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A Window into Heritage 40

Prof. Mashary bin Abdullah Al-Naim

The National Built Heritage Forum has ended and we are now reviewing the achievements and shortcomings of the forum. One highlight of the event was the dramatic change in social awareness towards built heritage; the high turnout of attendees at all forum events and workshops was unprecedented. I remember all my colleagues expressing their concern about the timing of the forum being immediately after Hajj break. Some thought there would be a “disaster” of some sort given everyone would be on holiday and there would not be any time to complete tasks regarding the exhibition, lecture halls, and other basic services offered at the forum. Others were concerned that the public would not be ready for the event given their recent return from their holiday break, or that some may have not even yet returned. It is common for universities to witness a high absentee rate for students after breaks (which I found peculiar since students should only enjoy determined time off and not add more days from the academic year. This is however an educational issue not to be discussed here).  I, however, was more optimistic. I don’t know why exactly, but I watched my colleagues from SCTA hard at work and was elated by their efforts. I was positive that their work would be satisfying and fruitful. I followed their online exchanges and would rarely comment, only when I thought it necessary to intervene, because I trusted their ability to solve issues. That is exactly what happened; everything went as planned. The first day was a full house; the grand lecture hall at King Faisal Convention Center at King Abdul-Aziz University was filled to the max. About 2500 students, both male and female, attended the discussion held with HRH President of SCTA. That day was great down to the last detail. That night, the Hilton Hall was also filled to its max for the opening ceremony; people standing outnumbered those sitting. Again, attendees were both male and female. Even then, people thought that opening night would mark the end of the massive attendance. But everyone’s surprise, lecture halls were full during most of the two-day sessions. During one of the sessions, we had to wait for an attendee to stand so we could sit a guest in their place. A critical event was the one at the Red Sea Center, where the interactive Exhibition was held. The spectacle was nothing short of amazing, I stood over young boys and girls and watched as they drew pictures of our built heritage in an open space overhearing comments, perceptions, and whispers. This is the generation we seek to preserve our built heritage in the future. It was a sight for sore eyes and made every effort made by SCTA well worth it…
To be continued …