April 18 is the International Day for Monuments and Sites. Many people know the day as World Heritage Day. It’s an international commemoration day observed annually. The day is typically spent with different activities, including conferences, round table discussions, publication of different articles and visits to heritage sites and monuments. The International Day for Monuments and Sites has an annual theme. Rural Landscapes is the theme for 2019.
The ICOMOS or the International Council on Monuments and Sites proposed this special day, with the objective of promoting awareness about humanity’s cultural heritage diversity, as well as the vulnerability of the sites and the feats needed to protect and conserve the sites. The proposal was submitted on April 18, 1982. UNESCO’s General Assembly approved the proposal in 1983.
The history of the World Heritage Day or the International Day for Monuments and Sites is quite fascinating and worth knowing. It will help people understand why conservation and protection of man-made and natural sites are critical today and in the future.
The Egyptian government resolved to construct a new Aswan High Dam in 1954. The reservoir will flood a large part of the Nile Valley that contained several cultural treasures of ancient Nubia and ancient Egypt.
Five years later the Sudanese and Egyptian governments asked the help of UNESCO to give them assistance in rescuing and protecting the sites and monuments that would be affected by the dam construction. The following year, the UNESCO Director-General started an International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia. It was an appeal to the member states of UNESCO.
The project took 20 years to finish but it was a complete success. Egypt expressed its gratitude to all the countries that made a contribution to the project. The Egyptian government donated four temples.
- Temple of Dendur (at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
- Temple of Debod (at the Parque del Oeste, Madrid)
- Temple of Taffeh (at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Netherlands)
- Temple of Ellesyia (at the Museo Egizio, Turin)
The project spent $80 million, with 50 countries donating half of the project’s budget. It also led to the protection campaigns of Indonesia’s Borobodur Temple Compounds, Pakistan’s Mohenjo-daro ruins and Venice as well as the lagoon in Italy. Moreover, it started the worldwide campaign to protect humankind’s cultural heritage via a convention launched by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and UNESCO.
Establishment of the International Day for Monuments and Sites
The special day for monuments and sites was established in 1982 by ICOMOS and from then on it became the day to promote cultural heritage. It is used to raise awareness about the world’s cultural diversity, their relevance and vulnerability and the requirements for their preservation. Each year, a theme is presented. This year’s theme, rural landscapes is connected to the Scientific Symposium on Rural Heritage that ICOMOS will host in Marrakesh, Morocco this October.
The symposium is a means to raise awareness regarding the connection of rural landscapes, the challenges facing their conservation and the benefits to gain from their conservation. They are also going to discuss their relationship with sustainable development.
According to the ICOMOS, rural landscapes are aquatic and terrestrial areas co-produced by the interaction of humans and nature. The areas are used for food production and other natural resources that are renewable through aquaculture, fishing, pastoralism, animal husbandry and agriculture. Others include the extraction of natural resources such as minerals and salt, hunting, wild food gathering and forestry.
There are cultural meanings to rural landscapes given to them by the communities and people. Rural areas are considered landscapes that include intangible and tangible heritage that constantly adapts to the economic, political, social, cultural and environmental conditions.
Daily human activities can cause minor evolution or striking transformations due to political, economic, technological and production changes.
Rural population keeps on increasing, but it’s a phenomenon that is replicated in the rural areas today. However, the distribution of the population in the rural areas is not even. Some rural areas are overburdened by population while other areas are getting abandoned. Rural areas are also suffering from the ecological footprint from the urban areas. It is vital for people to understand that preserving the rural areas benefits the urban areas as well.
Heritage sites around the world
You must have encountered articles and news stories regarding heritage sites around the world. But have you ever wondered how many heritage sites are named worldwide?
There are 1,092 World Heritage Sites around the world in July 2018. These sites are located in 167 countries, with 845 cultural sites, 209 natural sites and 38 that are mixed.
