June 2002 Newsletter

June 2002 Newsletter


Share your news and discoveries

This newsletter is published free and is circulated to more than 160 members in the Al Ain area. If you are planning an activity please notify the Editor so other members can be involved. Remember everybody is able to contribute to Emirates recordings. For further details of items listed in this newsletter visit our website or join our e-mail discussion group.

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Chairman's Note

by Brien Holmes

As you often hear this time of year, the worst aspect of life as an expat is the fact that so many good and dear friends leave. In the coming weeks, several of our members will be leaving and, on behalf of the Committee and the general membership, I would like to wish them all the very best. We hope they will all stay in touch via email.

Marie Catto has been a vital part of the organization for more years than any of us can count with certainty, as her contributions began before any of the other Committee members. While her late husband Bob was Chairman of the Al Ain chapter, Marie worked tirelessly to put all the pieces together. Whether Secretary, Archivist, Committee member or part-time Chairman, Marie was a key organizer for the Al Ain chapter at a time when, as a result of the leadership she and her husband provided, the Al Ain chapter went through an important period of evolution.

Diane Evans was the first person most of us encountered when we ventured out for our first meeting of the Al Ain chapter. As our Membership Secretary, Diane kept track of everyone and had the incredible patience to work with me as we moved the membership details from index cards and record books to Access databases! She made many improvements to the record keeping system and information collection process.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Melita Kosanovic onto the Committee; Melita has taken-up the vacant post of Environmental Officer. Judy Worthington will succeed Marie Catto as Secretary and I look forward to working with her, and Melita, next season. Have a great summer everybody!

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World Heritage? Al Ain? Well Maybe

by Geoff Sanderson

The principal purpose of UNESCO's World Heritage convention is to protect cultural and natural sites from deterioration, to foster a realisation of the value of such places to the people of the world and to encourage governments to manage such sites in the best possible way.

In the past, sites have been included on the World Heritage list without any surety that governments would provide the level of protection required. The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha by the Taliban is an example of the fragility of some sites of world importance.

Al Qatara Oasis - private house undergoing restoration by Dept of Antiquities

Things have changed however, now the World Heritage Committee will not recommend inscription of sites until there is the confidence that governments have in place national heritage legislation, management skills and commitment to ensure protection. Such commitment would include the training of professional people, the establishment of controls over all government and non-government agencies to prevent them from damaging sites and to encourage a positive climate of support for such protection.

Managing tourism is also a major issue for UNESCO and needs to be a substantial part of any application for inscription. Many of you have visited the pyramids of Egypt and may be pleased to learn that UNESCO is supporting a tourism plan of management that may help to deal with some of the present frustrations and impositions.

We are aware of many of the inscribed sites e.g. Petra, Versailles, Tivoli Gardens, Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Australia's Uluru and Peru's Machu Picchu but there are many more we may not be aware of, some quite modest, but still of value to the world, by nature of the cultural history they represent. Sites such as Zanzibar represent a fusion of African Swahili, Arab and European cultures as well as symbolising an awful part of world history, the slave trade. Merv, the ancient city of Turkmenistan that became wealthy, like Samarkand by nature of its place along the Silk Road; it was also one of the major centres of Alexander the Great's empire. Timbuktu in Mali is a name we all know but few realise it is still largely intact and represents a culture of great learning. Similarly Gondar in Ethiopia, Trinidad in Cuba and Lamu Old Town in Kenya.

So, how does Al Ain fit into this picture?

Recently I was part of a small group that hosted the visit of Dr Anna Paolini to Al Ain. Anna is adviser to the World Heritage Committee for Arab countries and has spent some of her recent years in Jordan and Egypt, no surprises there. Dr Amal Al Qbasi from Al Ain University was instrumental in inviting Anna to Al Ain, based on Amal's confidence that we had something to offer.

The prime site was Jahli Fort but it was clear from the outset, that UNESCO's interests were with the bigger picture of Al Ain's history, both natural and cultural and the contemporary manifestation of that history.

Dr Paolini was very impressed with the collective of oases, forts, mosques, aflaj, farm buildings, accessways and farm walls. She was equally impressed with the quality of restoration work done by the Department of Antiquities and by the quality of Al Ain Museum's presentation of archaeological artefacts and especially impressed by its laboratory functioning. Dr Paolini is not a person to praise without good reason as she is mindful of the many other sites and museums within her area of interest, which I remind you includes Egypt's antiquities and places like Petra.

