Some of the world’s most impressive wonders are disappearing with every passing day. On Wednesday, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has added historic landmarks from Lebanon and Yemen on the UN’s List of World Heritage in Danger. The ancient kingdom of Saba in Marib and Lebanon’s Rachid Karameh International Fair of Tripoli are both considered to be under threat.
UNESCO is an agency of the United Nations that is responsible for identifying and protecting cultural and natural heritage sites around the world that are considered to be of outstanding universal value— Just recently, it added harissa, rai, mansaf, and more to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
But, when a heritage site is listed as “endangered,” it means that UNESCO has determined that the site is facing significant threats that could lead to its destruction or significant degradation.
Of Lebanon’s Rachid Karameh International Fair of Tripoli, a monument designed in 1962 by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the UN’s cultural agency said that the World Heritage Committee “used an emergency procedure to inscribe the site, due to its alarming state of conservation, the lack of financial resources for its maintenance, and the latent risk of development proposals that could affect the integrity of the complex.”
The aforementioned emergency procedure was also used to add the ancient kingdom of Saba in Yemen’s Marib province to the list, due to the ongoing devastating civil war that began in 2014, that has left much of the country torn apart.
An endangered heritage site is considered to be a bad thing for the planet because it means that a unique and valuable part of our cultural or natural heritage is at risk of being lost forever. Heritage sites are often considered to be irreplaceable and are therefore considered to be of great importance to both local communities and the wider world. They are important for cultural identity, for tourism, for education, and for research.
An endangered landmark is not just a problem for the landmark itself, but also for the culture and history that it represents. UNESCO said on Wednesday that Yemen is home to a “serial property comprised of seven archaeological sites that bear witness to the rich kingdom of Saba and its architectural, aesthetic and technological achievements from the first millennium BCE to the arrival of Islam around 630 CE.”
In short, the ancient kingdom of Saba is a symbol of our heritage, and without it, a piece of our history would be lost forever.
While the news is certainly grim, this global reality is unique opportunity for us to educate ourselves and partake in conservation efforts to ensure that these landmarks are protected for future generations. That said, the only plus side is that being on the list gives sites access to enhanced international assistance, both technical and financial, and helps mobilize the international community to ensure their protection.
Homepage photo courtesy of the German Archaeological Institute, Orient Department