Mediterranean Heritage Course Review

“Heritage distills the past into icons of identity.” – David Lowenthal

Our Mediterranean identity is inconceivable without our sea, and this was the starting point for today’s course on ‘Mediterranean Cultural Heritage’ that I gave at my place in Cairo.

Following an introduction to the Mediterranean from geographical, historical and cultural perspectives, we discussed the concept of cultural heritage and its typology (tangible and intangible, mobile and immobile), and then proceeded to talk about the Mediterranean Cultural Heritage with a focus on six areas, namely:

  1. Thought, Learning and Spirituality;
  2. Artistic and Literary Expression;
  3. Architecture and Urban Models;
  4. Intangible Heritage Domains;
  5. Industrial and Scientific Heritage;
  6. Documentary Heritage.

Epic poems, masterpieces of art and architecture, unique urban models, traditional crafts, extraordinary monuments, exotic elements of the folklore, cultural landscapes and heritage routes, rare books and illuminated manuscripts; the course covered so many aspects and elements of heritage from all 22 Mediterranean counties and their hinterland.

Logically, special emphasis was given to elements of the Egyptian heritage that appear on different UNESCO Heritage Lists (List of World Heritage Sites, List of Intangible Heritage, and Memory of the World Register). We ended the course with an overview of the main challenges, the key trends and the most heated debates related to cultural heritage in our part of the world.

Below are some slides from the PowerPoint presentation, many thanks to all those who joined and looking forward to the next course.


Intangible Heritage DomainsHeritage TypologyHeritage in Dangerffsw

Chasing Ice: Images of a vanishing world

“You can’t divorce civilization from nature…we totally depend on it.” – James Balog

If seeing is believing, then nothing can make you believe in climate change as profoundly as James Balog’s stunning 2012 documentary: “Chasing Ice”, which we watched and discussed yesterday. The documentary, in addition to shedding light on climate change, offers rare glimpses into vanishing landscapes and frozen worlds that were lost forever.

The damage is irreversible, the evidence is overwhelming, and the film is epic (it won the 2014 News and Documentary Emmy® award for Outstanding Nature Programming). Balog, a National Geographic photographer and photojournalist famous for his work on wildlife, was skeptical about climate change.

Things took an unexpected turn in 2005. Here is the story from the official website:

“In the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.

Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey.

With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time- lapse cameras   across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.

As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Balog finds himself at the end of his tether. Battling untested technology in sub-zero conditions, he comes face to face with his own mortality. It takes years for Balog to see the fruits of his labor. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at   a breathtaking rate.

Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet.”

The documentary leaves you overwhelmed by the power of the images and the clarity of the evidence on climate change. It also leaves you with mixed feelings: frustration due to the lack of global action on climate change; fear regarding the impending disaster; a sense of guilt for not doing enough to stop it; and a desire to learn more about this and many other pressing issues of our time.