Here is the list of countries with the most heritage sites:
- Italy – 54
- China – 53
- Spain – 47
- Germany – 44
- France – 44
- India – 37
- Mexico – 35
- United Kingdom – 31
- Russia – 28
- United States – 23
- Iran – 23
- Japan – 22
Many of the monuments are preserved but it cannot be helped that some are already under threat and will eventually be lost over time unless efforts are made to restore and same them.
Areas and share of the number of sites that are already very vulnerable:
- Mesoamerica and the Caribbean – 55%
- Africa – 52%
- South America – 52%
- Arab States – 38%
- Europe – 37%
- Asia – 26%
- Oceania – 19%
- North America – 10%
Overall, 55 of the heritage sites around the world are in danger.
Top World Heritage Sites around the world
The World Heritage Sites are all quite stunning and they represent several periods of astounding artistic creativity, imagination and superb expertise that somehow defy explanation. Based on the different types of heritage sites, they can be classified in different categories. If ever you get the chance to travel to the places and visit some of the country’s heritage sites, you cannot help but be awed by the geniuses that created these monuments in the past.
1. Peru – Machu Pichu. On top of a mountain that looms above the Urubamba River in Peru is the ancient Inca city called Machu Pichu. The well preserved and maintained site used to be inhabited in the 16th and 17th centuries.
2. Egypt – Pyramids. The Pyramids of Giza stand tall in the desert landscape. The various monuments that are still a puzzle among researchers and architects are very impressive. Being the tombs for the Pharaohs of Egypt, the landscape is guarded by the Sphinx. The earliest pyramids were constructed between 2560 BC and 2540 BC. The Pyramids of Egypt were the only one left of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, 2,600 years older than Rome’s Colosseum.
3. Myanmar – Bagan Temples. You have to ride a hot air balloon to appreciate the breadth and scope of the thousands of ancient Buddhist stupas and temples in Bagan. Some of the temples are already in ruins, while some were restored. The temples are different in size and decoration.
4. Cambodia – Angkor Wat. In an area in Siem Reap that looks like a jungle is the complex that contains the Angkor Wat. It is called the largest religious monument in the world that was built around the 12th century. It’s a bit eerie to gaze at the huge stone faces that look at every direction. During its time, the Angkor Wat was the world’s largest city.
5. China – Great Wall. China’s Great Wall is one of the most well-known monument in the world. It zigs and zags for 6,000 kilometers, built to repel the attacks of raiding enemies. It was built in sections, with the oldest built around the 7th century BC.
6. Rome – Roman Colosseum. Built in 72 AD, the Roman Colosseum is the largest remaining building that attests to the glory of the Roman Empire. It is an imposing building that is surrounded today by modern edifices.
7. Greece – Acropolis. If you’re familiar with Greek architecture and art, you know the beauty and finesse of Greek artistry. One of the most imposing remnants of Ancient Greece is the Acropolis, a Greek stronghold that sits atop a hill. One of the most recognizable monuments within the site is the Parthenon, dedicated to Athena, the goddess of warfare, handicraft and wisdom and considered the protector of Greece.
8. Indonesia – Borobudur. Borobudur is the most famous among Indonesia’s landmarks and also the most important site in the world for the Buddhists. The huge temple complex is located in Java. It was abandoned for about three centuries due to the eruptions of nearby volcanoes. It was uncovered by the British in the 1800s.
9. Sri Lanka – Sigiriya Rock. The Sigiriya Lion Rock is an ancient palace that was constructed in 480 AD. It contains landscaped gardens and beautifully preserved frescoes along its western wall, It is an imposing fortress known for its lion shaped entrance. You need to climb 1,200 steps to reach the top of the complex.
10. Agra – Taj Mahal. You cannot help but fall in love with the regal beauty and serenity of the Taj Mahal. It’s a mausoleum dedicated to the favorite wife of the Shah Jahan, the Muslim emperor of the Mughal dynasty. It is said that 2,000 workers built the monument between 1632 and 1653.
These are just a few examples of the most stunning monuments and sites around the world. They need to be preserved and maintained so future generations can still have a glimpse of these wonderful historical creations.
Accurate translations anytime, anywhere
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