Conservation ethics

The state of cultural heritage in the UAE.

According to Dr. Samia Rab, association professor of architecture and heritage management at American University of Sharjah, rapidly modernising cities grow at the expense of the past. The pace with which they're built makes conservation an afterthought as opposed to an integral component in the development process.

The World Bank Urban Development Report of 2000 states that cities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) face four challenges: 1) Improved capacity to deliver and finance services at the local level; 2) Development of efficient land and housing markets; 3) Revitalisation of cultural heritage sites; 4) Responsiveness to emergency needs.

MENA is recognized as the cradle of human civilization and the region's cultural heritage encompasses approximately 60% of the world's ancestry.

That said, less than 50 of the 851 sites on the World Heritage List designated by UNESCO are located in this region. Four countries, including the UAE, have, thus far, listed no sites. The ironic reality: MENA has neither safeguarded its cultural heritage nor adequately prepared for modernisation.

Read the full text from Dr. Rab in the January 2008 issue of Middle East Architect.

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