Heritage area in Bastakiya, Bur dubai. As the globe celebrates World Heritage Day Monday, UAE specialists have highlighted the significance of Emirati heritage. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News archives

Dubai: As the globe celebrates World Heritage Day on Monday, UAE specialists have highlighted the significance of Emirati heritage.

Some UAE heritage sites are aspiring to make it on the Unesco World Heritage Site list, which grants special recognition to places of great cultural or physical importance.

Unesco formally refers to World Heritage Day as the International Day for Monuments and Sites.

In October, Unesco officials will visit Dubai to assess the city’s bid to list the Creek as a World Heritage Site. A decision is expected in June 2017.

Rashad Bukhash, CEO, Architectural Heritage and Antiquities Department, Dubai Municipality, is confident Dubai will clinch the coveted title.

Preserving a country’s heritage is a right owed to future generations, he said. The UAE’s history, he added, was not formed in isolation and is part and parcel of the “jigsaw puzzle” that ultimately connects it with the wider Gulf, Arab and Muslim world.

Dubai’s heritage is also increasingly attracting a growing number of tourists. “Dubai is already well-known as a commercial centre but it is also a cultural centre. There are many projects under development to promote the historical and heritage aspects as well,” Bukhash said.

One such project is taking shape as a giant open-air museum in the historic Al Shindaga district, once home to Dubai’s ruling family. A cluster of several traditional houses are being carefully converted into bastions of tradition, with each house showcasing an aspect of heritage, such as perfumery, attire, jewellery, and so on, Bukhash said.

In neighbouring Sharjah, thousands of residents and tourists are enjoying Sharjah Heritage Days, an annual celebration of Emirati traditions.

The festival, being held from April 7 to 23, is taking place in the Heritage Area, part of the Heart of Sharjah project that is on the list of candidates to be a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The event is organised by Sharjah Institute for Heritage (SIH), an organisation formally established in 2014, with a mandate to raise awareness of “both the tangible and intangible heritage and culture of Sharjah and to instil pride in all Emiratis for their cultural identity and belonging”, said SIH chairman Abdul Aziz Al Musallam.

Speaking on the importance of heritage, Al Musallam said: “Humans are instinctively tribal and our cultures and social development are very much intertwined with this need for a sense of belonging. Therefore, our sense of identity is very much tied to these socio-cultural memes. “Without an understanding of where and who we were, who we are now, and where we wish to move on to in the future, we would effectively be conducting a rudderless exercise. Without a dedicated approach to documenting and protecting elements of our heritage then we would leave little for future generations to learn from.”

He added: “I think it is also important that cultural awareness is not limited to one’s own culture; it is far more significant if cultural heritage is part of a global effort that shares and celebrates different cultures. In doing so we gain a better understanding of others, thereby breaking down parochial barriers of intolerance that, sadly, we encounter far too often in the world.”