Yemen government urges Unesco to add more sites to endangered heritage list

UN cultural agency this week designated sites of the ancient Saba kingdom in Marib province as World Heritage in Danger

The Bar’an Temple is among the relics of the ancient Kingdom of Saba in Marib, Yemen. Photo: Marib Landmarks Team
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Yemen’s government commended Unesco's decision to add ancient sites in Marib province to the list of World Heritage in Danger and called on the UN's cultural agency to include more.

Unesco on Wednesday listed landmarks in the Saba kingdom as endangered because of the threat of destruction from Yemen's civil war. Marib has been the scene of heavy fight since the Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

“It was a historic day that the landmarks of the ancient kingdom of Saba in Marib were unanimously approved by all members of the Unesco’s World Heritage committee,” Mohammed Jumeh, Yemen’s ambassador to Unesco, told The National.

“The listing of this historic site is long overdue and it deserved to be enlisted a long time ago given the important role it played in the economic activity of ancient civilisation."

The listing shows the “exceptional universal value of the sites”, he added.

The Unesco listing of the "Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba" describes them as "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”.

Mr Jumeh said the listing underlined the need to “urgently send a mission to study the reality of those monuments and prepare plans to protect and support them”.

The Unesco status gives sites access to enhanced international assistance, both technical and financial, and helps to mobilise the global community to ensure their protection.

Yemen’s former minister of culture, Marwan Damaj, told The National that more efforts were needed to protect the country’s rich heritage.

"These landmarks are under severe threat, especially the ones in Marib; the location needs more than just a listing, they need a project to protect them. We have specialised expertise that can assist with this," he said.

“Many Yemeni officials have been working alongside our partners in the UN and have been at the forefront of preserving the country’s cultural heritage for years.

“We have been working on this project for the last three years, we really commend the Yemeni team who spared no efforts to push this forward”.

The Saba kingdom is “vital for understanding Yemen and humankind”, he said.

Mr Damaj said the government hoped the listing would "open the doors to wider partnerships and projects with Unesco and others that have worked alongside Yemen to preserve its cultural heritage".

Updated: January 27, 2023, 12:26 PM