Heritage and Tourism. Global Society and Shifting Values in the United Arab Emirates

Marxiano Melotti


The cultural heritage has always been an important tool in the political and identity formation of the nation-states. In the Western countries the gradual overcoming of nineteenth-century nationalism has paved the way for a post-modern use of their heritage, where tourism, market, culture, leisure and entertainment appear to be deeply interwoven.
Museums, monuments and archaeological sites are important elements in the cultural and historical theming of consumption and in the promotion of the areas and requalification of their image.
In the last decade the richest states in the Middle East, starting from the United Arab Emirates, have adopted both of these Western uses of heritage: local culture and monuments are used both as means of building or reinventing identity in a religious and national key and as instruments to promote the areas in recreational and tourist function.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are two significant cases. Their intangible heritage, which is enhanced and crystallized in a tourist way, concurs to construct a local historical identity. On the other hand, the major Western national museums, which in Europe have almost exhausted their political and identity function, are called to open branches there to attract international tourism, according to its post-modern model, and to assert the new metropolitan and international identity of these capitals.
In such a context of renewed interest in the cultural heritage, we can recall the significant decision of Bahrain of hosting a centre devoted to Arab heritage under the auspices of UNESCO.


Heritage; Museums; National Identity; Post-modern Society; Tourism; Middle East; United Arab Emirates

Full Text:


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17192/meta.2014.3.2181

Marxiano Melotti studies the relationships between heritage and tourism in postmodern culture, with special reference to the rediscovery and valorization of the past in contemporary societies. He is the secretary general of the foundation for the Italian Institute of Human Sciences (SUM), and has taught tourism and archaeology in the University of Milan Bicocca, and ancient Mediterranean civilizations in the Nettuno University Consortium. Among his published works are the books The Plastic Venuses. Archaeological Tourism in Post-Modern Society (Cambridge Scholars, Newcastle, 2011) and Turismo archeologico (Bruno Mondadori, Milano 2008).
email: marxiano.melotti@gmail.com