13.04.2017 - UNESCO Office in Doha

Director-General visits Al Ain Oasis, one of the UAE’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Al Ain

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On April 2017, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, toured Al Ain Oasis, one of the UAE’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Al Ain. Led by HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), the tour also included visits to the key historic and cultural sites of Al Ain such as Qasr Al Muwaiji and Al Jahili Fort. The tour coincided with the Culture Summit 2017 Abu Dhabi, which saw leaders from the worlds of government, arts and media, technology and policy gather at Manarat Al Saadiyat from 9 to 13 April to address the role culture can play in relation to some of the challenges of our time.

During the tour of Al Ain’s sites, HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of TCA Abu Dhabi commented: “As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Al Ain is a prime example of our continued dedication to the preservation of these priceless sites that represent the rich and diverse history of the UAE.”

“Since the international conference held in December and the adoption of the Abu Dhabi Declaration, we have focused efforts on ensuring that the wheels set in motion continue to move towards a tangible framework for the protection of culture for future generations.”, HE added.

In 2011, Al Ain was the first site in the UAE to be inscribed on UNESCO’s world heritage site list, comprising of four locations: the Bronze Age Hafeet Tombs, the archaeological settlements at Hili, the prehistoric vestiges at Bidaa bint Saud, and the six lush oases of Al Ain, including Al Ain Oasis. Set in a landscape characterised by the oasis, the desert and the mountain, the sites bear witness to unique cultural traditions, which developed on the crossroads of ancient routes in the Arabian Peninsula. The outstanding value derives from their ability to narrate how the local population was able to adapt to the harsh desert environment and live there continuously from the Neolithic Period to the present day.

Commenting on the tour of Al Ain's sites, Director General Irina Bokova, said: "The world heritage site of Al Ain testifies to the wealth of cultural traditions in the United Arab Emirates. UNESCO is committed to work with the TCA to make the most of this potential for social cohesion, identity and dignity as well as economic growth. I wish to pay tribute to the dedication of cultural authorities in fostering a strong vision of culture as a force for sustainable development and peace. We must continue working together to showcase the depth of this heritage and the values it carries for the young generation: this is also how we can respond to those who seek to exploit ignorance, distort history and manipulate culture. This is also how we can defeat hatred and extremism."

The tour of Al Ain coincided with the conclusion of the Culture Summit 2017 Abu Dhabi, a five-day event that brought together leaders from the worlds of government, arts and media, technology and policy to address the role culture can play in relation to some of the challenges of our time.

Irina Bokova’s visit to Abu Dhabi follows the December 2016 Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage conference, an initiative of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, French President François Hollande, and held in Abu Dhabi under the patronage of UNESCO, which was aimed at protecting and preserving the endangered cultural heritage of mankind from the destructive results of armed conflicts.

The global conference brought together over 40 countries within the international community affected by heritage loss due to conflict, alongside key players involved in the field of world heritage preservation. It concluded with the announcement of the creation of an international fund for the protection of endangered cultural heritage in armed conflicts. The announcement was made through the adoption of the Abu Dhabi Declaration, a solemn statement confirming the commitment of all those present to back the fund and their resolve to support the establishment of the foundation.




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