Under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, the Higher Committee of the Heart of Sharjah’s bid to be entered on the list of World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced updating the bid submitted by Sharjah to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The new title of the bid is “Sharjah, a Gateway to Trucial States” instead of “Heart of Sharjah”.
The move aims to highlight the historical role played by the emirate of Sharjah in the political, economic, cultural and social contexts within what was known the “Trucial States Council” which was established in Sharjah during the era of British rule. The council played a great role in paving the way for establishing united ties based on the brotherly relations of the rulers of the seven emirates, leading to the announcement of the formation of the UAE on the 2nd of December 1971.
UNESCO has registered the Heart of Sharjah in the tentative list of World Heritage Sites, in a testimony of the archaeological and historical richness of the UAE. The announcement was made in February 2014, in concurrence with the official celebrations of Sharjah Islamic Cultural Capital 2014. The achievement comes two years after the international organization’s approval to study the file of the Ancient Sharjah and the Emirate’s bid for registration on the tentative list of the World Heritage Sites.
Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Higher Committee of Heart of Sharjah’s bid to World Heritage Sites, said that the “Sharjah, a Gateway to the Trucial States” file gives the Heart of Sharjah more value, as the new name highlights the political, economic, cultural and social roles played by the area in the previous century, when it hosted the first meetings of the Trucial States Council, creating a shared vision among leaders of the country and leading to the formation of the United Arab Emirates. She added that the Heart of Sharjah was the haven of trading activities and cradle of cultural exchange and served as a point of convergence of civilizations and a meeting point between peoples and tribes over many decades.
Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi extended thanks to His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, for supporting the “Sharjah, a Gateway to the Trucial States” bid and for his directives to highlight the human heritage and cultural legacy of the area. She lauded the efforts made by Sharjah Department of Culture and Information and the National Council of Tourism and Antiquities, saying that any achievement made by the emirate of Sharjah is an achievement for the entire nation as it will highlight the rich heritage of the UAE and boost tourist traffic driven by increased interest in the area.
HE Abdullah Al Owais, Chairman of the Executive Committee of Heart of Sharjah’s World Heritage Site bid, commended the update of the initial file submitted to UNESCO, affirming that the new title will help expand the geographical scope of the area nominated to be inscribed as a World Heritage Site, and will highlight the role of Sharjah during one of the most vital periods in the region’s history – the mid-twentieth century. He added that the update of the file coincides with the nationwide celebrations of UAE National Day, which reaffirms the steadfast commitment of the UAE’s prudent leadership to unity, not only as a means to growth and prosperity, but also as a vital need of life, a need for reinforcing solidarity among brothers, confronting challenges, and maintaining national gains.
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 that retains 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 Heart of Sharjah will also be realised in accordance with international standards of sustainable development and environmental principles.
The “Sharjah, a Gateway to Trucial States” bid is expected to be inscribed on the list World Heritage Sites, after evaluation by the relevant UNESCO bodies, which will conduct a number of visits and assessments, in collaboration with the local supervisory bodies, during the remaining period of 2014 and the next year, before recommending whether to inscribe the landmarks on the list. Final inclusion in the list will serve as international recognition of the exceptional international value of the historical area in Sharjah, and will help to maintain the area in accordance with UNESCO standards, promoting and highlighting it at the global level.
The National Council of Tourism and Antiquities has nominated seven Emirati sites for entry on the tentative list of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The nominated places included three sites from Sharjah (Sir Bu Nair Island, the Cultural Landscape of the Central Region – Mleiha – and Heart of Sharjah).
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 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the international organisation will protect the site and help with maintenance when needed.