UNESCO threatens to drop Zabid from World Heritage list [Archives:2007/1049/Front Page]

May 10 2007

By:Ismail Al-Ghabri
SANA'A, May 8 ) UNESCO has given Yemen one final chance to avoid a decision to remove the city of Zabid from the World Heritage list.

Abdullah Zaid Issa, chairman of the Yemeni Culture Ministry's General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities, stated that UNESCO has extended another time period wherein Yemen must prepare a comprehensive strategy aimed to protect Zabid from deterioration and remove distortions affecting its heritage city nature.

The chairman indicated that UNESCO has identified two programs to save the city and keep it on the World Heritage list, if the Yemeni government implements them.

He explained that the first program will be implemented within a one-year period, while the second will be implemented during a two-year period, under direct supervision of UNESCO, which will send representative experts every six months to ensure the planned implementation.

Issa warned that noncompliance with these programs will lead to Zabid's removal from the World Heritage list.

He noted that a group of experts from the World Heritage Committee who visited Zabid recently submitted a negative report about the city. Issa further stated that the General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities has submitted a status report to Yemen's culture minister in preparation for presenting the issue to the Council of Ministers for discussion in light of the UNESCO report.

Hamid Al-Awadhi, Yemen's permanent delegate to the Paris-based UNESCO, said, “The World Heritage Committee's report on Zabid affirms that the city is in a very sad situation and that there's clear sabotage of many of its parts and features.”

Al-Awadhi also expressed his fear regarding the risk of Zabid falling off the World Heritage list that it will extend to other Yemeni cities already on the list, namely Sana'a and Shibam, as well as 11 archeological candidate sites for entry onto the list, including Socotra, Marib and Jibla.

He confirmed that a report on Zabid will be discussed at a July meeting in New Zealand and that the Yemeni delegation participating will submit a report on actions taken by the Yemeni government and its commitment to implementation, provided such actions are logical and convincing to the World Heritage Committee, in order to conclude keeping Zabid on the list.

Zabid was included on the World Heritage list in 1996, which was quite a conquest for Yemen because it already had two cities on the list – Sana'a and Shibam Hadramout. Yemen is the only Arabian Peninsula nation with three sites on the list.

Al-Awadhi concluded by noting, “Those responsible for Yemeni heritage should appreciate that it isn't easy for a site to lose its position on the World Heritage list. Other countries spend hundreds of millions of dollars in order to attain this significant position.”