Unesco Goodwill Ambassador Princess Dana Firas has hailed Oman as a beacon of cultural heritage in the Arab world and a country which is proud of its identity and rich heritage.
“The great vision of the country’s leadership to protect cultural heritage is reflected throughout its institutions, and for me it is very positive and encouraging as I have been passionately associated with heritage protection and preservation,” she said in an interview with the Observer during her recent visit to Salalah.
At a time when heritage around the world is facing challenges from many quarters “Oman has been maintaining the right balance between tourism development and cultural heritage preservation… this is a country of incredible history, incredible natural beauty and amazing people. The people here are proud of ‘who they are’ and their ‘traditional identity’. It is always a great pleasure for me to be here and I am very proud what this wonderful country has been able to accomplish,” Princess Dana said while commenting on Oman’s cultural heritage. Commenting on the challenges the world has been facing in this regard, she called for the critical base on which the Arab world needed to build tourism.
“That should be responsible, sustainable and that should have the ability to protect and preserve cultural heritage… the tourism industry is very strong, it is very resilient and it has an incredible impact on the development of local communities throughout the Arab world.”
The Arab world, according to her, needs to understand why people come here. “People come here looking for authentic Arab culture… People come to our part of the world to enjoy the cultural riches that we have. These cultural riches are intangible in our cultural history, in our monuments, some of which are thousands of years old. This really is the treasure on which we need to build our tourism industry to ensure that we highlight this very unique and very special aspect of the tourism industry.”
She called for being sensitive as well as responsible for this “beautiful industry which takes visitors to the ancient past of the place and its people, the loose ends of which reflect in the monuments and the people’s way of living.”
Since the dynamics of tourism are changing in favour of antiquities, it is important, for her, to redefine cultural heritage on which the tourism industry is built with the elements of “awareness and responsibility to promote and protect cultural heritage.”
Princess Dana cited two-pronged challenges the world has been facing in the preservation of cultural heritage. “One is nature and another is human. Global warming and climate change are posing serious threats to cultural heritage in the Arab and other parts of the world. Mechanism needs to be derived to cope up with this.”
Among human threats are ‘over tourism’ and ‘behaviour of tourists’ that call for ‘effective visitor management’ to protect cultural heritage of a country, region or the world.
She cautioned against one bad trend of ‘deliberate destruction’ of cultural heritage.
“This deliberate attempt destroys the narrative which is based on ties with humanity and thread of history that really unites people of different backgrounds, religions, traditions and way of life together.
“It is truly the fabric of our communities that matters and those who believe in only one perspective, one extreme point of view etc are threat to cultural heritage, as we often see some attempts to erase this unifying human history through deliberate destruction, against which we all have to stand very firm and prevent,” she said.
-Oman Daily Observer