Bid to include Al Ain in World Heritage Sites list Filed on June 1, 2008

ABU DHABI - The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) has sent an application to the Unesco's regional office in Doha to include Al Ain in the official list of World Heritage Sites.

According to Shaikh Sultan bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Chairman of ADACH, the move, which is a preliminary step for Al Ain to make it to the official list, capitalises on the particular cultural wealth of the city and shows that it has been able to keep its originality, despite urban development.

Al Ain's traditional look, its low-rise buildings, natural oasis and 66 forts, castles and palaces are well maintained due to the initiatives of late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who had issued a series of laws and regulations that guaranteed that his native city would retain its authenticity and cultural features.

Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Director-General of ADACH, pointed out that since its establishment in 2005; the authority has been concerned with the inventory, preservation and management of cultural sites in Al Ain.

"The ADACH is currently conducting the work of preserving the many forts and historical sites in Al Ain. Whenever possible, the original scope of these buildings will be revived, otherwise new usage will be encouraged so as to integrate these historic buildings into the structure of the city and thus ensure their long-term preservation," added Al Mazrouei.

Despite the influx of different nationalities now living in Al Ain, the capital city of the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi emirate has managed to retain its Bedouin spirit, its residents still following the century-old local customs and traditions, including the renowned desert hospitality, traditional weddings, hunting and farming.

Apart from cultural heritage and general appearance, Unesco will also consider Al Ain's several particularities, such as the falaj archeological and geological sites on Jebel Hafeet and Hili area, the red desert dunes and its eco-system, the practice of old customs such as falconry and camel trading.

Dr Benno Boer, ecological science advisor at Unesco - Arab Region, told Khaleej Times that a team of experts from the UN body would be travelling to Al Ain for an in-depth study of the city's cultural, historical and ecological values. "It will take around one year for the entire research to be completed," added Boer.

Once a site has been nominated and evaluated, it is up to the intergovernmental World Heritage Committee to make the final decision. The committee only meets once a year to decide which all sites will be added to the World Heritage List.

Silvia Radan

I'm a senior journalist with 22 years experience in all forms of mass media. Originally from Romania, I lived and work in Bosnia, Uzbekistan, England and, for the past 10 years, in UAE. I specialize in art, culture, traditions, heritage, but also environment and the hospitality industry. I'm passionate about jazz and world music, cinema, mythology and offroading - I'm a marshal with one of UAE's offroading clubs!

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