Mohammed approves major revamp of Dubai's Historical District

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His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,  Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, approved plans to rejuvenate and develop Dubai’s Historical District, the oldest part of the city centred around Khor Dubai (Dubai Creek).

The joint initiative, led by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Dubai Municipality and Dubai Culture, will transform the area into the leading culture and heritage centre in the region. Focused around four key districts - Shindagha, Bur Dubai, Al Faheidi and Deira - the project's focus is to raise awareness of Dubai's rich history, particularly around trade, crafts and pearling and will also allow UAE nationals to reconnect with their history and strengthen national identity and values.

Covering 1.5 sq kilometres, the phased development will be based on five pillars: tradition - focusing on Emirati culture and drawing upon the stories of the area; heritage - protecting historical buildings; trade - preserving traditional ‘souqs’ (markets) and reviving and celebrating traditional trade; community - sharing cultural experiences through restoring squares as gathering places for residents, and promoting performance arts; and finally place making - ensuring the original fabric of the area is preserved and made easy for visitors to navigate. All pedestrian areas will be lined with historical stories that can be accessed through smart applications or through a newly created team of trained Emirati tour guides.

With cultural tourism already a key focus in attracting visitors to the emirate, the project will strengthen Dubai’s position as the region’s leading cultural destination creating new cultural and commercial opportunities; and ultimately attracting 12 million visitors to this historical district by 2020.

Abdul Rahman Al Owais, the UAE's Health Minister and Chairman of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, the Emirate’s dedicated entity focused on heritage, culture and the arts, said: “Khor Dubai and the Historical District are the soul of the city, and define our cultural legacy and our Emirati heritage. Apart from having contributed to the evolution of the city as a global hub for business by promoting trade and commerce, our community today celebrates the cultural identity of Dubai and serves as one of the most inspiring art centres. Dubai Culture is honoured to partner in this ambitious initiative that will transform the city’s cultural heart, and create a vibrant destination that complements the vision of  Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to establish Dubai as an international cultural destination.”  

Hussein Lootah, Director General, Dubai Municipality commented: “The vision set by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid to sustain and grow our cultural heritage has set the foundation for our joint effort with DTCM and DCAA to create a strong and flagship development. We will endeavour to work closely with DTCM in creating a world class culture, art and heritage destination. We are well prepared to commence the development of the Historical District as early as this month. Although the overall delivery will take three years, we are sure that the changes will be felt by visitors very soon. We are sure that this development will enhance our ability to register Khor Dubai as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, DTCM said: “From the beginning of Dubai’s story, Khor Dubai has played a significant role in the economic development of our emirate, and was central in establishing both Dubai’s commercial position and its reputation as a meeting point for traders from around the world. As such, developing the area around Khor Dubai and improving the visitor experience of the district is hugely important. Work is due to start shortly on the first phase of the project, which will include the upgrade of souqs in Deira and Bur Dubai, the installation of abra stops at Shindagha and the creation of a number of other experiences within each area. Visitors will be able to fully immerse themselves in the history and explore the authentic culture of Dubai and the trading hub of Khor Dubai in particular.”

There are more than 60 projects planned as part of the overall redevelopment including Al ‘Shindagha Museum’ which will feature 17 pavilions and have over 50 collections of historical and cultural artefacts on exhibit, as well as a promenade that will connect the Shindagha area all the way to the Al Faheidi district, enabling visitors to walk seamlessly between the areas of the development. The area will also feature Al Faheidi fort, and Al Sabkhah as part of the largest open air historic district built around Khor Dubai as envisaged by  Sheikh Mohammed.

The project also includes the conversion of a number of streets in Bur Dubai, Al Faheidi and Deira to pedestrian walkways enabling easier access to upgraded public areas including Alsabkhah Square. The pedestrianisation of those roads will bring the visitors closer to the shops and experiences along those paths. In addition, upgrades include the expansion of the visitor parking capacity across all areas of the historical district including the additional parking area for Shandaghah from adjacent Mina Rashed.

Some key highlights of the development project:

Shindagha: Beside housing one of the largest interactive museums in the region it will feature floating exhibits housed in traditional pearling and trade boats, retelling the culture of the sea, while an outdoor ‘majlis’ and multi-purpose performance centre and square will showcase Emirati sea-faring song and dance. Trained Emirati guides and master craftsmen will share stories and promote learning and understanding of the various crafts.

Deira’s old watch towers and traditional stores such as red-smiths and cotton makers will be restored in their original locations to revive the authentic feel of the area. A historic square will be constructed for visitors to discover Dubai’s history through a series of installations and exhibits from Alsabkhah all the way to Alras. The different areas designated for development will be connected by numerous pedestrian walkways that will be well ventilated to ensure year round accessibility for visitors.

Bur Dubai’s Al Faheidi Fort will be restored as the central heart of the area by way of expanding it as a major cultural events square and the reconstruction of Dubai's old defense wall (next to the watch tower located next to the old Abra) will also be revived. Interactive smart screens showing local stories such as how Khor Dubai evolved over time will also help to bring the history of Dubai to life.

Al Faheidi district will enjoy a more focused approach showcasing local art and Emirati artists; art galleries will be promoted through a formal art tour created to link the area’s main attractions. Visitors will be able to explore art studios with artists in residence telling the story of the history of the heritage area. Recreations of old trading and craft methods will also be on display.

Khor Dubai will see an addition of multiple Abra connections on both sides. In addition, daily light and sound productions will be projected on the old and new buildings on both sides of Khor Dubai, telling stories of historical significance and celebrating Emirati achievements.

The initiative will see the area transformed over the next three years with work on key projects beginning in February 2015 starting with plans for the Bur Dubai and Deira souq renovations and numerous tours will be being created throughout the historical district to ensure visitors can navigate and explore the rich Emirati heritage.

 Mohammed receives Women Summit CEO

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has asserted the UAE is keen to empower women and engage them in the national strategic development plan by enabling them to assume leadership positions in various sectors.

He praised Emirati women’s achievements in public sector as women constitute 66 per cent of the federal workforce.

Sheikh Mohammed’s comments came during receiving Tina Brown, CEO of Women in the World Summit, who is visiting the Middle East for the first time. The meeting was held in the presence of  Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince.

During the meeting held at headquarters of the Government of Dubai Media Office, Sheikh Mohammed was briefed on the summit’s agenda, which aims at finding best solutions and methods to support women.

The meeting was also attended by Minister of State, Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimi; Director-General of the Government of Dubai Media Office, Mona Al Marri; Group CEO of Tecom Investments, Dr. Amina Al Rustamani and CEO of Dubai Women Establishment, Shamsa Saleh.

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