Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that was a Byzantine cathedral before being converted into a mosque which is currently a museum, is seen in Istanbul, Turkey, June 28, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Noura bint Mohamed Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, and Chairperson of the National Committee for Education, Culture and Science, said that cultural heritage is a human legacy that ought to be preserved.

Noura bint Mohamed Al Kaabi

“It should neither be misused nor altered through change in a way that touches the human essence. Especially for sites that are inscribed under World Heritage by Unesco. They have exceptional international value, and are the common heritage of all peoples and cultures,” she stressed.

The Minister said in a statement today that the change in the status quo of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was effected without any regard to the civilisational value of this historical edifice. “It has remained a global landmark with significant cultural legacy. It also served as a bridge connecting different peoples and cementing their bonds,” she pointed out.

Al Kaabi added that preserving human heritage strengthened the values of tolerance and coexistence between different nations.

“World heritage sites have become the platforms for knowledge exchange between diverse cultures and civilisations that evolved in history across time. Hagia Sophia is an important example of interaction and dialogue between Asia and Europe and should remain a witness to harmonious human history,” she elaborated.

The Minister emphasised the importance of the statement issued by Unesco, which had stressed that Hagia Sophia was part of historic Istanbul.

“It is designated as a heritage museum by Unesco. It is an architectural marvel and is a unique witness to the interaction between Asia and Europe across centuries. It is a symbol of dialogue,” she explained.

The Unesco demanded in its statement that countries that are home to cultural heritage sites should not alter them in ways that harm their outstanding universal value. A country that wants to alter anything should inform UNESCO in advance so the world heritage committee could look into it if need be.

The UAE is a member of the Unesco’s Executive Board.