The architectural heritage of the UAE is currently under the spotlight as United Nations officials and local archaeologists work to preserve historic sites.
Across the region are some of the most important examples of lives lived before the birth of recorded history – vital for those who wish to understand the very origins of humanity’s moves from a hunter-gatherer existence to farming and town dwelling.
Homes, tombs, forts, temples, irrigation systems and gardens are all among the legacy left to the 21st century from builders and engineers of previous centuries.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has recognised the value of four cultural sites in the Al Ain area of Abu Dhabi, including Hafeet, Hili, Bida Bint Saud and six date palm oases, by enlisting them in the World Heritage List.
And a total of six more UAE sites are on its “possible” list including Dubai Creek, Al Bidya Mosque in Fujairah, the structures at Ed Dur in Umm Al Quwain, the buildings and cemetery of Umm Al Nar Island in Abu Dhabi, Sir Bu Nair Island in Sharjah, and the “cultural landscape” of the central region of Sharjah.
These historic areas are currently protected by the authorities who now are bidding to win international recognition to preserve them for future generations.
The Architectural Heritage Department at Dubai Municipality says a full-scale effort to obtain classification is underway and UNESCO’s decision for Dubai is expected sometime in June 2014.
Experts say Al Ain has a unique archaeological status. A UNESCO spokesperson said: “Al Ain constitutes a serial property that testifies to sedentary human occupation of a desert region since the Neolithic period with vestiges of many prehistoric cultures.”