x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Men honoured for contributions to UAE natural history and heritage

At a ceremony hosted by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Dr Sabah Jasim and Dr David Edwards were given awards for their service to the country.

David Edwards, who received the Bish Brown Award for promoting Fujairah’s natural history and heritage, at the palace in Wadi Al Hayl. Pawan Singh / The National
David Edwards, who received the Bish Brown Award for promoting Fujairah’s natural history and heritage, at the palace in Wadi Al Hayl. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, honoured two academics on Wednesday for their contribution to natural history and heritage as part of the Emirates Natural History Group.

“Your efforts,” Sheikh Nahyan told award winners Dr Sabah Jasim and Dr David Edwards, “are of value not just for us, but for our young people in the years ahead. We are grateful for your dedicated efforts and for your achievements”.

Dr Jasim, director of the Sharjah Directorate of Archaeology, received the Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohammed Annual Award for Natural History and Heritage, which recognises significant contributors to the knowledge and conservation of the UAE’s heritage.

“There have been quite significant finds in the field of archaeology in recent years and I am honoured and thrilled to receive this recognition by the sheikh,” Dr Jasim said.

During his 20 years working with the Department of Culture and Information, Dr Jasim, an Iraqi British citizen, has excavated numerous sites as head of the Sharjah local team. He has made several impressive findings in the UAE, including a discovery that was published in Scientific American showing that human beings inhabited the UAE about 125,000 years ago. The dig took place in 2010.

“Nobody would have expected to find traces of the first migrants who came from Africa and settled in the emirate of Sharjah. This had never been known before,” he said. “It was surprising to us.”

According to Dr Jasim, more has been found and discovered than he ever imagined..

“Understanding the past is exploring the roots of the people who originated here, and the more we discover about our ancestors the more we can appreciate and cherish our history,” he said.

Dr Edwards, from Canada, was given the Bish Brown Award for his efforts to popularise and promote wider recognition of the natural history and heritage of Fujairah.

“When I think of the living legacy of Bish Brown, and when I read the names of past recipients on the award’s base, they silently say to me, ‘I dare you. I dare you to contribute as much as we have’,” Dr Edwards said.

He was honoured for his role in spearheading the establishment of the Fujairah chapter of the Emirates Natural History Group.

The chapter provides residents of the east coast of the UAE with a way of learning about the natural history and heritage of the country, through lectures and field visits.

Dr Edwards has been instrumental in securing the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad, Crown Prince of Fujairah, for the chapter, and in persuading Sheikh Abdullah bin Suhail Al Sharqi to act as the chapter’s honorary chairman.

Dr Edwards’ interest in the UAE begain in 2001, when he read The Oasis by Gertrude Dyck, a midwife who helped to deliver countless babies in the country.

Her book “opened my eyes to the conditions that long-serving expatriate pioneers discovered when they first came to the Trucial States in the 1950s and 1960s, and made me eager to learn more about the country’s storied past”, he said.

Dr Edwards’ “day job” is teaching English to students bound for the Higher Colleges of Technology in Fujairah, and he said the warmness and hospitality of the Emirati people make him love living and working here.

During the awards ceremony, held at Sheikh Nahyan’s majlis in Al Bateen, the sheikh updated the guests with news of legislation meant to unify heritage laws in the UAE.

According to Dr Jasim, the existing law of antiquities was either emirate-specific or non-existent. The new law will unify and regulate the work and terms of archeological digs across the country.

nalwasmi@thenational.ae