The nomination is based on Sharjah’s historical significance in establishing the conditions for safety in international trade and transport along the Gulf. Sharjah is situated in the north-eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, on the southern coast of the Arabian Gulf, along one of the oldest international maritime routes. The region is particularly important for its east-west cultural historical connections.
The earliest human habitat in the region (Jebel Faya) dates from 125,000 years ago, at the time when Homo Sapiens started moving from Africa to the Eurasian continent. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the political situation in the region was complex, involving a variety of actors: the Saudi, the Omani, the Persians, as well as various European Governments, particularly the Portuguese, French and British. The principal qualities of the property are associated with events and ideas that led to the formation and development of the Trucial States.
The different components of the serial nomination bear testimony to the region’s developments in the 19th and 20th centuries, i.e. the Trucial State period. From the 1720s, the Qawasim family emerged as an important factor in the development of the region. They ruled over the Musandam peninsula, as well as over a part of the Persian coast, thus establishing a functional connection across the Strait of Hormuz, important for international trade connections between east and west.
Towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, the political situation of the Oman rulers with the French and British forces became increasingly complex. The Qawasim, acting in opposition, were accused of piracy. This led to attacks by the British-Indian fleets on the Qawasim properties in 1809 and 1819. Consequently, a truce signed in 1820, joined by other Sheikhs of the region, established the basis for the consolidation of the maritime peace in the Gulf and formed the nucleus for the Trucial States. Through this period, the British presence in the Gulf guaranteed an arbitrator, which encouraged the local sheikhs to avoid conflicts. It was, however, necessary to complement the initial truce with further treaties, especially the Perpetual Treaty of Maritime Peace of 1853. At that time, the Trucial States were merged as a political entity, where the territory ruled by the Qawasim became the most prominent in its economic and commercial developments. Its fleets were rebuilt and increased, and the destroyed towns of Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Lengeh were reconstructed.
Sharjah enjoyed greater development by integrating within the cultural territory that offered the necessary resources and sustenance. Throughout this territory, there were traditional systems of communication and caravan routes, provided with protection by forts and watchtowers. After the Second World War, the British also established a group of levies, the Oman Trucial Scouts, to contribute to maintaining peace on land.
The 20th century was marked by the introduction of modernity in its different forms, including an international civil airport in Sharjah in 1932 and the exploration of oil, which led to further development and strengthening of the international status of the region. In addition, modern health and social facilities, such as schools and telecommunication systems, were built. In the 1950s, the Trucial States were identified with administrative boundaries. In the 1960s, the British urban planners were invited to assist in planning the growing development of Sharjah city. This was the beginning of a new era, which has also revived interest in cultural heritage and its preservation.
The principal qualities of Sharjah, the Gateway to Trucial States, are associated with events and ideas that led to the formation and development of the Trucial States. Sharjah has experienced an important interchange of influences resulting in a major urban and technological development, while at the same time maintaining its cultural continuity. Together the different elements of the serial nomination bear testimony to the developments in the 19th and 20th centuries, i.e. the Trucial State period. The serial nomination of Sharjah, the Gateway to the Trucial States consists of the following components:
Criterion (vi): Sharjah, the capital of the ruling family of Qawasim, was directly associated with the events and ideas in the 18th and 19th centuries, becoming a Gateway to the establishment and development of the Trucial States in the Gulf region. The outstanding universal significance of this new political system, the Trucial States, is in guaranteeing peace and safety of the Gulf trade route, one of the most important international maritime systems of communication since antiquity. The establishment of the Trucial States and consequent pacification of the region also contributed to the exceptional development of Sharjah and its territory, which was the leader in this region in the 19th century. Again, in the early 20th century, Sharjah was the first to introduce various modern institutions, such as health and education, as well as accepting to establish the civil airport in this region as part of the Europe-India air route. Consequently, Sharjah became the Gateway and a hub in combining trade and transport on land, sea and air, within a peaceful development of the region.
Criterion (ii): exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design; Sharjah, the Gateway to the Trucial States represents the result of international cooperation aiming at a peaceful and harmonious interaction between different cultures and protagonists in the Gulf Region. As the leading gateway to the Trucial States, Sharjah exhibits an important interchange of influences and values resulting in a major urban and technological development, while at the same time maintaining its cultural continuity. It was instrumental for first introducing into the region different aspects of modernity in technology, systems of communication and education, including the first airport in the region for traffic between Europe and India. At the same time, Sharjah developed several cultural and educational institutions for the continuation and flourishing of Arab culture in the modern world.
