The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), participated in the “Responsibilities and Opportunities in Architectural Preservation: Theory, Education, and Practice” Forum at the College of Architecture and Arts, Petra University, Kingdom of Jordan.
HRH Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, the secretary general of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, presented a paper on Saudi Arabia’s experience in architectural preservation, commenting that the urban architectural heritage has become a major, viable, economic source and a factor for environmental sustainability.
HRH Prince Sultan explained, while delivering the paper at the opening session, that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undergoing a comprehensive transformation in the area of heritage preservation and development and currently upgrading its protection and preservation laws, transforming university education and community awareness, and establishing a government/private-sector partnership. He stated, “We are in an era where we take our place among civilized nations and people who have made great advances in all areas, while managing to protect and preserve their architectural heritage and make it an integral part of progress and economic development.”
During the forum, Prince Sultan reviewed a number of architectural preservation and urban, development projects that were executed and are underway. For example, SCTA is exerting efforts toward presenting historical and heritage sites, in which it succeeded this year in registering Mada’in Saleh in UNESCO’s world Heritage list. Other sites and historical buildings in Saudi Arabia are now undergoing major rehabilitation and development as economic and historical zones, such as Dir’Iyyah – the original capital of the first Saudi state, which was destroyed in 1818 and is now being restored and prepared to come back to life as a cultural and heritage center under strict UNESCO world heritage sites standards. (Dir’Iyyah has already been submitted for 2010 as a world heritage site.) In addition, they are rebuilding the Center of Jeddah, where investors and local municipal authorities come together to take on the development and modernization of an important part of the city while also committing over US$200 million toward the restoration and rejuvenation of the historical center, which is earmarked for UNESCO world heritage status in the near future.
HRH Prince Sultan detailed that the efforts exerted by SCTA to preserve the national urban heritage, resulted in:
– A complete data base of Urban Heritage Sites
– Enactment of measures that ensure the protection and preservation of Islamic Heritage Sites
– The enactment of strict measures to halt random demolishing of Urban Heritage Buildings
– Proposing and adopting of the “Urban Heritage Convention in the Arab and Islamic Countries”
– Urban heritage protection, preservation and development law
– The preparation of the Urban Heritage Sites Classification Criteria (UHSCC)
– Approval of the national Antiquities and Museums Five-Year Plan, which also focuses on the protection and development of the Kingdom’s urban heritage. The plan covered the following major areas:
— Cultural villages restoration and development program
— The Historical City Centers’ Development Program
— The Rehabilitation and Development Program of Old Souks (RDPOS)
— Rehabilitation Program of the historical public buildings
– Organizing the international conference on Urban Heritage conservation and development to be held in Riyadh in 2009.
– Establish the college of Tourism and Archeology, King Saud University, with training programs for Urban Heritage site management
– Publishing manuals for restoration methods for mud and stone buildings
– Heritage hotels projects
– Community cooperatives to restore and protect old villages
– Community and public awareness programs
In the end, HRH Prince Sultan acknowledged that this transformation would not have been possible had it not been for the keen support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, and HRH Crown Prince Sultan who themselves are champions of the national-built heritage, and for the investment we made in the past few years in educating our regional and municipal officials and local communities.