Heritage area in Bastakiya, Bur dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News archives

Dubai: The UAE has withdrawn its nomination of the Dubai Creek to Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites, Gulf News can reveal.

The decision was intimated on June 30 to the World Heritage Committee that met in Bahrain to choose cultural sites to be added to its prestigious list.

A top official of Dubai Municipality, which played a key role in pushing Dubai Creek as the UAE’s second World Heritage Site after the old city of Al Ain Oasis, confirmed this to Gulf News on Sunday.

“We have withdrawn the file of Dubai Creek’s nomination,” said Dawood Abdul Rahman Al Hajiri, director-general of Dubai Municipality.

He was responding to Gulf News’ questions about the nomination of Dubai Creek not making it to the list during the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee that considered 30 nominations from across the world.

According to sources, the UAE is one of five countries that withdrew their nominations during the session in Manama being held since June 24.

Sources said the UAE’s letter about withdrawing its nomination was submitted to the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) by Abdullah Ali Masbeh Al Nuaimi, the UAE’s Permanent Representative to Unesco in Paris.

ICOMOS informed the session about the withdrawal of the modified file titled ‘Khor Dubai, a Traditional Merchants’ Harbour’ at the World Heritage Committee’s session, according to sources.

On Monday, the committee added 15 new sites on the World Heritage List, including Al Ahsa Oasis of Saudi Arabia and the ancient city of Qalhat in Oman.

Asked the reason for the withdrawal of Dubai Creek’s nomination, Al Hajiri said: “We have certain developments coming up over there.”

He did not elaborate.

Currently, a project is under way to transform the Shindagha Heritage District around the creek into the biggest open-air museum that will comprise 23 sub-museums.

The withdrawn nominations can be resubmitted later if the respective governments wish to do so. It is not clear if the UAE would resubmit Dubai Creek’s nomination once the ongoing development works are over or even later.

In 2015, Dubai had shrunk the size of the historic area around the creek for its modified bid to be recognised as a world heritage site.

Almost 60 per cent of the area proposed in the emirate’s first bid to enter the list was restricted to the buffer zone, limiting the heritage area to just 1.75km from the previous 4.5km stretch.

Subsequently, in 2016, Dubai modified its bid, highlighting the creek as a traders’ harbour that played a big role in the history of Dubai as a trading city.

The modified submission saw the heritage site demarcated as the creek’s stretch from the beginning of Shindagha till the end of Al Fahidi historic area.

Previously, Dubai Municipality’s Architectural Heritage Department had included the area from Shindagha up to Al Maktoum Bridge in the heritage site.

It was then reduced to the end of Al Fahidi historic area so that the slightly modern part of the creek would not come under the new proposal.

Close to 700 traditional houses in Shindagha and Al Fahidi areas, Al Fahidi Fort, Ahmadiya School, the old market of Bur Dubai, the old souq of Deira, and the heritage house in the area came under the heritage site proposed for the second bid of Dubai Creek.

As many as 12 million of the 20 million visitors expected for Dubai Expo 2020 are anticipated to visit the historic areas of Dubai.

The title of a World Heritage Site to Dubai Creek was projected to boost this expectation.