x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Experts gather to help protect Dubai historical sites

Experts converge for third International Architectural Conservation Conference & Exhibition at Dubai World Trade Centre.

DUBAI // Architects, archaeologists, historians, heritage conservationists and government officials converged on the third International Architectural Conservation Conference & Exhibition at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

The three-day event will address changes and developments in the world that are affecting historical sites and allow an exchange of knowledge and experiences.

“In the words of the late Sheikh Zayed, Father of the UAE, those who have no past can have no present or future,” said Rashad Bukhash, organiser of the event and director of the Architectural Heritage department at Dubai Municipality, in his opening speech.

He added that demolishing historical buildings is a mistake that every country in the Gulf has made, but each has learned from that mistake.

“Dubai currently has renovated 178 historical buildings across the emirate.

“Today we see that modern architecture in the region is the highest in energy consumption, but at the same time we are seeing that over the next couple of decades there will be a move to adopt the philosophy of the old buildings, in terms of energy conservation and thermal insulations, in modern cities.”

Mr Bukhash noted that the municipality is still working on getting Dubai Creek registered as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2014.

“One of the main requirements for the Unesco accreditation is having legislation in place to protect antiquities,” said Mr Bukhash, an FNC member. “Dubai has established a law on this but it would be better to have a federal legislation in place. The FNC and Ministry of Culture have already approved the federal legislation on antiquities, it is currently in it’s final stages with the Ministry of Justice and I think it should be passed within the next two or three months.”

Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, head of the National Authority for Tourism and Heritage in Saudi Arabia, said: “Three years ago we had modern expansion with total disregard for the value of historical sites in Saudi Arabia. Today that has completely stopped. We have learnt our lesson and I see Dubai has also learnt this point.”

He added that the ministry has been working with universities in the kingdom to promote historical conservation.

“I’m pleased to say that a number of educational institutes now offer degrees in historical architecture and heritage conservation.”

Helping the community evolve in its understanding of heritage conservation is important, said Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s minister of culture.

“You have to address the needs of the people before the buildings. Each one of us as an individual is responsible to protect our heritage, not just the government.”

She established the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research in 2002.

“This was a community project and our goal was to get everyone involved. Because it’s a community project, a number of people started donating their family homes to the centre so that it may be renovated and used as part of the centre.”

Social awareness about the conservation of historical sites improved by leaps and bounds in KSA according to Prince Sultan.

“The public now comes to us to complain that not enough attention is being addressed to a certain historical site. We have them as our partners rather than an obstacle. Invest in people before investing in buildings.”