I don’t usually focus on news on this website. I try to keep things oriented about my trip. Occasionally, however, if there is something in the news that in some way related to what I’m doing, I have no problem chiming in on it.
Yesterday, UNESCO released the names of 27 locations to be added to the list of what is now 878 World Heritage sites. I’ve been using the list as an informal way tracking where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. Over the last 15 months, I’ve been able to lean a lot about the process of listing World Heritage sites by talking to the people at the places I visit.
27 new sites seems like a lot for one year. There is a lot of pressure from member countries to get sites listed becasue it brings them prestigue and tourism. If your country is rich and developed (and usually European) you are more likely to have locations listed than if you are poor or non-European.
Here are the 27 locations picked this year:
- Preah Vihear Temple (Cambodia)
- Fujian Tulou (China)
- Stari Grad Plain (Croatia)
- Historic Centre of Camagüey (Cuba)
- Fortifications of Vauban (France)
- Berlin Modernism Housing Estates (Germany)
- Armenian Monastic Ensembles in Iran (Iran)
- Baha’i Holy Places in Haifa and Western Galilee (Israel)
- Mantua and Sabbioneta (Italy)
- The Mijikenda Kaya Forests (Kenya)
- Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca (Malaysia)
- Protective town of San Miguel and the Sanctuary of Jesús de Nazareno de Atotonilco (Mexico)
- Le Morne Cultural Landscape (Mauritius)
- Kuk Early Agricultural Site (Papua New Guinea)
- San Marino Historic Centre and Mount Titano (San Marino)
- Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr (Madâin Sâlih) (Saudi Arabia)
- The Wooden Churches of the Slovak part of Carpathian Mountain Area (Slovakia)
- Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Cultural Landscape (Switzerland and Italy)
- Chief Roi Mata’s Domain (Vanuatu)
- Joggins Fossil Cliffs (Canada)
- Mount Sanqingshan National Park (China)
- Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France)
- Surtsey (Iceland)
- Saryarka – Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan)
- Monarch Butterfly biosphere Reserve (Mexico)
- Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona (Switzerland)
- Socotra Archipelago (Yemen)
A couple of things jump out at me:
- Berlin Modernism Housing Estates Huh? Is this really a world treasure in need of preservation? Note: Frank Lloyd Wright buildings are NOT on the World Heritage list.
- Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve This makes sense. The monarch valley is someplace I’d really like to visit one day when all the butterflies are there. I’ve seen photos and it looks incredible.
- Lagoons of New Caledonia I’ve been to New Caledonia, and never really heard that much about their reefs being more special than anywhere else. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 5 places in the Pacific which probably deserve recgonition before this. I think this is more a reflection of France’s power in the organization, than a reflection of reality. Palau isn’t on the list, and that is probably the greatest reef treasure in the Pacific.
- Chief Roi Mata’s Domain When I was in Vanuatu, I heard nothing about this. In all my reading I came across nothing, nor did I see anything in Port Vila promoting this as a tourist attraction. I’ve never heard of it and know nothing about it.
- Kuk Early Agricultural Site This the first location for Papua New Guinea, which is more a reflection of how hard it is for a poor country to mount a successful campaign for a site, than it is a reflection of PNG. I’m curious to see if/how this site is developed and protected. Papua New Guinea agriculture one one of the, I think five, places on Earth which independently developed agriculture.
- Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr I have been told that Saudia Arabia is a great place to visit as a tourist. Like 99% of all the tourism to Saudi Arabia is religious tourism, mostly to Mecca. If you go elsewhere in the country, they are glad to have you and will bend over backward for you.
- Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca I’ll probably be here in a few weeks. Expect a podcast on the Straights of Malacca. I remember running debate arguments about conflicts breaking out over the Straight of Malacca. Next to the Panama Canal, it might be the most vital small stretch of water in the world.
- Surtsey I’m amazed that Iceland didn’t have any sites on the list before. Iceland is a really beautiful place. I was there back in 2000.
- San Marino Historic Centre and Mount Titano I wonder how much of the country this would take up? San Marino isn’t very big to begin with. I think that technically all of Vatican City is a World Heritage site.
- Fujian Tulou Never heard of this until today, but it looks really interesting.