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A road map to preserve architectural heritage in the Islamic world

A road map to preserve architectural heritage in the Islamic world ( The first International Conference for Urban Heritage in the Islamic Countries, which was held in Riyadh during the period from May 23-28, 2010, has concluded its events with a number of recommendations, which were focused on the importance of preservation of the urban heritage of the Islamic countries and to develop it economically and culturally.

His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), chairman of the Higher Steering Committee of the First International Conference for Urban Heritage in the Islamic Countries expressed his thanks and appreciations to the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and HRH Crown Prince for their gracious support. HRH president of SCTA has also expressed his thanks and gratitude to the ministers and heads of the associations and organizations for their participation in the conference, as well as to the authorities sponsoring the conference.

The president, in his speech at the closing session stated that the conference had achieved unprecedented success due to the highest regulatory standards and dedication of all employees. HRH considered the conference was one of the richest scientific gatherings that exceeded expectations.

HRH emphasized that the conference is one of the largest conferences ever held in the present history of the Kingdom. HRH president of SCTA indicated that the presented working papers in the conference were rich and sophisticated and were of great benefit to all the participants. HRH emphasized his personal follow-up of all presented working papers and interpositions.

HRH said that the steering committee of the conference had provided a link on the website of the conference for receiving remarks from the participants in order to benefit of them in the holding of the next conference after two years.
HRH emphasized that the national program for urban heritage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which was announced during the conference, is planned to last for five years in collaboration with the ministry of municipal and rural affairs, Imarahs, and local communities, as well as a number of concerned authorities, and will shorten the time for attention on urban heritage. HRH added that, “We have laid out the key foundation for the people’s acceptance of urban heritage in collaboration with public and private sectors in order to make a real shift towards rooting urban heritage’s values in their minds.”

The conferees came out with a number of recommendations, which were read by Dr. Khalid Al Dakheel, assistant to the president of SCTA.

On the theme of “The cultural perceptions of the Architectural Heritage in Islamic countries: reality and challenges,” the conference recommendations were:

- Work to make the architectural heritage an integral part of the structure of cultural, economic, and physical symbol of Islamic countries.

- Identify and define the basic elements of architectural heritage in the Islamic world, taking into account the local environmental and cultural elements joined in the physical character.

- Work on mainstreaming concepts inherent culturally, which formed the architecture of Islamic cities, as “memory of communities" taking into account the requirements of contemporary planning and urban development and planning with concern on national and regional architectural style.

- Rooting the concept “What we build today is a heritage for the next generation.”

- To develop a clear mutual vision for polices of urban heritage preservation and employment based on the critical situation of urban heritage buildings.

- It is necessary to develop a “road map” and guidelines for urban heritage preservation in the Islamic countries, and these should be easy to apply and follow-up, including agreed definitions for urban, cultural, and natural heritage elements.

- To benefit from the leading experiences of international organizations for regulations and legislations enacted for the urban heritage registration ensuring preservation of Islamic architecture whether it was contemporary or heritage with a future vision.

- To exchange successful experiences between the Islamic countries in the field of urban heritage, as well as establishing strategic partnerships with member countries of the Organization of Islamic Countries.

The conference regarding the theme of “On the theme of economic and social dimensions of urban and heritage buildings preservations,” recommended the following:

- To employ heritage in all its natural, cultural, and urban aspects as an economic source within the sustainable developmental plans.

- To integrate urban heritage in the comprehensive national plan in general and in the tourism development in particular.

- To benefit from local urban heritage preservation as a mechanism with economic feasibility for local communities. Encourage reverse migration from crowded urban areas to heritage villages and towns with the necessity of providing sustainable incentives and finance tools and investment in infrastructure for this purpose.

- To engage local communities in programs of urban heritage preservation, projects of urban heritage operation, providing proper formulae in the Islamic countries to benefit from advantages of urban heritage buildings rehabilitation, as well as employing it in hotels, tourism and cultural uses.

- To develop local communities that will contribute in redistribution of income in urban heritage investment fairly.

- To integrate the efforts of governments, supportive organizations, private sector, and the local community in the field of urban heritage development, as well as rising awareness on the cultural and economic importance of urban heritage amongst government authorities in order to activate their participation to facilitate procedures that aim to preserve urban heritage areas and to invest them as well.

- To raise awareness among the private sector on the importance of participation in the urban heritage preservation and to re-employ it.

