Thursday, January 15, 2009

World Heritage Sites in Egypt

Copyright © Egypt, Cradle of Civilization

After World War Ι the world was concerned with reconstruction, and the need for the preservation of cultural sites and the obligation towards the conservation of nature. This gave birth to the creation of an international movement then called the "Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage."

To stimulate international cooperation and help generate funds to protect "the world's superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry" a 'World Heritage Trust' was put forth in 1965. The Convention was adopted by the UNESCO on 16 November 1972 reinforcing the importance for the need to preserve heritage balance between culture and nature.

The decision to build the Aswan High Dam raised concern for the loss of the treasures of the ancient Egyptian civilization, which would be lost to the flooding in the Nile Valley. On appeal from both Egypt and Sudan in 1959, the UNESCO launched a campaign to help save both Abu Simbel and Philae Temples, as they were dismantled and moved to higher, dry ground to be reassembled. This international campaign raised about US$80 million, half of which was donated by around 50 countries, showing solidarity in helping conserve exceptional cultural sites. Rescue campaigns that followed included Venice and its Lagoon (Italy), the Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro (Pakistan), and the restoration of the Borobodur Temple Compounds (Indonesia).

The officially listed World Heritage Site in Egypt are seven, of which 6 are cultural site and one is a natural, which is Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley) and was the latest to be added in 2005. It lies in Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area in the Fayoum Oasis in the Western Desert of Egypt. Its desert floor is littered with fossil whale skeletons which have long been extinct.

Of the Cultural properties is Abu Mena in the Mariut Desert in Borg Al-Arab in Alexandria. It is an ancient holy city that includes a church, baptistery, public buildings, streets, monasteries, houses and workshops. It was built over the tomb of the martyr Menas of Alexandria, who died in A.D. 296.

In Quina there's the ancient city of Thebes with its Necropolis. It was the capital of Egypt during both the Middle and New Kingdoms, and the city of the god Amun. The property includes the temples and palaces at Karnak in Luxor and the necropolises of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.

Historic or Islamic Cairo also became a World Heritage Site in 1979. Founded in the 10th century and by the 14th century it reached its golden age becoming the center for Islamic teaching and the Islamic world in general. Surrounded by urban Cairo the property is famous for its mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains.

The site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Memphis and its Necropolis-The Pyramid fields from Giza to Dahshur, was the capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, holding some amazing rock tombs, temples and pyramids.

Equally extraordinary are the properties in Aswan, with the colossal temple of Abu Simbel built by Ramses II and the beautifully serene Sanctuary of Isis at the Island of Philae which were threatened to drown by the Aswan Dam in the 60's and were the first rescue campaign launched by the UNESCO.

The St. Katherine Area was enlisted in 2002, and is considered sacred to three world religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Mount Horeb or better known as Gabal Musa is where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. The Orthodox Christian Monastery St. Katherine was built in the 6th century and holds an amazing collection of Christian manuscripts and icons.

Although only seven sites are listed to this day, the tentative list for pending sites is very long, but include Alexandria (ancient remains and the new library), El-Gendi Fortress, built by Salah el-Din in south Sinai, the Protected ecosystems of Ras Mohammed in South Sinai and the Monasteries of the Arab Desert and Wadi Natrun.

About the Author:
Gawhara Hanem