Our cultural heritage & the imminent danger [Archives:2002/38/Culture]
BY MUJAHED AL MUSSA’ABI
YEMEN TIMES STAFF
No one can deny the significance of natural or industrial resources as an essential base for the development of any country. Similarly, cultural architectural heritage is considered as of a great value as a wealth. However, the criterion of cultural heritage development of any country is not measured by the number of historical cities it has rather than the amount of people’s awareness of its value and how to benefit from these precious and potentially profitable assets. Thus, if people would not preserve their historical and urban cultural heritage assets, they would gradually deteriorate and turn to a mere pile of useless stones while those who are proud of their heritage and treat it as if live objects, would conserve their civilization and history. Yemen, the “Arabia Felix” as mentioned in historical books, has a great cultural heritage. Urban cultural heritage is not limited to literature or popular folklore but also includes the built heritage like historical cities and human activities within these cities which reflect the character of the Yemeni society. When we speak about the historical cities of Yemen, we don’t mean only the three UNESCO world heritage Sites of Old Sana’a, Shibam-Hadramout and Zabid but all the living historical cities in Yemen like Sa’ada, Jeblah, Tareem, Thula, and Seyoun and many more. But we should refer to the fact that despite of the great significance of the cultural heritage, it has been the only sector which suffered most of negligence. Therefore, it must be the lack of awareness which lies behind the deterioration of our historical cities and the changes which distorted the beautiful historical image of these cities along with the pressure of population growth which contributed to their decline.
What can we do to safeguard the historical cities ?
All concerned officials, the public and NGOs should collaborate to save historical cities of this dramatic deterioration. There should be individual and collective initiatives to protect the historical cities through providing them with essential infrastructure projects, repairing old buildings using the same materials, and integrating the Urban Cultural Heritage with other development sectors before it is too late. The local councils and non-government organizations should actively participate to put an end to this deterioration in different ways. And first of all, we should advocate raising awareness of the society of their rich urban cultural heritage. Thus, it is the task of the media to educate the people and enlighten them on what the cultural heritage means and how we can protect it rather than just waiting for others to offer their help.