UAE a bedrock of heritage and culture - GulfToday

UAE a bedrock of heritage and culture

Al Ain Palace Museum

The Al Ain Palace Museum is one of the many projects that was taken up for restoration by the authorities. WAM

Heritage means different things to different people. When you think of heritage you think of monuments, such as the Pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal or even the Colosseum of Rome. However, heritage just need not revolve around iconic buildings or architecture. The French have a different perspective. They hope the baguette – a mix of wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and a pinch of savoir-faire and as much a symbol of France as the Eiffel Tower – may soon join Unesco’s listing of cultural treasures.

Singapore’s tradition of communal dining at hawker centres, open air food courts popularised by celebrity chefs and hit films such as ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, has been recognised by Unesco for its cultural significance.

Belgium is seeking global cultural heritage for its potato fries.

However, heritage is more than just about food and dining. It is intrinsically tied to a people’s identity – and contribution to global culture. A people’s relationship to their heritage is the same as the relationship of a child to its mother, said American historian John Henrik Clarke.

In an address last year, Noura Bint Mohamed Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, said that cultural heritage is a human legacy that ought to be preserved.

“It should neither be misused nor altered through change in a way that touches the human essence. Especially for sites that are inscribed under World Heritage by Unesco. They have exceptional international value, and are the common heritage of all peoples and cultures,” she stressed.

“World heritage sites have become the platforms for knowledge exchange between diverse cultures and civilisations that evolved in history across time.”

Al Kaabi added that preserving human heritage strengthened the values of tolerance and coexistence between different nations.

The UAE’s leadership believes in the values of moderation and coexistence among religions and cultures. In this regard, it should be noted that the UAE does not discriminate against any creed, race or culture in its efforts to restore heritage and historical landmarks

 In 2002, Sheikh Zayed financed the restoration of the Church of the Nativity, in coordination with Unesco.

Ten world historical landmarks are witness to the UAE’s efforts to conserve and protect global heritage sites at risk of loss as a result of human conflict, natural disasters and climate change, urbanisation and negligence.

Among the landmarks restored by Emirati support are the Dome of the Rock; Umar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque; Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem; Our Lady of the Hour Church and Al Tahira Church in Mosul; Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Theatre in France, previously known as the Imperial Court Theatre at Fontainebleau or the Château de Fontainebleau; Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo; and Nuzul Al Salam in Muharraq in Bahrain.

The UAE has a rich cultural history and heritage and is known for the diversity in customs and traditions.

Emirati performing arts, cuisine, artistic workshops fascinate tourists as much as they do residents. Sharjah too has a rich heritage.  

The Khor Kalba Fort site in the city of Kalba, the Al Rabi Tower in Khorfakkan, the Resistance  Monument, the Sharjah Fort (Al Hisn) are cases in point.

The Sharjah Heritage Days festival seeks just to highlight the rich cultural treasures of the country. This year it is being held under exceptional circumstances. The fest’s theme ‘Cultural heritage gathers us’ seeks to stress that heritage is a bridge between people and plays an especially vital role in shaping the minds and experiences of younger generations as they forge their way into the future.

With each passing edition, we are reassured that Sharjah Heritage Days has realised its mission as we see families, visitors and residents flock to the event to learn about both local and global cultures.

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