Under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, the participants of a symposium on the “Post-Oil Gulf Historic Cities” and a meeting for the establishment of an Arab Group of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), discussed the heritage-related conditions and changes that have occurred in Gulf cities after the discovery of oil. The two-day symposium was organised by the ICCROM-ATHAR Regional Conservation Centre in Sharjah (ICCROM-ATHAR), in collaboration with the Government of Sharjah and the Department of Architectural Heritage and Archaeology, Dubai Municipality, on the 10th and 11th of May 2017.
The objective of the symposium was to analyse the transformation process of the historical cities in Gulf countries and how it affected historical centres and reshaped urban areas. It analysed the circumstances experienced in Gulf cities by interpreting and discussing their development and growth due to the discovery of oil. Comparisons were made between Gulf cities with others from around the world that did not have oil, looking at how oil influences the advancement of development, growth and prosperity. Participants provided their own concepts and visions for preserving the importance of cultural heritage in a pre-oil era and followed up on its subsequent development. Cities form part of a collective memory worth discovering, analysing and researching.
The approach of heritage professionals in the Gulf Region is certainly different from the approaches of in other countries that have not witnessed the discovery of oil and its transformation of all aspects of life, thus making the challenges to conserving heritage in Gulf cities unique and distinct.
This symposium was preceded by a special meeting, to discuss the establishment of an ICOMOS Arab Group. The National Committees of ICOMOS in Tunis, Morocco and the UAE, suggested the establishment of an ICOMOS Arab Group for coordination among the different existing committees, following the example of other regional groups in Asia and Europe.