Moving Yemen forwardPreserving our heritage means building our future [Archives:2003/686/Culture]

November 17 2003

Ismail Al-Ghabiri
It is no secret that developed countries give the greatest of attention and importance to their nations’ heritage because this heritage is for them among the pillars of the future. This is why when we maintain our heritage; we are investing for the future and our next generations.
However, looking at today’s conditions, we can easily see that little attention and importance is given to our heritage. Many feel that holding on to our heritage could mean that we must live in it and forget about technology and the new world. This misconception has created an illusion that throwing our heritage behind our backs could be a formula to become a developed country. Those fail to realize that developed countries have built upon their heritage and hold on tight to it.
In Yemen, we have so many beautiful heritage sites. Among them is the ancient city of Arwa, one of the most genuine and spectacular ancient cities in history. The city maintains its mystical and mysterious feel in every possible way. The ancient houses, architecture and monuments make it a spectacular piece of our past. But unfortunately, not much is done to publicize this wonderful city, which enjoys a spectacular variety of manuscripts, architecture, and arts.
Due to neglect and carelessness by both the local villagers and the authorities, the spectacular walls, houses, and monuments of the city are slowly falling apart. There is no maintenance, no attention, and no efforts to preserve this wonderful city, which could have been a major tourist attraction for thousands of tourists from all over the world.
This is just one example of many other tourist sites that resemble our rich and genuine heritage, which we unfortunately do not value at all.
The lack of awareness of Yemeni citizens, especially in rural areas, of the importance and value of historic monuments could have catastrophic results on our future. There have been so many reports of villagers tearing pieces of ancient Sabaan temples and sites and using ancient rocks from those temples to build their own new houses. This is not unique to a certain area, but it is common wherever they go.
Those villagers do not know that the future of the economy could lie in those ancient rocks that may look useless from the first instant. But if sold elsewhere in the world could be worth hundreds of thousands of US dollars.
Our heritage, that is lying there in the different parts of the country could be the driving force behind a recovering economy in the form of hard currency flowing in through tourists who wish to see those fascinating sites.
We can hence see how the past could influence the future. If we are careless about our heritage and abandon it in the way we are doing today, the tourism industry will never revive, and the economy would continue to deteriorate, causing more troubles for our future generations.
This is the case only if we deal with the effect of our heritage from a merely materialistic point of view. But on the other hand, our heritage could also teach us many things we failed to learn. We can learn a lot of how our earlier generations became successful in running their businesses and establishing such powerful kingdoms. We could use those hints to build our own future to repeat the glory and bring the change desired.
But this cannot happen unless there is true understanding of our culture and heritage. It can only come from faithful Yemenis who value their past, and look after their future.