COLOMBO : The UAE is blessed with a rich heritage that encompasses architecture, sports, occupations, traditions, arts, crafts, food, places of historical and archaeological importance, lifestyle and values imbibed in Islam. This page attempts to give you a peek into the UAE’s glorious heritage and the UAE’s efforts to preserve it amidst the modern changes.
Some of the distinct features of the UAE’s heritage are hospitality, tolerance, family cohesion and solidarity among members of the society along with honour and pride associated with being part of this heritage.
Validation of the UAE’s heritage
The city of Al Ain in the emirate of Abu Dhabi is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cultural sites include six oases and the archaeological sites of Bida bint Saud, Hafeet and Hili.
The emirate of Sharjah has gained two prestigious titles for bearing the torch of the UAE’s culture and heritage. In 1998, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named it ‘The Cultural Capital of the Arab World’. In 2014, it was named the capital of Islamic culture for 2014 by Organisation of Islamic Countries.
Efforts of the UAE Government in preserving the heritage
Government entities have taken and continue to take several measure not only to preserve the heritage but also to create awareness about it. It has achieved this through:
· holding festivals and events
· forming clubs
· establishing heritage villages
· establishing and maintaining museums
· constructing and maintaining mosques.
Festivals and events
Annual festivals such as Qasr Al Hosn Festival, Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival, Sultan bin Zayed Heritage Festival, Sharjah Heritage Days bring alive the UAE’s heritage and gives the chance for the new generation to experience and value it. These festivals are very popular and draw huge crowds.
Clubs such as Emirates Heritage Club and Juma Al Majid Center for Culture and Heritage conduct research on the heritage and organise activities to promote awareness about the heritage.
Heritage villages are a complex of structures that include traditional houses, schools, markets and public spaces. It is like a replica of structures in the olden days. All emirates have at least one heritage village. The heritage villages offer a peek into the different aspects of the lives of Emiratis in the olden times.
Museums in the UAE have contributed a lot towards preservation of the culture of the UAE. There are several museums in the UAE. They display artwork, rare pictures, utensils, armoury, maritime equipment, currencies and other items from the olden times. Museums that have opened in original structures that served as forts or palaces in the olden days reflect the heritage of the UAE in a unique way.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
The iconic Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first universal museum in the Arab World, translating and fostering the spirit of openness between cultures. The museum located in the heart of the Saadiyat Cultural District on Saadiyat Island, displays works of historical, cultural and sociological significance, from ancient times to the contemporary era.
Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi
Located in Saadiyat Cultural District, the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi features some of the rarest natural history specimens ever found on Earth.
Visitors will travel on a journey through time and space, from the beginning of the universe to a thought-provoking perspective into our Earth’s future. A highlight of the new museum’s collection will be the world-famous skeleton of ‘Stan’, the Tyrannosaurus rex, the Murchison Meteorite specimen, and other spectacular collections as part of its compelling curatorial vision, as well as other fascinating experiences which will be created by a dedicated team in Abu Dhabi.
The museum is due to be completed by 2025.
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
Set to be the region’s pre-eminent museum of global modern and contemporary art, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi fosters a deeper understanding of how different art perspectives have shaped the interconnected histories and cultures of our time. The museum presents a global collection with a specific focus on West Asia, North Africa, and South Asia (WANASA).
Zayed National Museum
The Zayed National Museum will be a premier museum in the UAE. It will tell the story of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004) and provide a comprehensive overview of the natural and human history of the UAE.
Constructing and maintaining mosques
General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments is the federal authority responsible for constructing mosques in the UAE. There are about 4818 mosques in the UAE open all day to call for piety, righteousness and peace.
Al Bidya Mosque in Fujairah is the oldest mosque in the UAE.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi reflects the grandeur of the Mamluk, Ottoman and Fatimid architectural styles. Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding President of the UAE, was laid to rest in the complex of the mosque.
Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai was built entirely from white stone in the medieval Fatimid tradition, with towering twin minarets framing a large central dome. It can hold up to 1,200 worshippers.
All these three mosques are open for visits by non-Muslims.
Tips for non-Muslims to enter a mosque
A non-Muslim wishing to enter the mosque must dress conservatively. His/her clothes should fully cover the shoulders, arms and knees. In addition, women would need to cover their heads.