Cultural Sustainability: Dubai’s Key To Connecting Future Generations To Their Heritage

Cultural Sustainability: Dubai’s Key To Connecting Future Generations To Their Heritage

The Emirate of Dubai has, for decades, demonstrated a profound dedication to sustainability, receiving significant support and attention from visionary leadership across economic, environmental, and social dimensions. The preservation and cultivation of culture have emerged not only as a goal but also as a fundamental means to contribute directly to a substantial portion of global sustainable development objectives. Dubai’s emphasis on economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainable development also plays a vital role in safeguarding cultural heritage and nurturing innovative capabilities within its society. Therefore, cultural sustainability stands as a crucial focus within any successful comprehensive development strategy.

One of the key facets of cultural sustainability is the preservation of historical buildings and heritage areas through diligent maintenance, restoration, and protection. This commitment to safeguarding these invaluable assets forms an integral part of Dubai’s “Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan.” Launched under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, this plan represents a holistic roadmap aimed at achieving sustainable urban development in Dubai. The plan’s central tenet revolves around improving the well-being of its people and enhancing the emirate’s global competitiveness, while offering a wide range of options for its citizens, residents, and visitors over the next two decades.

Muna Faisal Al Gurg, CEO of the Culture and Heritage Sector at Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), underscored the importance of preserving historical buildings and the meticulous care required to ensure their conservation for future generations. She stated that culture served as one of the foundational pillars of civilized and thriving communities. Emirati culture, renowned for its diversity of sources and the richness of its content, had always stood out. They spared no effort in preserving it for future generations through quality projects and initiatives that united efforts with various stakeholders, thereby ensuring the sustainability of their cultural and civilizational heritage and embedding it within their society.

She further emphasised that they possessed historical evidence that bolstered the sustainability of their cultural heritage, providing future generations with a vivid portrayal of the cultural roots, which had originated in the heart of the desert and the shores of the Gulf. This deepened the sense of belonging among these generations to their homeland and its cultural heritage. Dubai had been resolute in providing all the necessary elements to guarantee the sustainability of their authentic Emirati culture, reaffirming its status as a cultural capital with a global presence and influence.

Protection of Heritage

Dubai’s Urban Plan 2040 focuses on the optimal utilization of natural resources and infrastructure, with a primary goal of preserving heritage, monuments, cultural, and historical areas, safeguarding them for future generations to learn from the authenticity and noble values that have enriched our lives.

Committed to preserving and promoting cultural heritage, Dubai has maintained its authentic Arab heritage by caring for and restoring ancient buildings. These buildings stand as living testimonies to Dubai’s past and the contributions of its present-day residents. Despite the rapid pace of development, Dubai has succeeded in securing a place among advanced nations that strive for progress in all aspects of life while safeguarding its deep-rooted cultural heritage. The preservation of our ancestors’ culture and heritage is evident in numerous initiatives and projects aimed at maintaining our national identity within a comprehensive societal context.

“Our culture represents the identity of our generations, and reflects the depth of our history. It is our message that we want to convey to the world in the most creative way. Our Emirati culture promotes the spirit of love, tolerance, and calls for openness to other cultures. The spirit and identity of our culture is inspired from the Arabic and Islamic Civilisations.” These were the words of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum when he launched the Cultural Development Fund in the UAE, emphasising the importance of preserving the country’s authentic culture and highlighting the local culture, preserving it as a significant aspect of cultural sustainability aimed at preserving identity and enriching it within a comprehensive societal context.

Dubai’s vibrant cultural heritage

Dubai Municipality has played a crucial role in this context by restoring and protecting historical buildings in Dubai, adhering to globally recognised standards for maintaining old structures with modern tools to meticulously preserve their details and ensure their longevity for future generations.

Bader Al Ali, Head of the Architectural Heritage Studies Section at Dubai Municipality, stated that Dubai has more than 700 historical buildings and that the Municipality has executed projects to restore a significant portion of these buildings. He said that this is done to preserve the city’s identity and protect its cultural heritage while safeguarding the architectural character and historical value of these buildings.

He explained that the Development of Heritage Areas project is built on several important pillars, the foremost of which is deepening the Emirati citizen’s connection to their historical heritage. Furthermore, the project has had a significant impact in establishing Dubai as a tourist destination that attracts visitors from all over the world, with the heritage component being a key attraction in the emirate.