Al Ain has been encouraged to seek inscription for its collective manifestations of history from earliest known settlement to the present day. Such history would include the world's first falaj system, the use of its comparatively rich alluvial soils and its sources of water. The area has sustained habitation through Bronze Age, Iron Age, to the Islamic era, and the progressive settlement of nomadic Bedu. It would include Bedu culture to the present day. It is unlikely that any other place has as much physical evidence linking all of these periods as well as cultural/agricultural landscapes (oases) still in cultivation with much of its infrastructure intact.

The above may surprise some who take Al Ain for granted, no doubt many of the local community would not realise that it has both a place and a story of value to the world.

Jahili Fort with UNESCO visitors

Al Ain's Economic Development and Tourism Promotion Authority is supporting the preparation of documentation which would include government national heritage legislation, accurate survey of all components of the sites (including Hili, Bida bin Saud, Qatara, Hafeet Tombs), cultural history and proposals for appropriate museums. All are an essential part of application for inscription as a World Heritage site.

Specialised training of young professionals has begun and these people will participate in preparation of a Plan of Management, the prime document that draws together all the many parts of concern to the World Heritage Committee. We are now preparing a strategy that incorporates all of UAE's interested parties; organisations and individuals involved with cultural and natural heritage sites. Sites such as Abu Dhabi's coastal mangroves are of special interest to UNESCO as are the several Neolithic archaeological sites.

Any country (such as UAE) that is a signatory to the World Heritage Convention may be considered, and the convention demands a countrywide unified approach. We must present a Tentative List of sites and support the progressive preparation of applications for these sites wherever they are within UAE. The list becomes the first stage in application to World Heritage Committee for inscription. To facilitate this list, UNESCO recommend holding a national seminar which they are prepared to chair, aimed at defining all possible sites of national heritage value and agreeing on those which may have world wide value.

Following submission of such a list preparation of a Plan of Management can proceed for each of the sites. There is a long way to go but I sense a political and bureaucratic determination that is encouraging and a very supportive attitude at UNESCO. Look forward to more on this topic and entertain yourself by visiting the World Heritage site where you can click on any listed place and it will give you a description of the place and links of interest.

(Pictures by Geoff Sanderson)

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Shutterbug: Spring Photo Competition

The competition got off to a flying start. The 35 entries were mounted to form a gallery that could be perused as you arrived. Voting slips were given out and the audience was encouraged to make one choice each.

The entries were quite varied interpretations on the theme of 'tracks'. There were the anticipated submissions of animal tracks made by: turtles, camels, sand gazelles, foxes, lizards, beetles, flies, and snakes. One entry showed an unusual set of 'mystery' tracks and caused much conjecture over what had made them? It was fun trying to decide which theory to believe from the various experts!

A highly imaginative approach was demonstrated in photographs from Judy Worthington: melting ice cream, the line of floats from a shark net arcing towards the horizon, and a figure-of-8 shot of the road winding up Jebel Hafit. Gillian Humbert (of Abu Dhabi), was more abstract, choosing 'Tracks of Time' and 'Heritage Tracks' as titles for two of her entries. Phil Iddison's work had a cultural heritage flavour and featured rows of man-made stone granaries. Johan Johansen suggested a trail of grass killed by vehicles cutting across the Hilton golf course while Dana Walker showed us a striking composition of skid marks on tarmac entitled "Road Kill? Nope - Bedu Teen Fun". The most novel title for an entry must surely go to Kath Morrison for "Making Whoopeee!" showing a beetle circling and was delightful in its simplicity.

Several people used water as their inspiration. Geraldine Kershaw was complemented on her entry and the technical finesse that she had displayed. Jerry Buzzell's work included an aerial shot of the wash behind a ferry at Mussandam.

Jerry Buzzell, our PhotoSIG Leader, asked the entrants to give some insight into the way that their shot had been set-up, the special techniques they had used and the inspiration for their ideas. This proved to be fascinating and the standard of entries was extremely high.

Jerry suggested the technique probably used by Geoff Sanderson to achieve an embossing effect though the rotation of the picture. Jerry showed how this might be achieved and used a laptop to simulate the process. Geoff was absent, but Jerry commented on his compositions that included triplicate images and had a mischievous air. Geoff had had a lot of fun both with his photos and his captions.