Criterion (iii): bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
The serial nomination of Sharjah, the Gateway to the Trucial States bears unique and also exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions and developments that from the 18th and early 19th centuries led to the formation of the Trucial States, and their further development in the 19th and 20th centuries as one of the foremost examples of continuing of traditions and introduction of modernity in the world. The selected components of the serial nomination include the fundamental elements that represent the traditional economy in its development from the 19th to the 20th centuries. These elements include the seaports of the Heart of Sharjah and Al Khan, one dealing with the maritime trade and the other with local pearling and fishing. The port of Khorfakkan, instead represents the connection with the Oman Gulf and the Indian Ocean. These ports, which guaranteed the contacts with the sea, pearling, fishing, and maritime traffic, were linked through caravans to the mountain region, which provided the possibility for agriculture, particularly date palms, and cattle. Sharjah also offered temporary shelters for Bedouins and tribes engaged in transhumance. This relatively large territory was based on an integrated economic system, where all the parts sustained each other. The region was not without conflicts, even up to the 20th century. Consequently, the Qawasim cultural territory was protected by a system of defence, which included watch towers and forts, as well as fortified city walls of Sharjah. On land, traditional economy depended on the existence of oases, such as Al Dhaid and other water sources, providing irrigation for palm groves and water for villages in the mountain areas, such as Wadi Al Helu.
Sharjah, the Gateway to Trucial States consists of a serial property, where each component represents an essential aspect contributing to the identification of its Outstanding Universal Value. The nomination is fundamentally of archaeological character, consisting of remains and historic structures that bear testimony to the developments during the 19th and first half of the 20th century.
The nominated property is fundamentally of historical-archaeological character. It consists of several archaeological areas, including the Heart of Sharjah, the remains of the Al Khan pearling-fishing village, the ancient fort of Khorfakkan, the remains of 19th-century villages in Wadi Al Helo, the watch tower and fort site of Fili, as well as the fort located in the oasis of Al Dhaid. In these sites the material authenticity has been given special consideration in deciding about the delimitation of the nominated areas. Any reconstruction and new buildings have been strictly limited.
The main qualities of Sharjah, the Gateway to the Trucial States, are associated with events and ideas that led to the formation and development of the Trucial States (criterion vi). Sharjah has experienced an important interchange of influences resulting in major urban and technological development while maintaining its cultural continuity (criterion ii). Together, the essential elements of the serial nomination bear testimony to the developments in the 19th and 20th centuries, i.e. the Trucial State period. Consequently, the serial nomination of Sharjah, the Gateway to the Trucial States, consists of the following components:
Heart of Sharjah: is the central area of the historic town of Sharjah and the capital of the territory ruled by the Qawasim sheikhs from 1813 onwards. It forms the principal transition between the maritime activities and land-bound economy. There are many preserved historic buildings, including a large part of the historic souq area, as well as rulers’ residences. These include the fort of Al Hisn, originally built at the beginning of the 19th century, but demolished in 1969, and rebuilt in 1996 as a symbol of new attention to the historic inheritance of Sharjah.
Al Mahatta Airport: was established in 1932 and linked the territory of Sharjah with one of the first intercontinental air routes, i.e. between Britain and India.
Al Mirgab Military Camp: was the headquarters of the Oman Trucial Scouts, established in 1951 by the British authorities in agreement with the Government of Sharjah to survey safety and security in the territory of Sharjah.
Al Dhaid Oasis: is the most important example of a naturally protected agricultural land, surrounded by mountains and including numerous wells and falaj systems. It was a military base and a crossroads of land routes, but it was also a town where people from other emirates could pass by or own farms.
Fili Watchtower: was part of the defence system along the caravan route from Al Dhaid to Al Ain and Buraimi Oasis, from west to east, protecting the links to the stone mountain tracks. The visual continuity from the tower to its surroundings was needed for monitoring the progress of caravans as well as identifying any potential raiders.
Wadi Al Helo: is a significant example of a naturally protected agricultural valley within mountains. It is reached through a riverbed or valley, along the caravan route, with watchtowers located at the entrance of the valley to protect from raiders. It was a safe territory, allowing people to work in agriculture and export their products to coastal areas.
Khorfakkan Fort: protected the harbour on the Oman Gulf side of the Qawasim territory. It is significant for the complex historical records that shed light on the evolution of fort architecture from the 14th until the 20th century. It provides a critical reference to explore the typologies of fortifications and how they evolved to what is commonly known as the United Arab Emirates’ historical forts and architecture.