In the name of AllahThe Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful
HH Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad bin Sultan Al QasimiCrown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah
becomes precious. Preserving the fragile traces of the past heritage remains essential to cultivating anational identity and to maintaining localised distinctions.Civilisation is much more than simply buildings and basic infrastructure; it includes the rituals,beliefs and historical heritage that are inextricably linked to a place. Proudly, the Emirate of Sharjahhas established itself as a curator of heritage for the United Arab Emirates. Indeed, in 1998 Sharjah was named the ‘Cultural Capital of the Arab World’ by Unesco; an honour richly deserved. Insteadof simply maintaining the past as a dusty story to be told to school children, Sharjah has kept thespirit of its history alive by innovatively incorporating tradition – both Islamic and pre-Islamic– into every aspect of contemporary development. The result is a vibrant, modern emirate thatsimultaneously looks forward to a bright future as it looks back respectfully to its history.The deliberate efforts to preserve and conserve, restore and renovate historic old buildings, haveobviously been appreciated by a global organisation like Unesco. This is a well-earned tribute to thehumanitarian values that underlie the national ethos. There is a quiet pride in this achievement.Even as business grows, the protection and preservation of the past provides a sobering andbalancing counterpart. The architecture of even modern constructions blends with the culture of thepast; there is an Old-World ambience that very few urban cities have maintained.Creative thinking made Sharjah a pioneer in the field of education in the Emirates. It beganback in 1953 when the first properly organised school was established in the old city. This was justthe beginning. With the foresight of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi,Sharjah has become one of the most important learning centres in the Middle East and one only hasto visit the impressive University City to understand the vision that lies behind this achievement.Under the direction of His Highness, the third-largest emirate in the UAE has taken giant stridesin creating a viable infrastructure for business, education and cultural activities. Sharjah is now recognised as the cultural capital of the Arab World as well as the prime commercial hub of theregion. The successful combination of the values of the past with the hi-tech advantages of modernand sophisticated systems has created a special ethos for Sharjah. The emirate is confident andconvinced about achieving even higher goals under the guidance of its highly erudite Ruler, whois also a man of letters, an expert in agricultural matters and a man whose policies encompass apragmatism and a practicality even as they espouse the best developments of the new world.The arts are also given much prominence in Sharjah’s scheme of things. Theatre, music, paintingand sculpture are encouraged, as is literature. A multi-dimensional education system, with a wideand varied network of schools and institutions, has played a pivotal role too in the development of Sharjah. With some exceptionally good educational institutions housed at University City, Sharjah isbecoming one of the most important centres of learning in the region.Sharjah’s rich and varied cultural and commercial achievements have a strong and traditionaldepth to them. There is that gentle juxtaposition of the modern with the medieval and yet it doesnot jar. This accent on maintaining its roots, while enjoying the fruits of technology, is the life motif which truly and commendably distinguishes Sharjah.