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Maritime heritage includes all the activities carried out in the sea. Besides the shipwrecks found in the waters, it also encompasses the archival documents and oral histories. It can be underwater or over it, and it is critical for its preservation. The United Arab Emirates has a vast history of maritime heritage dating all the way back to 7,000 years ago when it was in actual trades.
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The sea was the lifeline of the region due to fishing, pearling, and boat making. This means that the region is rich in maritime heritage that needs to be passed to the generations to come, and this can only be possible if the current generation is in a position to see its value and thus work tirelessly towards its preservation. Efforts have been made but they are not adequate to salvage all the aspects, the heritage might end up being disregarded and thus lost along the way without proper documentation. This essay aims to discuss the types of maritime heritage in the UAE, the marine that is under threat, and the most important to preserve as well as the recommendations for future researches, education, and preservation.
Types of Maritime Heritage in the UAE
There are different categories of maritime heritage, and in this work three main types of maritime heritage will be discussed. These are the oral culture, underwater cultural heritage, and archaeological heritage. The United Arab Emirates is a commercial hub for a long time must be endowed with the three types of maritime heritage, and if persevered well, it may add to its huge tourist attraction destination. The underwater cultural heritage encompasses all activities carried out around the waters. The oral culture is the undocumented narration of the history of the maritime heritage while the maritime archaeological heritage is the excavation of the wrecks and other materials that have existed for a long time and can still be found in the sea area.
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The Underwater Cultural Heritage
The underwater cultural heritage includes all human activities carried out in the sea environment primarily found on the seafloor. This type of maritime heritage provides valuable developmental information on different stages of industrial development. It is crucial to note that traditional society is taken to be the early stages of industrial development and thus, the chronological order of presiding events is vital for an understanding of the transition that has occurred. For instance, the heritage beneath is informed of the ships and the cargo mostly lost due to accidentals, deliberate or natural causes where each one of them has a story that is invaluable and unique and offers specific knowledge of a particular period. The three sets of sea use that yield underwater cultural heritage include transport and communication. It is evident that the waters are used as a mode of transportation and the military utilizes it in times of war. Secondly, despite the aquaculture and fisheries, people have also made the sea a dumpsite where lots of waste are disposed of, thus polluting the maritime environment. Then there is the leisure and educational use of the naval which allows people to have fun and carry out researches.
The Oral Heritage
The oral heritage is the oral historical information that helps in the interpretation of what happened in the past. Unlike the inanimate display, it helps the visitors to feel a human experience. It is the use of sound that helps in the interconnection of the objects, events, and periods. For instance, sometimes it is very hard to acknowledge the transformation of a particular place or object. For example, the development of the island of Dalma into Abu Dhabi over many years would not be easily understood without a word of mouth. In this regard, it is the central premise as to why the UAE has invested so much in the museums that house the significant sources of information for the visitors with an interest in the maritime heritage of the region.
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Pearl Museum is where the history of Sultan Al Owais donations of pearls is preserved with numerous informants that offer explanations to the collections. Dubai Heritage sites were created to offer on one narration of activities that took place in the past such as sea diving. To emphasize the importance of oral heritage, the government has invested heavily in numerous museums where people can access relevant information from the many informants located in these museums. The explanation of the past events integrated with the visual of the object in question brings a personal connection with the event in spite of one being years past its occurrence.
The Archaeological Heritage
The archaeological heritage includes all the objects or materials retrieved beneath the ground in the sea environment. These are things that the people around the area used and can be of vital importance as to the way of lifestyle of those people in the past. These objects may have been buried into the ground either by a disaster caused by the oceanic conditions or as a way of storage, thus the object was never retrieved. It can also happen that the object was left deliberately on the surface and got covered with the coastal sand over the years. For instance, the archaeologically discovered ship on the Maritime Silk Route in the late 1990s offered a greater source of knowledge that became useful at the time of discovery. The ship inspired the government of Oman and Singapore to form collaboration for the construction of a vessel based on Belitung wreck remains.
The Belitung wreck remains an insight onto the UAE traditional vessel construction techniques. It felt as pride for the ship to be reconstructed again as the government of Oman expected nothing but completion of the project. From the wreck material it was discovered where the builders could have sourced the materials such as Afzelia Africana timber that show that the makers could have traveled all the way to Ghana where the wood was most likely to be found. There is also a probability that the wooden parts were prepared where the trees were fallen since they were too heavy to transport. As the working team explored the vessel of the time, a lot of information was discovered concerning the way in which the traditional society lived as well as the possible tools they had.