- To support initiatives that aim to preserve urban heritage through direct or indirect financing.

- To launch exemplary projects to raise awareness on benefits and importance of investment in heritage buildings in the Islamic countries.

- To provide smart incentives to attract investment in the field of recovering and rehabilitating urban heritage resources in the Islamic countries.

On the theme of “Investment in heritage hotels,” the conference recommended the following:

- To benefit from the best techniques used in the field of heritage hotels investment and management.

- To study the possibility of establishing “Unity of First Islamic Heritage Hotels” to support investment projects in the field of heritage hotels rehabilitation.

- To work with local authorities to develop neighboring areas of projects of heritage hotels and to preserve them.

- To develop integrated programs for stimulation of investment in heritage hotels in collaboration with airlines companies and trip organizers and the tourism services providers.

- To be keen to integrate heritage elements in those projects through stimulating folklore art programs within the investment projects of heritage hotels.

The conference on the theme “Urban design, planning and management of urbanism,” recommended the following:

- To activate the role of regional international organizations and support plans of relevant organizations that are responsible for urban heritage preservation.

- To connect urban heritages’ preservation issues with contemporary international issues, such as globalization, tourism development, and climate change.

- To encourage and support the efforts of municipalities towards urban heritage preservation through providing incentives and moral and material awards, as well as signing strategic partnership with specialized authorities.

- To develop government procedural systems, especially in the municipal sector to increase opportunities of investment in urban heritage projects.

- To limit cities' expansion in the traditional areas.

- To enact binding controls to preserve mosques and religious facilities.

- To manage sites of natural and urban heritage as an integral part of local administration and as architectural and economic map of Islamic countries.

- To engage local communities and historic buildings’ owners in the processes of urban planning generally.

- To observe legal dimensions that form urban environment in the Islamic city.

- To lay and execute plans to ensure balance between urban heritage preservation and requirements of contemporary development.

The conference regarding the theme “Rehabilitation of heritage buildings and sites,” recommended the following:

- To support local communities financially and technically; develop and repair urban heritage buildings.

- To develop proper means and techniques for urban heritage preservation and decrease the impact of earthquakes.

- To support practical studies and researches in the field of restoration material and techniques.

- To study the general situation of each building before the restoration process commences.

- To limit any negative changes in the heritage buildings and whole urban fabric.

- To obligate the use of traditional materials that is used in urban heritage buildings at the same time to limit the use of modern material, and if used, should be in accordance with the original status of the building.

The conference regarding the theme “Building, repairing techniques, and urban heritage related crafts,” recommended the following:

- To use of local building material in the urban heritage restoration.

- To use computer programs and documentation techniques for heritage buildings.

- To use modern and proper techniques to prevent humidity and other climate vagaries affecting, as well as environmental and visual pollution.

- To cooperate and exchange experience between the Islamic countries in the field of traditional industries related to urban heritage repair and construction.

- To establish academic organizations devoted to training, documenting, and developing builders of urban heritage in the Islamic countries.

- To stimulate contractors of projects of urban heritage rehabilitation to engage local artisans in the execution of projects.

- To enact flexible licensing regulations and laws and proper financing means for artisans to encourage them to practice traditional building professions.

- To employ heritage buildings, recover traditional souks and city centers creating economic, cultural, and tourism jobs through the heritage buildings.

- To encourage and organize vocational associations and train and rehabilitate youth to join the traditional professions.

The conference regarding the theme “Research, education, training and awareness in the field of urban heritage,” recommended the following:

- To rise concepts of urban heritage preservation in different educational levels.

- To create awareness, educational, and training programs directed to different social sectors concerned of urban heritage.

- To support and establish a specialized institution for training, researching, and preservation of urban heritage in the Islamic countries to be based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

- To support researches and studies that aim to innovate in mud and stone architecture derived from the local environment.

- To support specialized researches and studies to evaluate the economic and social impact in the works of urban heritage preservation.

- To raise awareness on the positive side of “urban architecture” and its role for achieving requirements of local communities.

- To lay out a strategy to train artisans and technicians in the field of traditional construction and Islamic decoration arts.

- To document and survey urban heritage sites and buildings in the Islamic countries and to benefit from the Database of Sultan bin Salman for Urban Heritage in the Islamic Countries at the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art, and Culture (IRCICA).

Najla A. Al-Khalifah Email:

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