When I sat down with Kamal Haglan (IHS Alumnus, CHHURR Yemen – August 2000), and after a brief conversation, his most noticeable quality was his unfaltering calmness. He was relaxed, softly spoken and explained that his reason for returning to IHS was selfless; he simply wished to “give back”. He spoke about how he wanted to help the current batch of students by explaining to them the impact studying at IHS had on his career.
Kamal Haglan is an alumnus from the tailor-made course Cultural Heritage, Housing and Urban Revitalization in Yemen, 2000. The purpose of the course was to help Yemeni urban planners and architects to understand how to preserve historical buildings and monuments whilst developing the amenities within the cities of Yemen.
After graduating from IHS, Kamal continued to work as an urban planner for the Ministry of Public Works and Highways. He explained how the practices he learned from CHHURR had developed his abilities to propose conclusive plans to his colleagues. He continued to work for the Ministry of Public Works and Highways until 2003 when an opportunity arose that he could not turn down.
Due to Mr. Haglan’s affiliation with IHS and his undoubted ability as an urban planner, in 2003 UCHP (Urban Cultural Heritage Strategy and Management Programme) a joint Yemeni and Dutch programme, offered Mr. Haglan the opportunity to become the project manager of their latest venture. This was to prepare a strategic action plan to preserve the historic city of Sa’dah.
A reluctant smile appeared on Mr. Haglan’s face when he began talking about his experiences with UCHP. He explained how it was a huge personal honour to be involved with such an esteemed project and how he was excited to go to work every day. Mr. Haglan and his team spent months of early mornings and late nights ensuring that they left “no stone unturned” when preparing a plan to preserve the city.
His role within the team as a project manager meant that he was involved with every aspect of preparing the plan. These included hosting workshops for stakeholders and the local community, surveying the historic buildings and monuments, and, determining in which areas of Sa’dah they would preserve and in which areas they would develop amenities.
Mr. Haglan explained that he and his team had spent 8 months preparing and perfecting the action plan. He explained how he used knowledge from the CHHURR course in almost every aspect of the plan. One of the major benefits of the CHHURR course, in Mr. Haglan’s opinion, was the fact that the course would use real-life examples from Yemen when presenting urban development and preservation methods.
When I asked Mr. Haglan how the city of Sa’dah looked today and if he managed to achieve all of his targets within the action plan, I did not get the response I was expecting. Still with the same calmness, he explained how he had not been able to finish the project due to civil war within his country. He and his team reluctantly left Sa’dah due to increasing violence within the city. For the next few months, he would sit in his home listening to the radio as news filtered through describing the destruction of places and buildings within Sa’dah he had planned to preserve or improve.
Despite his devastating experiences, Mr. Haglan never lost his desire to improve and preserve the history of his country. In 2004, he became a Senior Project Officer for Social Fund for Development (SFD) where he would supervise and contribute to various projects in Sana’a and other cities. After 4 years of working for SFD, they rewarded him with a promotion. He became the Deputy Team Leader for The Great Mosque in old Sana’a restoration project on which he worked for 5 years before becoming a Senior Project Manager in 2013.
When I reached the end of my interview with Kamal Haglan, I was tentative to ask my final question – What is your greatest personal achievement? Given the lengths and the manner of which he spoke about Sa’dah, it was clear, that should have been his most treasured professional memory. I avoided the question and we spoke about his personal life.
In 2006, he married and, since then, they have had two children. He grinned from ear to ear as he explained how his wife is in the Netherlands to further her education and how his two sons are thoroughly enjoying being in Europe. As we continued to talk about his family, Mr. Haglan became more and more excited, speaking of learning Dutch and making the Netherlands a home for himself and his family. It was clear to me that I had made a mistake.
Despite not having the courage to ask Mr. Haglan my final question, I am confident that he would have no issue with me saying that – his greatest personal achievement is his wife and two kids.