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How can social cohesion be strengthened in Yemen through the preservation of cultural heritage?

The decline in social cohesion in #Yemen is both a cause and a consequence of the conflict. Enhancing it through the preservation of cultural heritage can effectively contribute to peace and stability.
رقصة الشبواني في حضرموت، تصوير أيمن تيتي
Al-Shabwani dance in Hadhramaut, photographed by Ayman Titi

Special report

Yemen has a diversified and rich cultural legacy, which has long been a source of pride for Yemenis. However, the conflict in Yemen has harmed many parts of cultural heritage's potential to be sustainable and continue to play vital roles in various areas, including social cohesiveness, which is required for stability and any society's success.

Social cohesion is a sense of interconnectedness and belonging within a community in which people from different backgrounds come together, respect and value each other's differences and diversity, and work toward common goals, and is thus a necessary condition for the stability and development of any community or nation. Cultural legacy encompasses conventions, practices, beliefs, values, traditions, arts, structures, and artifacts passed down through generations. It reflects the identity of society as a whole, a small group, or even individuals, and is crucial in molding their way of life.

In recent years, there has been a growing acknowledgment of the relationship between social cohesion and cultural heritage, and cultural heritage preservation is considered as a potent tool for creating social cohesion across heterogeneous groups. One of the primary advantages of protecting cultural heritage is that it preserves societal variety. People feel more integrated into society when their cultural practices are accepted and acknowledged; this leads to the creation of an atmosphere in which individuals feel a feeling of belonging and pride regardless of their background.

Furthermore, cultural heritage fosters understanding among different segments of society by providing them with the opportunity to learn about, and possibly even share, the cultures of others. When people understand each other's customs, beliefs, and ways of life, they are more accepting and tolerant of others who are different from them.

Intangible cultural heritage, such as performing arts and crafts, is an example of this. We watch how the Dan sessions in Hadramaut bring people from all walks of life together to sing poems about society's diverse political and economic problems in an atmosphere of freedom, tolerance, and joy. For them it is a rare opportunity for learning, awareness, and even problem solving.

Another example is the preservation of traditional building styles; continuing it means

The city of Shibam Hadhramaut, a World Heritage Site.
The city of Shibam Hadhramaut, a World Heritage Site.

continuing to provide livelihoods for craftsmen while also saving energy costs due to traditional construction's ability to provide good heating and cooling during the hot and cold seasons of the year, and thus improving opportunities for economic growth and thus stability.

Cultural heritage preservation is essential for promoting social cohesion because it serves to unify individuals and communities via common history, customs, and values. However, this duty comes with its own set of obstacles that must be recognized and handled in order for conservation efforts to be successful. One of these issues is a lack of resources; many countries and communities, such as Yemen, may lack the funding required to execute proper conservation and protection measures, such as maintaining, restoring, or documenting their cultural sites and artifacts. This might result in the neglect and degradation of these vital components of the community's legacy.

Natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and fires can also inflict substantial harm to cultural structures and artifacts. In rare situations, entire villages or towns with a rich cultural history can be destroyed, making it difficult for future generations to maintain their heritage. Furthermore, the quick rate of urbanization has had a negative impact on cultural heritage preservation; as cities grow and expand, there is an increased desire for modern buildings and infrastructure, which can lead to the loss or change of old structures and landscapes.

Finally, political instability can stymie efforts to protect and safeguard cultural assets. Historical sites can be targeted during times of conflict or war, resulting in permanent damage or loss. Furthermore, some ideologies may disregard the cultural importance of legacy in society.

In Yemen, all of these elements conspired to have a significant negative impact on cultural heritage. Climate change, for example, has an impact on the country's unique historical heritage buildings, such as Shibam Hadhramaut and Zabid, to name a few. The collapse of several traditional craft vocations, such as silversmithing, has also been exacerbated by declining economic conditions, and urban sprawl is causing the decline of clay architecture.

Engaging local communities is one of the most essential techniques for overcoming the issues of cultural heritage preservation and safeguarding. Consultation with community members who have a strong connection to the cultural heritage being protected is required. By including them, vital insights about their customs, beliefs, and practices are gained, and they are even empowered by having a say in decision-making processes.

Another significant barrier to the preservation of cultural heritage is a lack of public knowledge of its worth and significance. As a result, it is critical to educate and increase awareness about the value of preserving common cultural heritage. People can learn how their culture is an important aspect of their identity and how it can be preserved for future generations through awareness programs, workshops, and educational efforts.

Finally, collaboration among diverse stakeholders such as government agencies, NGOs, local organizations, and indigenous communities is critical for effective cultural heritage preservation and safeguarding. Each stakeholder has distinct perspectives, resources, expertise, and experience that can greatly contribute to social cohesion by protecting and safeguarding cultural heritage collectively.

When it comes to building social cohesiveness, the importance of maintaining cultural heritage cannot be stressed. It brings people together via common experiences while also recognizing difference. Investing in Yemen's cultural identity will result in a more peaceful society where everyone feels valued and involved.


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