Interviews: Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan

With rapid modernisation taking place, what is being done to safeguard the UAE’s culture?

SHEIKH SULTAN BI ZAYED  AL NAHYAN: In the face of the challenges posed by globalisation and rapid development, the UAE’s government is aiming to establish national identity and culture by preserving and propagating the Arabic language, promoting the culture, traditions and heritage of the UAE, embedding values of religious moderation, and promoting authentic Emirati principles. These goals cannot be achieved without the involvement of the government, civil institutions and community members, who can all contribute to preserving the unique traits of the UAE to serve economic and cultural development. Also, it is important to work in coordination with international organisations concerned with the protection of heritage and culture.

What opportunities are there for the private sector to participate more actively in cultural tourism?

SHEIKH SULTAN: Cultural tourism encompasses events, educational centres, exhibitions, international festivals, museums, libraries, and literature and science prizes, to name a few. The UAE is a regional actor specialising in many aspects of this kind of tourism. Public sector entities cannot be the sole providers of these products and services.

This means that the private sector can play a more active role and bring its know-how and business-oriented approach. Thus, we can witness contributions in culture and museum management, events and exhibitions management, educational tourism promotion, the development and promotion of historical and archaeological sites, and so on. Only through effective public-private partnership can a sustainable tourism strategy be successfully implemented.

What can be done to “Arabise” digital content to preserve culture, especially among young Arabs?

SHEIKH SULTAN: Arabic content on the internet is very limited and remains disappointing in terms of both quantity and quality, despite the fact that internet use in the Arab world is growing faster than anywhere else. However, the internet is not and should not be the only means of cultural education for our young people. Promoting culture among the new generations requires effective educational strategies that encourage cultural exchange, openness and the use of modern technology. Increasing Arabic online content will promote scientific research in Arab countries. This can be partly achieved through a selective Arabisation process that translates useful know-how and brings quality knowledge to our youth. Moreover, we should also seek ways to protect intellectual property rights, as this will encourage Arabic educational and scientific organisations to publish their products and freely share their content with the public.

How is the Culture and Media Centre working with governmental bodies to ensure a collective approach to the development of cultural tourism?

SHEIKH SULTAN: The Centre is mindful of the benefits potential partnerships can generate. These include promoting and coordinating efforts towards the development of a product that advances cultural awareness among the people of the UAE and enhances the country’s identity in the tourism sector.

Each entity has a part to play in the development of cultural tourism, whether in terms of safeguarding and developing the multiple cultural and heritage assets the UAE has to offer, or developing strategies that integrate the cultural component as an essential element in the government’s tourism policy.

For instance, the Centre is very active in promoting events such as conferences, seminars, forums, festivals, fairs and exhibitions that contribute to enriching the cultural offering of Abu Dhabi and UAE. It also endeavours to preserve the country’s literary and cultural heritage through publications – which are also addressed to the foreign reader – with regard to the history, traditions, people and literature of our nation.