Cultural tourism shows non-oil way

Sajila Saseendran/Dubai
Filed on February 16, 2016 | Last updated on February 16, 2016 at 05.02 am
Cultural tourism shows non-oil way
Dubai government has spent over Dh150 million for restoration works in historic areas.

(File photo)

GCC ministers of tourism, culture have started collaborating for aligning projects

GCC countries are focusing more on cultural tourism to diversify their economy and reduce dependence on oil.

Ministers of tourism and culture in GCC have started collaborating for aligning projects of their countries, and Saudi Arabia, with the largest oil-dependent economy among them, is adopting holistic projects for boosting national heritage, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, president of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage said on Sunday.Cultural tourism shows non-oil way (KT5341215.JPG)Prince Sultan, the third son of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, was in Dubai to deliver a keynote address at the 4th International Architectural Conservation Conference and Exhibition that will conclude today.

Speaking exclusively to Khaleej Times, Prince Sultan said tourism, culture and heritage will be the top three directions that Saudi will be focusing on when it eventually transfers into a non-oil economy.

Asked about the budget that the Kingdom is keeping aside for this, he said: "About $2billion initially ... but there are a lot of side projects that are being done by other ministries and this is a different matter."

He added that these plans would be announced soon when Saudi declares its economic transformation policy.

In December 2015, King Salman had directed the Council of Economic and Development Affairs to devise the necessary plans, policies and programmes to achieve economic reforms to diversify sources of income and reduce high dependence on oil following a sharp drop in crude prices.

Prince Sultan noted that the UAE and other GCC countries were following a similar path. "We (the GCC ministers of tourism and culture) had the first meeting in Riyadh a month ago and we are now moving forward."

He appreciated Dubai's efforts to boost cultural and architectural heritage and connect its young generation with the past.

"Dubai has a very special experience. Dubai has built a modern city and modern buildings. It is really very serious that Dubai does not have a reflection to its history and its past. Now Dubai is focusing on heritage because that was a missing thing here. This will help people, especially the young generation to look back and connect with their past," he said.

Dubai is currently spending millions of dirhams to revive its Historical District and attract the 12 million tourists out of the estimated 20 million, expected to visit the emirate when it hosts the World Expo 2020, to the old parts of the city, as well. It has also resubmitted its bid to get the historic area around the Dubai Creek listed as a World Heritage Site by the Unesco (United Nation's Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation).

The Dubai government had spent about Dh150 million for the restoration works of the old buildings in historic areas.

Over 120,000 historical documents, around 3,900 old photos, 14,700 scanned images and several oldest available videos on Dubai were referred to before the reconstruction.

The new initiative is expected to transform the area into the leading culture and heritage centre of the region with Shindagha, Bur Dubai, Al Fahidi and Deira districts getting a new look to revive the old charm of the historical sites.

"Now we are planning for what after oil. Tourism is a main part of it," said Rashad Mohammed Bukhash, director of the Architectural Heritage Department at the Dubai Municipality and the chairman of the conference organising committee.

"Part of tourism involves the historical part of the city, and that is where we are focusing now. We are having projects that will attract people to come here and see the culture and heritage of Dubai. Countries like France, Spain and Italy are mainly based on tourism and our leaders also want us to have a diverse economy that focuses on tourism and other sectors," he said.

Don't overdo tourism sites: Unesco director 

Dr. Anna Paolini, director of the Unesco office in Doha has a word of caution to the GCC countries attempting to cash in on cultural tourism.A prominent speaker at the 4th International Architectural Conservation Conference and Exhibition on Sunday, Dr. Paolini said the governments here need to be careful about the way they will take advantage of cultural tourism for benefitting the economy. "It is good to diversify. But there should be respect for their old heritage and these places. They should be careful in how they envisage the touristic use of these places, especially in this part of the world there is a lot of tourism growing up and diversifying (of economy)," she told Khaleej Times."Tourism always has two sides. They should be careful not to overdo on the site, not to make them a Disney Land. That is not the purpose.... It is also important to include the intangible aspect of the history (in the projects).

We cannot divide the physical building from what it means. It is the physical expression of what it means for the society ... more than the beauty and aesthetics part."Dr. Anna said governments in the region should make sure that people will be able to enjoy cultural tourism and at the same time they should also maintain the values."If the values, the integrity and the authenticity of the site are not there any more, you lose the site itself."

Include culture in curricula

Countries in the region should streamline the teaching of cultural heritage of the region as part of the school curricula, said Dr Paolini. Dr. Ahmed Al-Toufiq, minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs in Morocco, highlighted the issue.

Both pointed out that the teaching of culture and heritage in the region has been very limited and split in various subjects like history, geography and religious studies."Looking at curricula at the Arab region, we have seen that they are learning cultural heritage outside the region," said Dr. Paolini."They don't know what is in their backyard ... what does it mean, how it is related with their history, their families, and legacy.But they know something about Europe and the US.""This is quite striking because you cannot build new generation with a sense of belonging if they don learn from the past.sajila@khaleejtimes.

ERROR: Macro /ads/dfp-ad-article-new is missing!
MORE FROM Khaleej Times
CurrentRequestUnmodified: /nation/dubai/how-dubai-police-is-well-prepared-to-meet-emergencies macro_action: article, macro_profile: ,1004,1001 macro_adspot:
KT App Download
khaleejtimes app

All new KT app
is available
for download:

khaleejtimes - android khaleejtimes - ios khaleejtimes - HUAWEI AppGallery