Rashad Muhammad Bukhash, Chairman of the Architectural Heritage Society - UAE, has 32 years of experience in the fields of planning, directing, managing, supervising of modern architectural projects, conservation of historic buildings, museum designing and landscaping projects.
With his background in both architecture and conservation of historic buildings, he has supervised the conservation of more than 215 historic buildings in Dubai and the UAE.
Bukhash also supervised the design and execution of more than 200 modern buildings including universities, colleges, public buildings, parks and community facilities.
He is the Chairman of the Architectural Heritage Society, and a UAE Member of Board of Directors, Society of Engineers, UAE. Bukhash is also a former member of the Federal National Council (FNC) UAE and former director of the Architectural Heritage and Archaeology Department, Dubai Municipality.
Bukhash supervised the design and execution of 14 museums in Dubai, among them: Dubai Museum, Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum house, the Heritage House, Al-Ahmadiya School, the Falcon Museum and Sarooq Al-Hadid Archaeology museum.
He has written and supervised more than 36 books on architecture, history and traditional architecture of Dubai and the UAE.
Bukhash has won many prizes such as the best employee of Dubai Government 1998, Rashid prize for scientific Excellency 2002, the champion of sustainability in Gulf States 2008, the UAE Excellency award 2008 in architecture, and the best architect of the year in the Arab region from Arab cities organisation in 2010.
Engineer Rashad Muhammad Bukhash is considered one of the few engineers interested in traditional and historical architecture in the UAE, where he contributed to the preservation of more than 124 historical buildings, as well as supervising 13 heritage and modern museums in Dubai, as well as supervising 300 modern engineering projects. He has also written 16 researches and participated in authoring 31 books on architecture.
He has contributed to the arbitration of 11 architectural projects, established the architectural committee in the Society of Engineers, and contributed to the founding of the Emirates Society for Architectural Preservation. He won the State Appreciation Award in the field of “Engineering” sciences in 2008.
In his heritage office in the Al Bastakiya area, which overlooks the Dubai Creek, we were received by Eng Rashad Muhammad Bukhash, tirelessly explaining to us the tasks assigned to him in preserving the historical heritage buildings that he considers part of the Arab cultural identity.
He is not only a traditional employee, but a scientist who is distinguished for his research and studies in his field of specialisation, and despite his many preoccupations, he studies architectural heritage at the American University of Dubai.
And in his office are distributed many publications related to his specialisation in the restoration and preservation of historic buildings.
Here is the full interview:
What is the role of the Architectural Heritage Society in preserving old Dubai?
The Architectural Heritage Society in the United Arab Emirates was established in 2003 and its main objective is to protect the architectural heritage of the Emirates, and to raise awareness of the importance of heritage preservation through seminars, lectures, workshops, specialised courses, and cultural trips held by the society, in addition to authoring and publishing specialised books.
Do you think that preserving architectural heritage at a time when Dubai has made a recent urban revolution may threaten the old Dubai?
There is a clear policy with Dubai Municipality to preserve the remaining urban heritage in the emirate, and more than 800 historical buildings have been preserved in the areas of Shindagha, Bur Dubai, Al Fahidi and Al Ras, and the next step is currently in preserving the buildings of the 60s and 70s of the last century, which represents a period of the city’s memory, and so the image continues to be integrated into all stages of architecture in the city.
For many years, you worked in the Architectural Heritage Department in Dubai Municipality as a director. What remains of that?
Thank God I have nice thoughts and memories from that period I worked in Dubai Municipality, and I worked with a wonderful team in the architectural heritage department in the municipality and preserved more than 200 historic buildings such as forts, watchtowers, homes, souqs and mosques, and rehabilitate many historical buildings into specialised heritage museums: such as the Museum of Photos and Historical Documents, The Falcon Museum, the Horse and Camel Museum, the Museum of Traditional Architecture and others, and during my work more than 30 books and manuals on architectural heritage were issued in Dubai.
What are the most important achievements of the Architectural Heritage Department?
The most important achievements are the preservation of about 250 historic buildings in the Emirate of Dubai, the establishment of 13 heritage museums, the publishing of 37 books and manuals, and the holding of dozens of seminars and conferences to raise awareness of the heritage in the country.
How do you contribute to the spiritual side of heritage preservation?
The spiritual and moral aspect is to preserve the oral memory of the city, through conducting dozens of interviews with the elderly to preserve the oral heritage of the city through stories, novels, history of buildings and the city, and the most important social and economic activities that have occurred in the region over two centuries.
Are you building yourself without needing foreign aid?
For restoration projects in Dubai, studies and designs are carried out by a specialised team of citizens and non-citizen engineers, and restoration work is carried out by specialised teams of craftsmen who have been trained and established over more than 30 years, and they have sufficient experience in dealing with historical buildings and how to restore and preserve. For the materials used in the restoration include local materials and imported ones, the most important of which are coral stones, gypsum and Chandal joists for the roofs.
How do you develop awareness among people, especially young people, of heritage?
The awareness of the public is developed according to four types — locals, residents, tourists and students — through various programs that include lectures, seminars, conferences, workshops, specialised courses, books and site visits, in cooperation with the Dubai Authority for Culture and Arts.
Will your activities be restricted to the Heritage Society?
Currently my activities are mainly limited to the Architectural Heritage Society and the World Council of Museums- ICOM (Emirates Branch).
Do you have any activity outside the Emirate of Dubai regarding Arab heritage in general?
We have contacts with many entities that maintain architectural heritage in the Arab world and the world in general, through mutual visits, and attending specialised conferences, such as the International Council of Monuments and sites (ICOMOS) which is held annually, as well as holding seminars and daily participation in social media platforms that It is now the main source of information and communication.
What is the role of Unesco in assessing the UAE and its cultural and architectural heritage?
With regard to Unesco, (Al Ain) city was registered as the first world heritage site from the Emirates in 2011, and there are currently several files prepared from the UAE to apply to Unesco, for registration as a world heritage sites in the coming years.
Have you submitted requests to Unesco to include these heritage facilities on the World Heritage List?
As I mentioned earlier, Al Ain city has been registered as a world heritage site and currently there are new files under preparation from the UAE for submission to Unesco during the coming years, as it is allowed to submit one file every year only.
What are the future prospects for heritage in Dubai and the UAE in general?
In the Emirate of Dubai today there is a giant cultural project of the Al-Shindagha Museum, which includes more than 180 buildings in the historical Shindagha area, and includes nearly 20 miniature museums that include everything related to the Emirates heritage from the desert, rural areas, coastal cities and maritime heritage, and some houses have been opened, and it is planned that the rest of the houses will be opened this year in preparation for Expo Dubai next year. As for the other emirates, there are also restoration and preservation projects in each emirate.
What is your vision of the heritage horizon in Dubai?
Praise be to God, the future is beautiful, and there are clear plans in Dubai Municipality to preserve the architectural heritage of the emirate so that it remains for future generations, as well as for researchers and tourists, to view and benefit from them, and develop architectural ideas used in the past in the field of engineering, environmental preservation and sustainability.
What is new in the field of authorship?
In the field of authorship currently I have some works such as: ‘Thoughts in Restoration’, and a book on Architectural Heritage of the Emirates. I ask God to facilitate these writings and publish them soon.
— Shakir Noori is a writer and journalist based in Dubai.