Under the Patronage and in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, the ICCROM-ATHAR Regional Conservation Centre in Sharjah was inaugurated on 14 December 2014. The new premises incorporates the ICCROM-ATHAR Regional Conservation Centre in Sharjah and the Sharjah Institute for Heritage that deals with the intangible heritage of the UAE.
The institution hosts facilities that include training rooms where lectures will be held for upcoming programmes; a well-stocked library; conservation labs that will boast of the latest equipment in the field of heritage preservation; an auditorium that seats 150 people; translation booths and a cafeteria.
At the opening event, ICCROM-ATHAR has initiated a boutique of programmes that included four exhibitions on the subject of heritage, which ran side-by-side in its premises. The first exhibition depicts the richness and diversity of the built and movable heritage of the Arab region. The second was a photography exhibition of World Heritage Sites in the Arab region. The latter was supported by ALECSO (Arab League Educational, Social and Cultural Organization), while the third exhibition hosted the artworks of the students of UAE schools who took part in a competition called for by ICCROM-ATHAR. The fourth exhibition presented posters done by University students.
Directors and Ministers of Heritage from mostly all Arab countries were present at the event. Notable attendees were Her Highness Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al-Qasimi of Sharjah; Her Royal Highness Princess Wijdan Al Hashemi, Chairperson of Royal Society of Fine Arts; Dr. Stefano De Caro, Director-General of ICCROM; Dr. Abdullah Mhareb, Director-General of ALECSO; Mr. Mohammed Khamis Al-Muhairi, Director-General of Tourism and Antiquities of UAE; in addition to Chairperson of Executive Council UNESCO; Regional Directors of ISESCO and UNESCO; UN World Tourism Organisation and the World Bank. Also present from ICCROM were Ms. Marie Lavandier, Chairperson of ICCROM, the President of the ICCROM Council, and Council Members from Arab states. The closing session on the following day was attended by His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah.
In his inaugural speech, Dr. Stefano De Caro commended the achievements of ICCROM-ATHAR, sustained by the establishment of the regional Centre. Dr. De Caro addressed his thanks to His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah for his kind patronage and generous support, and to Dr. Zaki Aslan, the Director of ICCROM-ATHAR and his staff, for their devoted efforts and tangible success. He also stressed the crucial role of the Centre in promoting the field of conservation in the Arab region and relevant institutional capacities to optimise efforts in managing and preserving cultural heritage in the Arab states. The establishment of this conservation centre fills a major gap, at the regional level, in light of the severe threats to the cultural heritage assets arising from the ongoing crises in the region.