The Historical Al Fahidi Neighborhood, together with Al Shindagha, represent vibrant cultural beacons. Dubai Municipality has completed more than 400 projects for the restoration and rehabilitation of historical buildings in these two areas, reflecting the importance of preserving our heritage and what our ancestors left behind in terms of historical meanings and social values. This is especially important in heritage areas that continue to witness substantial commercial activities, with more than 220 buildings.

The Al Shindagha Museum, opened by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in March 2023 after its comprehensive development, is the largest heritage museum in the UAE. It features 22 pavilions that house more than 80 diverse historical houses, each reflecting the evolution of Dubai and the UAE. The museum offers an opportunity to explore the history, culture, and rich heritage of the Emirate of Dubai through an interactive and innovative collection of artifacts, exhibits, films, and old photographs. The museum was built with the involvement of more than 100 community members who contributed their collections, stories, and memories, which delve into the local memory, forming the cornerstone of the vibrant historic Dubai neighborhood.

Etihad Museum

Etihad Museum is one of the most significant achievements that mark a crucial period in the history of the United Arab Emirates, leading up to the declaration of the Union in 1971 and the events that transpired in the years preceding it, particularly during the period from 1968 to 1974. The museum serves as a sustainable record preserving the intricate details of the UAE’s founding, from which future generations can draw a sense of belonging and dedication to their homeland.

The museum’s exhibits feature materials and documents that tell the story of the UAE’s founding, contributing to documenting the journey of the Union across the seven emirates. Consequently, the museum stands as a living record that maintains within its walls the details of the birth of the UAE, from which future generations can draw a sense of belonging and dedication to their homeland.

Sustainable Cultural Initiatives

Dubai is committed to more than just restoring and developing museums, historical, and archaeological buildings. It also embraces a new cultural vision with several strategic sustainability initiatives that consolidate its status and reputation as a leading cultural hub, a civilized centre that benefits from the cultural and human diversity of its society, and a city that incubates talented, creative, and innovative people from all over the world. Dubai provides a creative environment with all the elements and tools for economic, social, cognitive, and technical empowerment, and it is an effective link for intellectual and human convergence. Its value system is based on tolerance, coexistence, brotherhood, openness, and acceptance of the other. Dubai is a leading cultural centre, the capital of finance and business in the region, and a major tourist destination ranking first in the Middle East and North Africa. It is also a city with a great attraction for living and settling in.

Cultural Movement

The new cultural vision for Dubai, which was launched and is being implemented by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, under the direct guidance of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Authority’s Chairperson, aims to achieve three strategic objectives: create an effective cultural movement to enhance Dubai’s position on the world cultural map, make Dubai the first destination for cultural, creative, artistic, and literary talent from the UAE, the Arab world, and the world, and support the growth of creative industries in the emirate to enhance the economic return of culture.

The Authority also focuses on cultural heritage, in addition to the arts, design, and literature, through the organization of heritage art exhibitions throughout the city.

Cultural sustainability in Dubai and the UAE is a fundamental pillar of societal progress, achieved through a focus on the cultural and intellectual aspects of life. It has become a way of life, through the adoption of the creative industry and the support of intellectuals and creators from the country who seek to highlight the role of Emirati culture and the heritage of the ancestors through programs that address young people and understand their mentality that has been influenced by modern technology. This is what the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library is striving for, which constitutes a distinguished cultural landmark in Dubai, through the launch of various cultural initiatives that are suitable for different ages and cultural levels.

Dubai’s Cultural Destination

The Mohammed bin Rashid Library is a haven for knowledge seekers and culture lovers of all kinds. It offers poetry evenings, discussions on the latest printed publications, educational workshops, cultural performances, and events for children. The library also houses ancient manuscripts and rare editions that take readers on a journey through the ideas and experiences of the past.

The library also preserves titles and books inspired by the UAE’s rich heritage, written by historians, poets, and writers who dedicated their lives to documenting and collecting the UAE’s oral and literary traditions. This makes the library a virtual simulation system that brings together the present and the past.

Dubai’s cultural journey is a long and ongoing one, and the city is committed to ensuring the sustainability of its rich potential. The government places great importance on preserving the UAE’s cultural heritage and passing it on to future generations. Comprehensive community projects are underway to ensure that the next generation inherits the country’s priceless cognitive and cultural treasure. This embodies the concept of sustainability as a way of life for all Emiratis who are keen to preserve their cultural heritage.