While all the entrants were commenting, the votes were tallied and the following winners were announced, (tie for 2nd & 3rd place):

  1. Theo Hurst: "Storm Clouds Over Fossil Valley"
  2. Dana Walker: "Progress" (taken near Al Ain)
  3. Gillian Humbert: "Sand Tracks" (taken near Fossil Valley)

The remainder of the evening flew by. The format in which everyone was able to participate was successful and contributed to a most entertaining evening.

Winners (left to right) : Theo Hurst, Dana Walker and Gillian Humbert

Picture by Jerry Buzzell

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Archaeology: More on Hili Sandyware

by Fiona Newson Smith

Dr. Sophie Mery of the French archaeology team, CNRS-France, says that the origin of local Hili Sandyware from the ancient Bronze age is an interesting question. She says that her geologists have gathered a lot of samples of clay from around Al Ain but they will not be able to obtain the laboratory results (chemistry, mineralology) until next year - 2003. The lengthy delay is caused by the heavy workload of the Chemists available to her.

The results of the analysis are not necessary for her to be able to explain the point that they have reached with the research. She has kindly offered to supply a short article on this topic for the September (next) newsletter.

Dr. Mery has not managed to find any local potters to help her with the necessary experiments on a potter's wheel, to understand the shaping and finishing techniques of the Late Bronze age pottery. She says that vessels were rarely 'thrown' but usually created by coiling on a primitive wheel.

Dr. Mery would be grateful for any contacts which ENHG members are able to provide. She is particularly keen to speak to people with: Parkistani, Indian, Iranian or 'expatriate' pottery skills. She regrets that the budget of the archaeology mission will not enable her to pay expensive fees but hopes that somebody may be interested in participating.

If you have any relevant information about potters in the area please contact Fiona Newson-Smith and she will relay it to Sophie.

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Bookworm: The Children's Enclyclopaedia of Arabia

by Katrina Bunn

In my view there are 15 reasons to buy this book by Mary Beardwood:

  • Easily affordable (but looks expensive)
  • Available locally
  • Beautifully laid-out
  • Clear
  • Colourful
  • Concise
  • Classic format
  • Informative
  • Encourages further research
  • Child reader friendly
  • Appealing to adults
  • Ideal for home reference
  • Perfect coffee table book
  • Great glossary
  • Good choice for a gift (so good I am going to buy one!)

I have no doubt that a smaller, pocket sized version to take 'out and about' would be a best seller with children and tourists alike. The Children's Enclyclopaedia of Arabia is a recommended purchase. ISBN 1-900988-33-X

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ENHG Window Stickers

Al Ain Chapter window stickers are now available for your car. They cost Dhs 5 each and measure 5 x 4.5 ins. They can be purchased from the Newsletter Editor at regular meetings.

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A Poem by Geraldine Kershaw

Some thoughts by Geraldine Kershaw, expressing the relentless battle we fight with the sand:

Al Ain 6

High dunes circle the town
lowering brick red
at the knife sharp horizon;
or misted to the eye
by dry sand wind
they simmer in distance;
or they vanish, rushing
howling through palms to rattle windows,
cutting the breath,
gagging the town, a screaming noose.

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Membership Survey

If you have not already done so, please take a few minutes to complete one of the Membership Survey Forms. The response has been superb - over 60% already but there are still a few people missing. We are gathering information about your opinions to include in a promotional video to be made about the group. We wish to discover the spread of membership among various special interest groups? which speakers were most popular? and other details, such as, how frequently most members can attend meetings? This will be invaluable when planning future events and the findings will be presented in the forthcoming lecture "ENHG - Who are We?"

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Marmalade Competition

by Judy Worthington

The long awaited NHG, first ever, Marmalade Contest became a reality on the evening of May 28 in conjunction with the Photography Competition.

Seven of our members submitted nine entries, including plain, dark, light, spiced and sour orange marmalades for the competition. It was left to the panel of judges, Diane Evans, Earl Dunn and Lorna Stewart to select the three best marmalades.

Five criteria were used in the judging: color, consistency, texture, taste and overtones. Points up to three were awarded for each criteria, a perfect score being 15 points.

Once the judging was completed and the awards given, everyone was invited to the judging table to taste and evaluate and enjoy for themselves, the entries.

The Officially Judged winners were:

  1. Sour Orange Marmalade: Geoff Sanderson
  2. Jazira Dark: Brien Holmes
  3. Orange and Ginger: Camilla Baba

Congratulations to each of them!

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