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A Window into Heritage 150

HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

During our preparations to hold the Second Urban Heritage Forum, scheduled for the end of this year in the Eastern Province, we have set for ourselves an important goal; to adopt a collective culture to "appreciate urban heritage" which works to preserve and develop urban heritage, and even contribute to its investment. We have come to the conviction that this notion must originate from the sense of social responsibility and be voluntary work where its strength and continuity is derived from people’s conviction as opposed to it being imposed on them, or else it becomes a "temporary courtesy" for a "temporal event". Even though achieving this goal is not easy, and speaking from personal experience with urban heritage, which began a quarter of a century ago, I have come across stiff resistance by many individuals and institutions, even academic institutions, because of misconceptions of urban heritage and the perception by many that it carries with it a burden and its maintenance is a waste of time, money and effort and simply fruitless. This view was formed in a period during which our country experienced development in leaps and bounds and has continued in some people to this day. Changing this mindset and building a generation that believes in the cultural value of heritage, appreciates its significance in the formation of national identity, is aware of the economic value and potential for urban heritage sites to become unique tourist attractions and create unlimited job opportunities, is one transformation considered by many to be a “mission impossible", but was nevertheless taken on by SCTA during the past ten years, it has been the biggest of challenges and we are, today, reaping the fruits of success, and now truly realize that we are on the right track.

Before launching the second forum, we have formed this year, the first group of Urban Heritage Friends in Jeddah. This group has commenced work and its members are of the community, those interested in urban heritage, devoted to Old Jeddah, and are willing to volunteer to preserve this important part of our nation’s history. Urban Heritage Friends aims to build a social network where its primary concern is to build a positive culture towards urban heritage and building a sense of responsibility within each citizen instilling in them that the preservation of historic sites is the preservation of personal, family and national history. I have come to a final conviction that without building this social network and supporting it morally and facilitating its tasks, many young people will come out from behind the means of social communication to actual communication and make a real and direct connection that will in turn benefit them and their country and preserve historical riches, hence opening doors for employment and development of their country and increases the economic, political and cultural impact. We expect to launch a number of groups for Urban Heritage Friends in a number of provinces and regions in the Kingdom this year and celebrate these groups at the next Urban Heritage Forum.