Yemen’s Socotra on World Monuments Fund 2022 watch list

The island of unique biodiversity is one of the most endangered places in the world

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Yemen’s Socotra, one of the world’s most isolated continental fragments, was selected for the World Monuments Fund’s watch list for 2022.

Socotra, about 340 kilometres south-west of Yemen, is known for its centuries-old umbrella-shaped dragon blood trees and is known as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean because of its biodiversity.

Storms, changing temperatures and rising sea waters are putting its ecology, heritage, cultural traditions and livelihoods on the line.

The island is now part of the WMF’s biennial selection of 25 of the world’s most significant heritage and endangered sites in need of immediate attention.

Buildings in Beirut, Lebanon, and Benghazi, in Libya, are among the sites on the list.

The nomination was put forward by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in collaboration with Socotri, Yemeni and global partners.

epa06763501 Yemenis inspect a ship wrecked after Cyclone Mekunu hit the island of Socotra, in the Indian Ocean, some 250 miles off the coast of Yemen, 25 May 2018. According to reports, the Yemeni government has declared a state of emergency after tropical Cyclone Mekunu swept through the island of Socotra, leaving at least 40 people missing.  EPA/STRINGER

Simon Milne, Regius Keeper of RBGE, said he was delighted that the island had been recognised by WMF, and called it “an important step in the protection of this globally significant heritage”.

“The Soqotra Archipelago is an area of outstanding biological diversity where an incredible 37 per cent of plant species can be found nowhere else on Earth,” he said.

“This astonishing biodiversity is part of a rich cultural heritage, unique to the region, where nature and the environment are inextricably linked with the culture, language and traditions of the Socotran people.”

The recognition by WMF will push to raise awareness, identify and develop programmes that will place heritage conservation at the heart of Socotri society and livelihoods, the organisation said.

It will also “conserve its distinctive heritage for local and global benefits”.

Socotra, which means “island abode of bliss” in Sanskrit, was named a World Heritage Site in 2008.

The UN’s cultural agency, Unesco, described the main island as one of the world’s “most biodiversity-rich and distinct”.

It is home to more than 50,000 people and has remained relatively untouched by Yemen’s civil war.

It lies in turquoise seas between Arabia and Africa, about 350 kilometers south of the country’s coast.

“Highlighting the rich cultural history and traditions of Socotra is an important step forward,” Dr Julian Jansen van Rensburg, Socotra Heritage Project and Research Associate at RBGE, said.

It will help “the Socotra Heritage Project foster a greater sense of awareness of a culture that has long been overlooked – allowing this unique heritage to be protected, preserved and shared with the world,” he said.

“The impacts of climate change and conflict have already had a significant effect on Socotra’s heritage and we welcome this nomination.”

The project is a partnership between Socotri heritage experts and international advisers.

Led by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, it has begun to document heritage places and traditions around the island and raised awareness of threats and potential conservation action.

This list will helps conserve the chosen sites by raising awareness and funds.

World Monument Watch sites 2022 - the full list

Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home, Kinchela, Australia

Mosque City of Bagerhat, Bangladesh

Cultural landscape of the Bunong People, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia

Fortified manors of Yongtai, Fujian Province, China

Sumba Island, Indonesia

Heritage buildings of Beirut, Lebanon

Hitis (water fountains) of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

Tomb of Jahangir, Lahore, Pakistan

Nuri, Sudan

Hurst Castle, Hampshire, UK

Lamanai, Indian church village, Belize

Monte Alegre State Park, Brazil

La Maison du Peuple, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Abydos, Egypt

Asante traditional buildings, Ghana

Tiretta Bazaar, Kolkata, India

Benghazi historic city centre, Libya

Koagannu mosques and cemetery, Maldives

Teotihuacan, San Juan Teotihuacan, Mexico

Yanacancha-Huaquis cultural landscape, Miraflores District, Peru

Alcantara and Rocha do Conde de Obidos, Marine Stations (Almada Negreiros Murals), Lisbon, Portugal

Fabric Synagogue and Jewish heritage of Timisoara, Romania

Africatown, Mobile, Alabama, US

Garcia Pasture, Brownsville, Texas, US

Socotra Archipelago, Yemen

Updated: March 02, 2022, 10:00 AM