UAE's irrigation system, camel races on Unesco list

Abu Dhabi - DCT Abu Dhabi makes submissions to promote the UAE's rich cultural heritage internationally.


A Staff Reporter

Published: Wed 16 Dec 2020, 8:32 PM

The Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has announced the inclusion of two key elements of UAE national heritage on the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization’s (Unesco) Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The traditional Aflaj system of water channels used for farm irrigation in Al Ain has been submitted as a UAE element of intangible cultural heritage, while the camel races have been submitted jointly with the Sultanate of Oman.

These submissions are a culmination of the joint efforts made by the Ministry of Culture and Youth and DCT Abu Dhabi to showcase the UAE’s rich cultural heritage internationally and to preserve traditions for future generations.

The inclusion of these two examples of cultural heritage on the Representative List will be awarded to the UAE at the 15th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Unesco, held virtually at its headquarters in Paris from December 14-19.

To date, the UAE has successfully registered 11 cultural activities and traditions on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity through joint national, regional, and international submissions, strengthening the country’s position as an active member in the Committee.

Made to highlight intangible heritage, the list helps to demonstrate the diversity of cultural heritage and raise awareness about its importance, while helping ensure recognition of these national traditions and emphasising societies’ expertise.

The first of the latest inclusions on the list, Aflaj, highlights the significance, knowledge and skills relating to the construction and maintenance of the UAE’s traditional irrigation network system, which aimed to ensure a fair distribution of water. The second inclusion, camel races, focuses on the art of racing and is deemed a festive social practice embodying Arab heritage.

Commenting on the importance of preserving heritage, Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, said: “The inclusion of Aflaj and Camel Races on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is a great achievement that reinforces our country’s position as an incubator of rich heritage and national pride. The DCT Abu Dhabi is honoured to support the great efforts behind these campaigns, as part of our extensive work to preserve the cultural traditions and practices of the emirate and the UAE as a whole.”

Saood Abdulaziz Al Hosani, Acting Undersecretary of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, commented: “Abu Dhabi's incomparable appeal as a destination is backed by a wide array of traditional cultural practices that enrich our lives. Our precious intangible heritage is an essential element of our appeal for both our visitors and residents alike. Including Aflaj and Camel Races in the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List is a shared achievement that we cherish on a national and human level.”

Aligning with the directives of the country’s wise leadership in preserving the national heritage and safeguarding culture for future generations, the UAE is working to include Arabic calligraphy, camel footwear, and Harees (beaten wheat and meat) in the next edition of the Unesco Representative List.

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