x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UN agency considers Al Ain for heritage list

The Unesco world heritage committee meeting in Paris will decide on additional world heritage sites by the end of the month.

DUBAI // Al Ain is being considered for inclusion on the list of world-famous heritage sites, such as the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and the Great Wall of China, at Unesco's world heritage committee meetings in Paris.

Al Ain is one of the 42 sites submitted by 40 countries to be considered by the world heritage committee, which yesterday began its 35th session. It will run until June 29.

Only the most worthy will be added to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) world heritage list.

The UAE and five other countries, including Barbados, Jamaica, Micronesia, Palau and Congo, stand to have properties inscribed on the list for the first time.

The Unesco application lodged by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage in 2008 argues for the "significant archaeological sites, historic buildings, cultural and natural landscapes, ethnographic and historic collections, as well as authentic Emirati cultural values and traditions practised in Al Ain for centuries".

Al Ain is known as "the garden city" for its six oases, and the application celebrates its "vast wealth of archaeological remains … dating back to the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Hellenistic, pre-Islamic and Islamic eras".

The Al Ain file comes under "cultural property" and includes the archaeological sites of Bida Bint Saud, Hafeet and Hili, as well as the oases.

It is joined by 28 other cultural properties from across the world including other Gulf nations such as Bahrain, with its "Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy" submission, and until last week Saudi Arabia's historical city of Jeddah.

Unesco rejected Saudi Arabia's application to consider the old Jeddah downtown area, citing technical reasons such as negligence and misuse of the site.

Inclusion on any of Unesco's lists is a long and difficult process. It took four years of intensive campaigning by the UAE and 11 other countries to have falconry recognised last year as an example of intangible cultural heritage.

There are 21 countries represented on the world heritage committee this year, including the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.

The meeting is chaired by Sheikha Mai bint Muhammad Al Khalifa, the Bahraini minister of culture.

The session was originally to be held in Manama but was moved to Paris due to recent unrest in the Bahraini capital.

rghazal@thenational.ae