In recognition of the strenuous efforts achieved by the kingdom of Bahrain in developing the infrastructure to support heritage conservation and sustainable tourism, the New York-based World Monuments Fund (WMF) has chosen Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa as winner of the 2015 Watch Award on Wednesday, October 21, 2015.
Bahrain Authority for Culture & Antiquities (BACA) president Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa has become the first Arab personality to win the Watch Award. The honor also included Her Majesty Queen Sofia, the 2015 Hadrian Award honoree. These Hadrian Gala honorees join a distinguished group of awardees, all international leaders who have advanced the understanding, appreciation, and preservation of the world’s art and architecture. Bonnie Burnham, president of World Monuments Fund, said: “Queen Sofía and Shaikha Mai are both passionate advocates of cultural preservation in their countries. WMF is thrilled to honor them and their achievements on the occasion of our 50th anniversary.”
Her Excellency Shaikha Mai noted that this honor sends a clear message to the entire world as many Arab citizens dedicate themselves to preserving the cultural and historical heritage during this challenging period in time in the Arab world. The Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage in Manama, for example, underlines our awareness and pride of our collective human heritage and our commitment to presenting it in the best way possible.
Speaking on this occasion, H.E Shaikha Mai extended thanks to World Monuments Fund (WMF) while hailing its dedicated efforts in preserving historic architecture and cultural heritage sites around the world for future generations.
Her Excellency Shaikha Mai dedicated this honor to all supporters of culture from both the public and private sector, noting the valuable guidance and support extended by the kingdom's leadership headed by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, who has long been a strong proponent of investing in culture as a means to build a brighter future and guarantee the integrity of the kingdom's rich heritage and history.
Her Excellency also praised the World Monuments Fund as a leading influential force in the preservation of human history and iconic historical monuments over the past half-century, and wished it more success over the next 50 years.
Shaikha Mai, president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, received the Watch Award 2015 honor in recognition of the singular role she has played in the preservation and protection of world heritage, particularly traditional Bahraini culture and heritage, including as founder and president of the Sheikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Center for Culture and Research. She launched the nation-wide ‘Invest in Culture’ initiative, building an unprecedented partnership between the private and public sectors for heritage preservation, leading to the establishment of the Bahrain Fort Site Museum and the Bahrain National Theatre—key cultural tourism attractions. In addition, Her Excellency champions youth capacity building programs in the fields of heritage and culture development, and has established ‘Taa’ Al Shabab’, a Bahraini youth forum for emerging talent in which cultural dialogue is cultivated. Through her examples as historian, scholar, and activist, Her Excellency is also a symbol of empowerment for women.
With regard to cultural infrastructure projects in Bahrain, H.E pointed out that there are many projects being carried out through a partnership between the private and the public sectors, such as Bahrain National Theater opened in November 2012 under the patronage of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa. In 2008, Qal'at al Bahrain archaeological site (Bahrain Fort), which is an ancient harbor and capital of Dilmun, was Bahrain’s first site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2005. It was sponsored by Arcapita Investment Bank and designed by the Danish architecture firm Wohlert Architecter. In addition there are other important sites and cultural venues, which contribute to the enrichment of the cultural and tourist projects in the country and raise individual awareness about preservation.
Her Majesty Queen Sofía received the Hadrian Award in recognition of her generous and tireless efforts in promoting awareness and understanding of the cultural heritage of Spain and for motivating others to action through her ongoing support and advocacy of Spanish patrimony, including as Honorary Patron of Hispania Nostra and through the Reina Sofia International Award for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage that recognizes and encourages innovation in the field and contributes to the revitalization of cultural identity in Ibero-American communities.
Since 1988 the World Monuments Fund has awarded distinguished individuals for their accomplishments and leadership on behalf of heritage preservation with the Hadrian Award and the Watch Award at a gala evening. Since the first list was compiled in 1996 this program has drawn international attention to cultural heritage sites around the world threatened by neglect, vandalism, armed conflict, commercial development, natural disasters, and climate change.
Through the World Monuments Watch, WMF fosters community support for the protection of endangered sites, and attracts technical and financial support for the sites. In October, 2011, WMF inaugurated its annual Watch Award to recognize an individual preservation activist who was advancing the work of the World Monuments Fund. The World Monuments Fund is a private, international, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic architecture and cultural heritage sites around the world through fieldwork, advocacy, grant making, education, and training. Founded in 1965, WMF is headquartered in New York, and has offices and affiliates around the world.