'Tourath': The Arabic word for heritage comes from inheritance

It is important for younger generations to preserve their tourath

Tourath means heritage, and is an important word across the region
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World Heritage Day was marked this week, reminding global citizens to cherish important sites that can link us to moments in history and symbolise key elements of our culture.

Heritage is a word with a long history and a deep meaning. The English word as we know it is derived from an old French word, heriter, meaning to inherit. Before that, heriter came from the Latin word hereditatem, meaning to be an heir.

The etymology of the English word shows that it’s used to describe things, practices and places that have been passed on through generations. Heritage, therefore, is a form of inheritance – something left behind by older generations to newer ones.

The Arabic word for heritage is tourath, which comes from erth, meaning legacy. Tourath is a significant word, as it denotes all the different aspects of what is inherited, which could range from the cultural to the linguistic or even the sartorial.

Tourath is a noun, often used with an adjective to specify the different types of heritage, such as tourath al aabaa'a (ancestral heritage) or tourath al she’er (heritage of poetry). In the UAE, the word is often seen during Union Day as a reminder of the country's origins, a time to appreciate what generations left behind for us to use and take forward.

A popular summer camp in the country also bears the word in its name, Nady Tourath Al Emaraat, which translates to Emirates Heritage Club. During camp, young people are taught skills and lessons passed down by elders, such as tying knots and catching fish with nothing but a line and a hook – practices that aren’t commonplace today. At the camp, children learn that all aspects of heritage passed down to them are important to maintain and preserve. It's not just the skills they pick up, but also the bonds they create that enable tourath to become ingrained in younger generations.

But heritage is not just a reflection of the past, there is modern heritage too. Earlier this year, Abu Dhabi decided to mark some of the most important landmarks across the city with plaques.

These plaques read modern heritage and its translation al tourath al hadeeth – showing that tourath is not just about preserving the past, but also highlighting new creations worth embedding into a culture's heritage, giving them extra attention and care.

They have been posted in 60 locations across the city, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Central Bank, Al Ibrahimi Tower, Zayed Sports City and the Main Bus Terminal.

“The modern heritage of Abu Dhabi serves as a reminder of our emirate, and our country, what we stand for, what we strive for, and for the legacy that we are creating for future generations,” chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, wrote in a column for The National.

“Together we must guard modern heritage, because of the value it holds in our collective memory as residents of this emirate, and because of the historical testimony it conveys in telling Abu Dhabi’s story through architectural and urban identity.”

Updated: April 19, 2024, 6:02 PM