Types of Maritime Under Threat
With the advancement in technology and modernization, maritime heritage has been facing different kinds of threats. The main types of maritime heritage under threat are the sea wildlife and vegetation. The two are very crucial and necessary for sea survival, and their excessive exploitation or neglect may result in the catastrophic shortage of the maritime cultural continuity of the UAE society. Both types of maritime heritage are dependent on each other, and it would be unfortunate if their deterioration will be encouraged.
These are the fisheries, sea animals, and all the other organisms found in the sea. With the increased human activities in the waters, the sea wildlife has faced threats from the human invasion. The increase in population has resulted in massive fishing preventing the sea animals from breeding.
The UAE coastal area has witnessed excessive indiscriminate fishing that may make the region experience extinction of some varieties of the sea animals. Another factor that has posed a threat to the maritime heritage regarding sea wildlife is the pollution that has caused the death of the marine life. Humans have made the sea a dumpsite and the seawater gets contaminated. On the other hand, the atmosphere pollution and its consequences affected the survival of sea animals. The situation is dangerous and came to the attention of the UAE authorities who prioritized the agenda but still more needs to be done to help in the enforcement of sustainable and fair use and survival of nature.
The coastal vegetation of the UAE is rich in the maritime cultural heritage, but with time, there will be little or no tangible plant cover to show to the future generation. The human encroachment and reclaiming of the sea have been the major erosion of the valuable coastal vegetation. Even the mangrove forests that initially decorated the Arabian Gulf coast are now scarce and declining with the new projects being developed. The islands were reclaimed and turned into private properties. Most of the developments in the area are for recreational activities at the expense of numerous seabirds that breed on these islands. Other human activities that have led to the clearance of the vegetation include the excessive use of fodder and charcoal. The mangrove vegetation is crucial for the life cycle of many kinds of sea animals besides being an excellent nesting and breeding place for birds such as the waterfowls. The change in climate has resulted in the death of almost 90% of the coral in the Arabian Gulf in summer due to the human activities that have led to the alteration of the climate.
Type of the Maritime with Most Importance of Preservation
There is no doubt that the national heritage of any nation is important and therefore needs preservation of every aspect that adds to the national pride. In this case, therefore, the UAE cannot afford to lose the wildlife aspect of the maritime heritage, and this forms one of the crucial components that need to be preserved. Humans will grow in population and will be compelled to invade the coastal areas, but measures have to be put in place to ensure that the wildlife is taken care of, and humans denied any freedom is encouraging its deterioration. The main reason for proposing the conservation of wildlife is its high vulnerability. The pollution of the water results in secondary poisoning of sea wildlife, and this makes the animals more vulnerable since the extent of the infection can cover large areas leading to wiping off a whole species. Also, sea animals are an immediate source of food and tourist attraction, therefore helping in both the health and economic wellbeing of the nation.
Advice to future research is that a gap in knowledge needs to be filled in which, the best way of ensuring sustainability requires to be attained. This is because humankind has failed to achieve consumption and preservation balance and thus this has resulted in the maritime heritage preservation crisis. To the issue of conservation, it would be crucial for the government to come up with legislation that protects the marine heritage and control its use. This action will ensure that only the mature sea animals will be harvested while the young ones left to develop. Also, the vegetation will not be cleared in the protected areas, and this will as well guard the natural habitats where the animals come to breed. In the education sector, it would be advisable that the government and other environmental organizations sensitize the UAE population on the importance of taking care of maritime heritage. It should also be a subject in the school curriculum so that the young generation will grow with the knowledge of the problem and therefore develop solutions.
Conclusively, the UAE is rich in the maritime heritage that has made it a one-stop tourist destination. The archaeological, oral, and underwater cultural heritage has made the nation pride itself as one of the rich regarding maritime heritage in the world. However, as it is evident, these resources are under threat, and it requires intervention for their survival and continuity. For instance, waste pollution has contaminated the waters making the marine animals die of poison. Human encroachment has also narrowed the coastline clearing the vegetation cover in the process. The issue leads to the loss of breeding grounds for the seabird, and if nothing is done, the future of marine life may become a piece of history. In this regard, there is a need to come up with measures that will help in controlling marine activities so that these resources can be used in a sustainable manner.
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