Cultural Heritage in the Gulf: Blight or Blessing?

Djamel Boussaa

Abstract


In the Gulf and after gaining independence in the 1960s and 1970s many cities witnessed a staggering rapid urban growth. The urban centers, which formed the central parts of these cities, underwent continuous pressures of destruction and redevelopment. A large number of these centers have been often demolished and replaced by alien imported high-rise buildings. The urban cores which escaped complete demolition have survived as isolated pockets in the middle of hybrid environments.

This dilemma raises important questions; is this surviving cultural heritage blight or blessing? Is it "blight" and obstacle that stifles our cities from moving forward to aspire for a bright and prosperous future, or is it "blessing" an asset that can form a major catalyst to promote our cities while maintaining strong roots with their past? Accordingly, what should be the future of these surviving historic centers? Will they be demolished to pave way for more ambitious growth or can they be conserved and sustained for present and future generations? Will the historic city, the heart of urban life and the main protector of our cities identities, survive and continue to be places for living within the emerging global cities of today and tomorrow?

This paper attempts to highlight the importance of dealing with the conservation and development issue, by raising and discussing the following question: How can our cultural heritage be a setting of appropriate conservation and development in the emerging global environments? In order to discuss this issue, three historic cities from the Gulf; Old Dubai in UAE, Old Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Old Doha in Qatar will form the setting of this research.

Keywords


Cultural Heritage; Urban Conservation; Sustainability;Tourism

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17192/meta.2014.3.2176

With a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Algiers in 1984, Djamel Boussaa obtained his Master of Philosophy in Architecture from the University of York, UK in September 1987. He taught as an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Architecture, University of Blida, Algeria for 8 years. He joined UAE University in September 1996 and worked for ten years before moving to the University of Bahrain for three years. He finished his Ph.D in Urban Conservation from the University of Liverpool, UK in December 2007. From September 2009, he is an Assistant Professor at Qatar University, Department of Architecture and Urban Planning.
e-mail: djamelb60@qu.edu.qa