UAE’s Faya site gets boost to inscribe on UNESCO World Heritage List

Overview of an area included in the overall nomination of Faya Palaeolandscape, located in the central region of Sharjah, to the UNESCO World Heritage List
Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: The efforts to inscribe Faya Palaeolandscape, located in the central region of Sharjah, to the UNESCO World Heritage List, have received another boost with the naming of an ambassador to represent Sharjah and the UAE before UNESCO and relevant international organisations.

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Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), has been named the ambassador by the Sharjah Archaeology Authority (SAA).

As an ambassador of the Faya Palaeolandscape World Heritage Nomination, Sheikha Bodour will coordinate between local and federal government agencies. This initiative reflects the UAE’s efforts to protect its cultural heritage on the international level. The inscription of sites on the World Heritage List contribute to their preservation and restoration in accordance with the UNESCO’s international standards and helps to highlight these important local destinations to the public.

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Global significance

Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi

Commenting on her appointment Sheikha Bodour said: “I am honored to have been chosen as an ambassador for the World Heritage Nomination of Faya Palaeolandscape, which reflects the rich history of Sharjah as one of the most important Stone Age sites not only in the Arabian Peninsula, but in the world.”

She added: “Faya is home to many archaeological monuments that provide valuable insights into the history of the first human migration, making it a landmark worthy of inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List. I will make every effort to ensure that the site is inscribed on this prestigious international list to preserve, share, and promote our cultural heritage for future generations.”

Sheikha Bodour continued: “The Faya site allows scholars and interested parties to understand early human evolution and adaptation in the Arabian Peninsula desert. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Sharjah Archaeology Authority and the local community for their efforts in preserving our cultural heritage to share with the world.”

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Eisa Yousef, Director-General of Sharjah Archaeology Authority (SAA), commended the nomination of Sheikha Bodour, saying: “The selection of Her Excellency Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi gives great support to the nomination file, especially given her experience in working with international organisations, her academic interest in archaeology and cultural activities, and her keenness to enrich the archaeological studies of Sharjah, preserving and promoting the many ancient monuments that the emirate has to offer.”

About Faya Palaeolandscape

The Faya Palaeolandscape is an outstanding example of a Stone Age desert landscape documenting early modern human occupation of the area from the Early Middle Paleolithic to the Neolithic period, during a time of varying climatic conditions in the Arabian Peninsula.

The archaeological and palaeo-environmental findings within the site represent one of the earliest and most continuous stratigraphic records of human occupation of an erratic desert landscape, with the oldest archaeological layer dating back around 210,000 years. Discoveries from the site record the evolution process from hunter-gatherer groups to pastoral nomadic herders with funeral practices which have allowed for new insights into human adaptation to their inhabited landscapes in extreme climates.

According to scientists, short climatic changes every 20,000 years, made the area fluctuate between an arid desert and a pluvial environment with water gathering in lakes and flowing along the wadi channels. The geomorphological features along Jebel Faya record these processes, helping to uncover the mysteries of this important era in the region’s history.

The extraordinary combination of the availability of water sources, raw material as well as shelters established the Faya Palaeolandscape as one of the earliest inhabited desert landscapes. The Faya Palaeolandscape fills a knowledge gap in the understanding of early human development and adaptation in the desert of the Arabian Peninsula and its habitation even during hyper-arid climatic conditions.

In February 2023, following a series of studies conducted by SAA in collaboration with experts and academic specialists to assess cultural value, global significance, archeological values, historical value, and conservation status of cultural heritage sites in Sharjah, the SAA inscribed four important cultural sites in Sharjah on UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List. The properties listed are Mleiha, Late Pre-Islamic Center of a South-East Arabian Kingdom; The Rock Art of the Emirate of Sharjah; Wadi Al Helo: Testimony of Bronze Age Copper Production; and Faya Palaeolandscape.