Sharjah: the Gate to Trucial States
Permanent Delegation of the United Arab Emirates to UNESCO
Emirate of Sharjah
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Sharjah, including its old port and old airport, is located in the old part of the Emirate of Sharjah in the northern United Arab Emirates. According to historical sources, this location contributed to the development of trade. Al Edrissy (an 11th century geographer) stated that there was a port in the existing location of Sharjah: "the road from Julfar to Bahrain penetrated the width of the sea of Qatar to the Sabkha Port", which was possible to have been the Port of Sharjah.
According to historical sources in 1756 AD, "there are three locations on the coast between Al Katif (Qutif in Saudi Arabia) and Sir (Ras Al Khaima), which are Al Ajir, Qatar and Sharjah. These locations contained few residences from which the Basra dates and rice were brought to the Arabs of the desert by the pearl divers."
Sharjah port is particularly significant as main gate to the Trucial States. It typically contains two components that have often characterized the existence of settlements in the Arabian Gulf. First, it is located in protected entrance of the sea, locally called “Al Khor”. Second, fresh water exists at relatively shallow depth. However, from time of the early trading with the east to the settlement of the mighty Qawassim sea-faring family and into the first half of the 19th century, Sharjah was the most important port on the lower Arabian Gulf.
Sharjah was completely devastated by the British in 1820 AD, but it revived more rapidly than other ports in the Emirates area and the Gulf Region. It was then an important air-station in 1932 connecting the West with India in the East.
It should also be pointed out that the Sharjah, extending between the locations of its old port and old airport, contains large and small architectural buildings and religious structures like mosques and markets that bear witness to exemplary Gulf city development and evolution in modern times.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Sharjah, with its port and old airport, was the gate to Trucial States. It is an exceptional example of modern urban development of historical cities in the Arabian Gulf and the region.
This area covers three key periods; namely, the booming period of the pearls trade that extended from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, contributing to cultural diversity of the historical city; more importantly, in the nineteenth century, it was one of the major ports of the Arabian Gulf that extended between Musandam to Bahrain. During the period the British Empire it was an air-station comprising a hub that connects the west with India.
Due to its strategic location connecting the West with the East, Sharjah represents a rich human interaction with its environment resulting in an architectural diversity evident in the historic setting, urban fabric, and architectural expressions comprising the built environment on the waterfront.
As a gate to neighboring states, the urban settlement represents a stage in city planning derived from common elements known in Islamic cities characterized by the presence of a port, court-yard houses and wind-towers responding to environmental needs. In addition, there are other landmarks characteristic of Islamic cities in this historical area, such as the fortress, mosques, markets, and narrow streets. In addition, protection or defense components can also be seen in the walls of ancient Sharjah. Through these elements that disappeared from many other cities in the Arabian Gulf of the nineteenth and twentieth century, the unique and universal value of this historic environment becomes apparent albeit being vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.
Moreover, the built environment and traditional activities held regularly in Historic Sharjah remain greatly significant to the people of the UAE and the region. People and communities of Sharjah and UAE have remained closely associated with this historic environment and intangible values they have kept in their daily lives. This close bonding between the people of Sharjah and the sea as well as the memory of the air-station (now Al-Mahatta Museum) has been apparent in a living historic city.Criterion (v): Sharjah, with its sea-port and air-port, is a prominent example of modern urban development of historical cities in the Arabian Gulf region. The historical components of the gate city to the Trucial States are still visible today. These represent a living outstanding example of human interaction with coastal environments in the United Arab Emirates and the Arabian Gulf over the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries that were under threat due major urban changes, albeit leaving evidence of several footprints.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
- The Sharjah Government made great efforts for the safeguard of historic buildings in Sharjah including the old port and the buildings of the old air-station now housing the Mahatta Museum; the protection of these buildings as well as interpretation of the history of the area have been at the core of the Sharjah Government work in the past decade.
- The Sharjah Government has continued to ensure stopping threats stemming from destruction of the urban fabric in the Sharjah, in the course of urban development projects in the past three decades.
- The area has always been under maintenance and restoration, with great efforts in applying conservation methods that follow international standards. Therefore the architectural elements are well kept.
- Sharjah was fully documented, and there is a set of studies covering the evolution of the historical area in the Emirate of Sharjah.
- An annual event that highlights the historical importance of the area titled "The heritage days of Sharjah" has helped in keeping a variety of traditional activities in this heritage place.- In addition, the Emirate of Sharjah has a strong law of Antiquities and Heritage that provides full protection for the area, in addition to its designation as historic zone at the local level.
Comparison with other similar properties
Sharjah air-station played a major role in connecting the West with the East at a time when there was no other similar airport in the Gulf Region.
Other urban settlements in the Gulf region was Khor Sharjah is an important element in building the port for the settlement of Sharjah; while the Khor is similar to the Khors at Dubai, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain, the port of Sharjah was the Gate to the other states containing these other Khors. The port continues to keep both the structural and functional integrity of the settlement and its strong relation to sea activities.Sharjah is similar in its details to some of the Arab Gulf cities in the western side of the Gulf. Al Zubara in Qatar has some resemblance as settlement in terms of the buildings and their use. Such buildings date back to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, Al Zubara area has been abandoned and not integrated, as Sharjah, in the life of citizens of the city.