dhabi Sabkha (20/06/2018)
- Al Bidya Mosque (30/01/2012)
- Ed-Dur Site (30/01/2012)
- Khor Dubai (30/01/2012)
- Settlement and Cemetery of Umm an-Nar Island (30/01/2012)
- Sharjah: the Gate to Trucial States (13/11/2014)
- Sir Bu Nair Island (30/01/2012)
- The Cultural Landscape of the Central Region in the Emirate of Sharjah (09/03/2018)
Note: “A Tentative List is an inventory of those properties which each State Party intends to consider for nomination,” explains UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – which has a unique role to play in strengthening the foundations of sustainable development, among other things to include protecting cultural heritage.
Lately, the UAE has withdrawn its nomination of the Dubai Creek to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, as told Dawood Abdul Rahman Al Hajiri, director-general of Dubai Municipality. This may be due to Dubai having shrunk the size of the historic area around the creek. Nonetheless, it is not clear if the UAE will resubmit Dubai Creek’s nomination in the near future. Dubai Creek was home to the site of the first settlement in the area with some of the best-preserved (and most authentic) buildings. Also, “previously, Dubai Municipality’s Architectural Heritage Department had included the area from Shindagha up to Al Maktoum Bridge in the heritage site,” stated Gulf News.