A LEGACY LIKE NO OTHER

Abu Dhabi 2019 | CULTURE & TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) Abu Dhabi, on the role of innovation, the late Sheikh Zayed's cultural vision, and strengthening cultural engagement among youth.

 Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak
BIOGRAPHY
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, a member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, is Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, which oversees the conservation and promotion of Abu Dhabi’s heritage and culture. In 2016, Al Mubarak was additionally appointed Chairman of the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), master developer of major tourism, cultural, and residential destinations in Abu Dhabi. He is also Chairman of Miral Asset Management, an organization responsible for creating and managing destinations in Abu Dhabi. He is a graduate of Northeastern University with a double major in economics and political science.

What is the key to ensuring Abu Dhabi maintains its connection to the past while leading the way in the development of innovative landmarks and assets?

This is a matter of maintaining balance; Abu Dhabi is fortunate to have a rich cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. A core mission of DCT Abu Dhabi is to preserve, promote, and protect heritage sites that embody the compelling history of our country and the region. This will give future generations an awareness of our identity and ensure our heritage is conserved. To illustrate that balance in a practical way, in recent years, DCT has overseen the rejuvenation and restoration of several of the Emirate's ancient cultural sites. The oldest structure in the city of Abu Dhabi, Qasr Al Hosn, will open by the end of 2018 after an extensive process of renovation that seeks to both preserve its rich historic value and transform the site into a technologically advanced tourism and cultural destination. As an example of the overlay in innovation, we are investing in augmented reality technology at Qasr Al Hosn, which will provide users with unique experiences and additional information about the site's physical structure and historic artifacts. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the capital's most impressive structures, has also been praised for its incorporation of innovative technology. Additionally, the 2017 opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi was complemented by an array of innovative features that showcase exhibits and enhance educational learning.

What is the significance of the Year of Zayed for the cultural ecosystem of Abu Dhabi?

Our efforts to develop all facets of the cultural ecosystem of Abu Dhabi is a direct result of the late Sheikh Zayed's cultural vision for the nation. He set in motion a plan for the preservation of priceless heritage sites, a goal that we are still fulfilling today. The development of archaeology in the UAE can be traced back to Sheikh Zayed, who understood the importance of unearthing the UAE's unique and interesting past. His encouragement led to the advancement of archaeology in the UAE. As a result, numerous discoveries have now been uncovered, including evidence of human settlement in the country 125,000 years ago. The Year of Zayed is an opportunity to mark and celebrate the massive influence of Sheikh Zayed, in particular his advocacy of our culture. It is a reminder of his noble actions, especially on the centenary of his birth. This influence led to the foundation of a UAE based on the values of unity, solidarity, and tolerance, which in turn paved the way for its prosperity and development.

How can Abu Dhabi further strengthen cultural engagement among youth, and what role can technology play in this sense?

The events organized by DCT Abu Dhabi across the entire calendar year are carefully planned to appeal to the widest possible demographic; consequently, we always look to ensure that the majority of events or initiatives also have dedicated sections aimed at engaging our younger generations. Events such as the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and the Mother of the Nation Festival have associated initiatives designed to appeal to a younger audience. There is a strong focus on reinforcing a sense of community, which coincides with boosting cultural awareness and a respect for heritage. Manarat Al Saadiyat, as a facility, and some of the cultural events in Al Ain within the Al Ain Cultural program, are examples of our attempts to specifically target and improve cultural engagement for young people. Moreover, one of the key features of effective communication and education for the youth consists of the correct use of technology. Our existing and future museums are designed to create a receptive environment, allowing for further interactivity and engagement. This is an area that we will continuously develop to ensure that the experiences on offer to a younger generation remain ahead of the curve.