AL AIN, H.H. Sheikh Tahnoun bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Ruler’s Representative in Al Ain Region, and H.H. Sheikh Suroor bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, have inaugurated Al Ain’s newly restored historic home, Bait Mohammed bin Khalifa, which will open to the public as a cultural community centre.
The historic house was built in 1958 for the late Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan (1909-1979), the father-in-law of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates. Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa was the grandfather of the current President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the father of H.H. Sheikh Tahnoun and H.H. Sheikh Suroor.
As the elder of the Al Nahyan family, the late Sheikh Mohammed was a discreet yet influential historical figure who was associated with key events in the history of Abu Dhabi and the UAE. He played an important advisory and mediating role, supporting Sheikh Shakhbout bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He was a central figure in Al Ain society and his house was at the heart of community gatherings. As an essential element to a culturally and historically rich neighbourhood, the house embodies a sense of place and the community’s sense of identity.
The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT) has led the restoration of Bait Mohamed bin Khalifa, which is a rare example of a lifestyle and architecture typical of the Transition period – a short yet pivotal era in the history of Abu Dhabi, corresponding to the adaptation of the local traditional way of life to socio-cultural and economic changes prompted by the discovery of oil in the emirate in the 1950s. The house embodies the trends of this period through the hybridisation of traditional and modern architectural typologies to suit a changing lifestyle.
A core component of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Cultural Sites of Al Ain, Bait Mohammed bin Khalifa provides insight into the changing social, architectural and urban transformation of Al Ain during the transition to modernity and is a key component of the World Heritage Site’s narrative.
The opening of Bait Mohammed bin Khalifa follows an extensive and complex conservation programme that sought to strike a balance between preserving its tangible and intangible significant values and adapting the site to create a vibrant venue for the community. The house was repaired, restored, and rehabilitated while respecting the key features of Transition Period architecture.
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “The inauguration of the restored Bait Mohammed Bin Khalifa is an important cultural milestone for Al Ain, one of our nation’s oldest communities, and for the UAE as a whole, given the historic and architectural importance of this unique property. Its transformation also marks another step in DCT Abu Dhabi’s journey to reinvigorate the emirate’s past for a new era, providing the community with a modern space catering to the needs of all segments of the population. Preservation of our shared heritage is essential to our mission as an organisation, ensuring that our traditions and legacies maintain their relevance and are passed on to future generations.”
In addition to the restoration, a partnership agreement was signed between Bait Mohammed bin Khalifa and the Al Ain Theatre that will contribute to Al Ain’s cultural scene, providing cultural learning opportunities for the community. With this partnership, the Al Ain Theatre will establish premises at Bait Mohammed bin Khalifa, acting as a permanent home for artistic and cultural activity where festivals, courses and workshops will take place.
Saood Al Hosani, Undersecretary at DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “Al Ain is the guardian of our rich history, and the launch of Bait Mohammed bin Khalifa adds yet another jewel to its crown. The city has evolved significantly over the past decades, and the House’s new role as a community centre has revived its purpose, allowing for its stories, and those of the surrounding city, to be heard and appreciated through active community engagement and a memorable visitor experience.”
In its first months of operation Bait Mohammed bin Khalifa will offer a diverse programme of events including evening concerts, heritage festivals and lectures, all free of charge to the public. All are encouraged to visit and enjoy the House’s many offerings, and to consider it a new home for creative expression and community events in Al Ain.
Source: Emirates News Agency