Heart of Sharjah in tentative World Heritage Sites list

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Heart of Sharjah in tentative World Heritage Sites list Staff Reporter / 2 March 2014 Once listed as the Unesco World Heritage Site, the international organisation will protect the site and help with maintenance when needed. The Heart of Sharjah has been registered in the tentative list of World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah announced on Saturday. Shaikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Shurooq, has formed a task force to nominate the Heart of Sharjah to be included on the list of World Heritage Sites. The file will be evaluated by the Unesco’s bodies, which will conduct a number of visits and assessments over a period of two years before recommending whether to inscribe the landmarks on the list. According to the selection criteria, the nominated site must be a place of outstanding natural importance such as a forest, mountain, island or man made structures of cultural significance such as buildings or a city. Once listed as the Unesco World Heritage Site, the international organisation will protect the site and help with maintenance when needed. Shaikha Bodour was thrilled with the achievement, which occurred prior to the launch of the official celebrations of Sharjah Islamic Cultural Capital 2014. “The Heart of Sharjah has a multitude of historical and heritage sites which have outstanding historical value, as Sharjah served as a point of convergence of civilisations, a transit road for trade caravans on sea and land, and a meeting point between people and tribes. We will work to add this area of rich heritage to the list of World Heritage Sites to introduce the significant value of the UAE’s history to the world.” Abdullah Mohammed Al Owais, Board Member of the National Council of Tourism and Antiquities, said the listing demonstrates the historical value of the UAE and will help boost heritage tourism in the country. The Heart of Sharjah is located in the old part of Sharjah. According to historical sources, this location contributed to the development of trade. Al Edrissy — an 11th century geographer — stated that there was a port in the existing location of Sharjah. Sharjah contains two components that have often characterised the existence of settlements in the Arabian Gulf. First, it is located in protected entrance of the sea, locally called ‘Al Khor’. Second, fresh water exists at relatively shallow depth. Historical sources show that as early as 1756 AD there were three locations on the coast between Al Katif (Qutif in Saudi Arabia) and Sir (Ras Al Khaimah), which are Al Ajir, Qatar and Sharjah. These locations contained few residences from which the Basra dates and rice were brought to the Arabs of the desert by the pearl divers. Sharjah was completely devastated by the British in 1820 AD, but it revived more rapidly than other ports in the Emirates area. It was then an important air-station connecting the West with India. Heart of Sharjah contains architectural buildings and religious structures like mosques and markets that bear witness to city’s development and evolution through time. Shurooq is developing the Heart of Sharjah, in what is considered as the first and largest ever heritage development in the region. Seeking to reflect what Sharjah was like over half a century ago, the project will 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. Scheduled for completion in 2025, the first of five phases is already underway, and Shurooq has set up a joint committee comprising representatives from leading governmental and private bodies to oversee the implementation of this first phase. The National Council of Tourism and Antiquities has nominated seven Emirati sites for entry on the tentative list of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. The nominated places included three sites from Sharjah (Sir Bu Nair Island, the Cultural Landscape of the Central Region – Mleiha– and Heart of Sharjah), one site from Abu Dhabi (Settlement and Cementery of Umm an-Nar Island), Khor Dubai, Ed-Dur Site in Umm Al Quwain and Al Bidya Mosque in Fujairah. The addition of new sites to the list contributes to highlighting the rich heritage of the UAE, which dates back to hundreds of years. In 2011, Al Ain City became the first UAE site to be listed by Unesco as World Heritage. In the same year, the organisation approved to study the file of the ancient Sharjah and the emirate’s bid for registration on the tentative list of the World Heritage Sites, an achievement which is realised after two years of dedicated efforts. news@khaleejtimes.com For more news from Khaleej Times, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/khaleejtimes , and on Twitter at @khaleejtimes Continue reading →

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