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Saudi, Oman, Turkey, India sites among Unesco's World Heritage list

AFP
Filed on July 2, 2018
Saudi, Oman, Turkey, India sites among Unescos World Heritage list

Bibi Maryam Mausoleum in Qalhat, Oman
(EPA)

Art deco buildings adorn Mumbai's Marine Drive

Al-Ahsa boasts more than two million palm trees
(EPA)

Saudi Arabia's lush Al-Ahsa oasis is dotted with yet-to-be-excavated archaeological sites.


Unesco added Saudi Arabia's Al-Ahsa Oasis and Oman's ancient city of Qalhat to its World Heritage List on Friday, the world cultural body said.

Authorities in Riyadh, as well as Muscat, have put tourism high on their economic agendas as Gulf states look to diversify their oil-dependent economies.

Saudi Arabia's lush Al-Ahsa oasis is dotted with yet-to-be-excavated archaeological sites and carries traces of human occupation dating back to Neolithic times.

Al-Ahsa "was a commercial centre for the Hajar territory of Bahrain," reads the Saudi submission to Unesco.

"Archaeological evidence shows that it exchanged products from southern Arabia and Persia as well as throughout the Arabian Peninsula."

Riyadh's tourism drive, backed by reformist young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not shied from highlighting pre-Islamic heritage in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Oman's Qalhat also dates back to pre-Islamic times.  

The port city on Oman's Indian Ocean coast was once a key hub for trade in goods including Arabian horses to Chinese porcelain, according to the Omani submission.  

The case of Qalhat also demonstrates the power women could hold in Arabian society at the time.  

"In the 13th century ... the governor Ayaz split his presence between Hormuz and Qalhat, which in his absence was ruled by his wife Maryam," the submission reads.  

"She, Bibi Maryam, is said to have built the Great Friday Mosque and a mausoleum for her late husband. She continued ruling after her husband's death until at least 1319."

The World Heritage designation is a prestigious one for the Gulf states, looking to make their mark as culturally rich, safe tourist destinations.

The Unesco gathering in neighbouring Bahrain however comes at a sensitive time for the world body as it scrambles for funding following Washington's withdrawal last year.

US President Donald Trump's administration pulled out of Unesco citing its continuing "anti-Israel bias", six years after the organisation allowed the Palestinians to join.  

Israel's ambassador to Unesco said Tuesday he was urging his government to reconsider its decision to quit the body, saying it had halted its "anti-Israeli resolutions" over the past year. 

Mumbai's Victorian Gothic and Art Deco buildings win Unesco status   

Mumbai's Art Deco buildings - believed to be the world's second largest collection after Miami - were added on Saturday to Unesco's World Heritage List alongside the city's better-known Victorian Gothic architecture.

The decision was approved at a Unesco meeting in the Bahraini capital Manama.

A not-for-profit team of enthusiasts are in the process of documenting every single one of Mumbai's Art Deco treasures but they estimate there may be more than 200 across India's bustling financial capital.

The majority of them, built on reclaimed land between the early 1930s and early 1950s, are clustered together in the south of the coastal city where they stand in stark contrast to Victorian Gothic structures.  

"The Victorian ensemble includes Indian elements suited to the climate, including balconies and verandas," Unesco said in a press statement announcing the decision.

"The Art Deco edifices... blend Indian design with Art Deco imagery, creating a unique style that has been described as Indo-Deco," it added.

The two vastly different architectural traditions face off against each other across the popular Oval Maidan playing field, where enthusiastic young cricketers hone their skills.

On one side lie imposing and rather austere 19th century buildings housing the Bombay High Court and Mumbai University, with their spires and lancet windows.

On the other side stand sleeker buildings boasting curved corners and balconies, vertical lines and exotic motifs. 

Turkey's ancient temple site gets Unesco heritage status 

A Turkish ancient temple site in southeastern Anatolia was given Unesco World Heritage status on Sunday, the UN agency announced at a meeting in the Bahraini capital Manama.  

Named Gobekli Tepe (Potbelly Hill), the site is the world's oldest known megalithic structure located in Upper Mesopotamia and is some 11,000 years old. 

The site, considered to be the world's oldest temple, is in the present-day southeastern province of Sanliurfa and reopened to tourists earlier this year after restoration work was undertaken including a protective roof for the site. 

The site contains "monumental circular and rectangular megalithic structures, interpreted as enclosures, which were erected by hunter-gatherers in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic age between 9,600 and 8,200 BC", Unesco said in a statement. 

"It is likely that these monuments were used in connection with rituals, probably of a funerary nature," it added.   

Unesco marks Colombian national park for conservation  

Colombia's massive Chiribiquete National Park has made Unesco's World Heritage List, the United Nations body announced Sunday. 

"Congratulations," the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization announced on Twitter.

With an area of 2.7 million hectares (6.7 million acres) covering five Amazonian municipalities in the southern Guaviare and Caqueta regions, Colombia's largest natural park has rich biodiversity and is a sacred place for indigenous people.

This is the ninth world heritage listing in Colombia, the second most biodiverse country in the world after Brazil. 

Remains of ancient Arab city in Spain gets Unesco heritage status 

The remarkably well-preserved remains of the Caliphate city of Medina Azahara, a medieval Arab Muslim town near the Spanish city of Cordoba, was added to Unesco's list of World Heritage sites on Sunday.  

The 10th-century Moorish site provides "in-depth knowledge of the now vanished Western Islamic civilisation of Al-Andalus, at the height of its splendour," said Unesco's World Heritage Committee, which is meeting in Bahrain.

After prospering for several years, the magnificent palace-city, which was the de facto capital of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, "was laid to waste during the civil war that put an end to the Caliphate in 1009-10," the committee said in a statement.   

Unesco lists Korean mountain Buddhist temples as World Heritage sites 

Seven ancient Korean mountain temples, which typify the way Buddhism in the country has merged with indigenous beliefs and styles, were listed as Unesco World Heritage sites on Saturday.

The seven mountain temples - Seonamsa, Daeheungsa, Beopjusa, Magoksa, Tongdosa, Bongjeongsa, Buseoksa - were all established during the Three Kingdoms period that lasted until the 7th century AD.

Unesco made the announcement at a meeting in the Bahraini capital Manama.

"These mountain monasteries are sacred places, which have survived as living centres of faith and daily religious practice to the present," Unesco said in a press statement.   

Japan Christian sites added to Unesco World Heritage list  

A dozen Christian locations in parts of southern Japan where members of the faith were once brutally persecuted were selected for inclusion on the Unesco World Heritage list on Saturday.

The 12 sites include 10 villages, Hara Castle and Oura Cathedral, a Catholic church in Nagasaki that is dedicated to 26 Christians who were executed for their beliefs over four centuries ago.

The decision was announced in the Bahraini capital Manama. In a press statement Unesco said that the 12 sites "bear unique testimony to a cultural tradition nurtured by hidden Christians in the Nagasaki region who secretly transmitted their faith". 





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