SHARJAH // The first phase of a 15-year project hoping to restore the emirate's heritage area is well on its way to meeting its 2015 completion date, according to the Sharjah Department of Culture.
Abdulaziz Al Musallam, the department's director of heritage and cultural affairs, said work was already underway at several sites as part of the five-phase Heart of Sharjah project.
Restoration work has begun at Al Hisn Fort, while walls are being repaired at Al Midfa Houses. A study is also being carried out on the feasibility of adding a second floor. Repairs on Al Midfa Tower are about to start while foundation work has been completed at Al Tawaweesh House, where further design studies are underway.
"The Heart of Sharjah represents one of the most significant and ambitious restoration and development projects that have ever been attempted in the UAE or the GCC at large and we are extremely pleased with the progress that is being made on this landmark project," said Mr Al Musallam.
"Restoration and conservation does not happen overnight, as we in our mandate to preserve the physical and cultural heritage of Sharjah know very well, but takes continued hard work and dedication," he said.
"In just this same way the Heart of Sharjah is a long-term project that has become a labour of love for all the parties involved, and seeing it steadily take shape fills us all with immense pride."
In restoring the traditional heritage areas of Sharjah and linking them together, the project hopes to give people an idea of what Sharjah was like over half a century ago, said Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, the CEO of Shurooq, the company undertaking the project.
He said the project would restore and revamp the city's traditional areas to create a tourist and trade destination with contemporary artistic touches, yet retain the feel of the 1950s.
The project, scheduled for completion in 2025, features commercial, cultural and residential elements. Planned attractions include a boutique hotel, restaurants, retail shops, art galleries, traditional and contemporary markets, archaeological sites, museums, play areas and offices.
Many of these will be housed in renovated period houses, in an attempt to weave Sharjah's modern life with its historical character.