Attractions industry news

10 Jul 2017

Unesco makes 23 new additions to World Heritage list

Palestine’s Hebron old city, the UK’s Lake District and the male-only sacred Japanese island of Okinoshima are among 23 new additions to Unesco’s World Heritage list, following the organisation’s 41st annual session of the World Heritage Committee.

Also added immediately to Unesco’s list of World Heritage in Danger along with the Historic Centre of Vienna, Hebron is a highly-contentious area as it contains the Tomb of the Patriarchs – the second holiest site in Judaism and the fourth in Islam as the burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Tomb and Old City sit within the Israeli sector after a 1997 agreement saw Hebron divided between Israel and Palestine.

The decision has received criticism from Israel, which objects to Hebron’s designation as a part of Palestine. The country also refuted Palestinian allegations of vandalism, property damage, and other attacks on the site, and has complained that the UN resolution, which refers to Hebron's "Islamic history", denies a Jewish connection to the city.

The Lake District is the 31st World Heritage site designated within the UK and its overseas territories, and becomes Britain’s first national park to receive World Heritage status.

As part of its new designation, the World Heritage Committee suggested that the impact of the 18 million tourists that visit the region each year should be closely monitored and that there should be improvements in conservation efforts.

In awarding World Heritage status, the Committee also praised the area’s beauty, saying that “the combined work of nature and human activity has produced a harmonious landscape in which the mountains are mirrored in the lakes”. It added that grand houses, gardens and parks within the Lake District have been purposely created to enhance the area’s beauty, which has provided inspiration to both artists and writers.

Located 60km off the western coast of Kyushu island, Okinoshima is home to the 17th century Okitsu shrine, which was built to pray for the safety of sailors.

The island observes its long-standing traditions, which controversially includes a ban on women. To this day men must take off their clothes and undergo a cleansing ritual to visit the island. When they leave they are not allowed to take away souvenirs or reveal the details of their visit.

The island only welcomes visitors one day out of the year – 27 May – with visitor numbers restricted to just 200.

“Okinoshima is an exceptional example of the tradition of worship of a sacred island,” said the Committee. “The archaeological sites that have been preserved on the island are virtually intact, and provide a chronological record of how the rituals performed there changed from the 4th to the 9th centuries CE.”

The 23 new sites in order of inscription are:

• Hebron / Al Khalil Old town (Palestine)
• W-Arly-Pendjari Complex [extension of the “W. National Park of Niger”, Niger] (Benin/Burkina Faso)
• Qinghai Hoh Xil (China)
• Landscapes Of Dauria (Mongolia / Russian Federation)
• Los Alerces National Park (Argentina)
• Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe (Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, • Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine)
• Mbanza Kongo, vestiges of the capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo (Angola)
• Asmara: a Modernist City of Africa (Eritrea)
• Khomani Cultural Landscape (Republic of South Africa)
• Temple Zone of Sambor Prei Kuk, Archaeological Site of Ancient Ishanapura (Cambodia)
• Kulangsu: A historic international settlement (China)
• Historic City of Ahmadabad (India)
• Historic City of Yazd (Islamic Republic of Iran)
• Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata (Japan)
• Venetian Works of Defence between the 16th and 17th Centuries: Stato da Terra – Western Stato da Mar (Croatia, Italy, Montenegro)
• Kujataa Greenland : Norse and Inuit Farming at the Edge of the Ice Cap (Denmark)
• Taputapuatea (France)
• Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura (Germany)
• Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine and its Underground Water Management System (Poland)
• Assumption Cathedral and Monastery of the town-island of Sviyazhsk (Russian Federation)
• Aphrodisias (Turkey)
• The English Lake District (United Kingdom)
• Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site (Brazil)

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