Dubai Creek’s bid to become a World Heritage Site will have to wait another year and more information on its architectural history is needed for it to succeed.
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) has asked the UAE to supply more details on the creek’s architecture, buildings and markets and the area is also expected to host a site visit from inspectors.
The major issue is the large scale reconstruction work which took place in the area following the demolition of many of the originals buildings.
The UNESCO mandate is to protect and preserve original structures – not recreations.
And its criteria does not consider that reconstructions, even of the highest quality, can represent true likenesses of the structures they attempt to recreate.
In its evaluation report, ICOMOS (The International Council on Monuments and Sites) said: “Khor Dubai’s ability to credibly communicate the urban and residential development of a 19th and early 20th century trade centre is limited as a result of large scale demolition of historical architecture which has now been partly reconstructed.
“Khor Dubai today provides an impressive imagination of a historic neighbourhood but ICOMOS does not consider that reconstructions, even of the highest quality, can represent a unique representation of what they recreate.”
The report concluded that Dubai Creek did not meet some of the criteria and its architectural representation was limited, “as a result of its significant reduction of historic architectural substance and urban patterns, as well as the changes of the shape and mouth of the creek.
“The neighbourhoods included in the property were partly demolished and reconstructed, and in other cases, extensively restored and now provide an impressive imagination of what the city may have looked like half a century ago.”
ICOMOS also considers that the legal protection in place is not yet adequate as the present buffer zone is not protected by municipal bylaws. This means it is possible that planned and ongoing development projects will further alter the urban characteristic and setting of Dubai Creek.
A total of 13 sites have been approved so far this year, including Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah in Saudi Arabia, olive groves in Palestine and the Erbil Citadel in Iraq.