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Sat 17 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

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New law will protect Dubai's old buildings

Regulations on architectural conservation will aid tourism growth and World Heritage status.

Dubai Municipality is stepping up efforts to restore historical buildings in the emirate by way of a new architectural conservation law, which will be introduced over the next few months.

The move is part of the municipality's plan to increase urban conservation in Dubai and reflects a significant shift in attitude from redevelopment policies of the last few decades, according to Rashad M Bukhash, director of the general projects department, Dubai Municipality and chairman of the UAE Urban Conservation Society.

The plan includes rebuilding areas destroyed as a result of rapid urbanisation during the 1970s and 80s, such as Al Shindagah and Al Bastakia.

Around 330 buildings have been earmarked for renovation. And any building constructed before 1960 will be protected from demolition.

"The vision we have is to preserve the past and conserve the future," said Bukhash. "We need to look at how we can benefit from historical buildings. Our mission is to be leaders in protecting conservation in the country. By 2015, we hope to have renovated all old buildings."

Bukhash added that the new law would allow the UAE to register its historical buildings with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for World Heritage status. One of the first sites that could be awarded such a status is Al Bastakia.

Dubai's population is experiencing a new drive towards preserving heritage for future generations, according to Bukhash.

"Preserving ‘old Dubai' is important for the image of the country. We are creating awareness among the community about the importance of our heritage through education. We want to preserve our identity and show how our ancestors lived. Preservation is also important for the economy of the country. We are taking a tourism-led approach to buildings." Restored buildings are commonly used as restaurants or museums. Although one of the issues may be persuading people to live in restored buildings, said Bukhash.

"This is an affluent society and people like to live in new buildings. There are also problems associated with lack of parking in historical areas."

Bukhash added that new developments should also reflect Arabic heritage.

"Even new buildings should have features related to our culture. New projects are beginning to be designed from a heritage point of view, so the acceptance is there."

Around 120 buildings have so far been restored by Dubai Municipality. These include Al Fahidi Fort, Hatta Heritage Village and those in Al Shindagah, along with the rehabilitation and restoration of building façades overlooking Dubai Creek.

None of the restored historic buildings or archaeological sites in the UAE are currently recognised by UNESCO.

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DARREN ELLWOOD 13 years ago


T Crowe Semler 13 years ago

Dubai's Historic Architecture is a National Treasure that must be preserved... All great cosmopolitan cities realize the importance of their history...Architecture reveals history in a dramatic way. Dubai mash'Allah you will continue on your path of "illumination" Thank you for the wonderful news. PS When will your solar power plant be up and running? I am yours truly, T Crowe O'Rourke Semler

ghazal amin 13 years ago

when cities are being devloped people become so mazmorized by renovation that the heritage gets lost. its good that dubai is now preserving its heratige architecture, because arcitecture is the mirror that reflects thec culture and society. having the right architecture and urban planning also sustains the culture and society. I'm a studen @ BUID and I have written a paper on social sustainability in realtion with urban planing, if you could help me get that to mr.bukhash Ill be mor than grateful.