Wadi Rum Protected Area

UNESCO World Heritage Site #145: Wadi Rum Protected Area
Wadi Rum Protected Area: My 145th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Wadi Rum Protected Area:

Wadi Rum Protected Area (WRPA) is located in the southern part of Jordan, east of the Rift Valley and south of the steep escarpment of the central Jordanian plateau. It comprises an area of 74,200 hectares. WRPA’s natural values include desert landforms developed within continental sandstones. These landforms have been developed under the influence of a combination of various controlling factors, such as lithology, tectonic activities (including rapid uplift, numerous faults and joints) and surface processes (including various types of weathering and erosion associated with desert climate as well as humid climates in the past), representing million years of ongoing landscape evolution.

Widespread petroglyphs, inscriptions, and archaeological remains testify to 12,000 years of human occupation and interaction with the natural environment, illustrating the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban human activity in the Arabian Peninsula and the environmental history of the region.

The rock art, inscriptions and archaeological evidence in WRPA can be considered an exceptional testimony of the cultural traditions of its early inhabitants. The combination of 25,000 petroglyphs, 20,000 inscriptions, and 154 archaeological sites provides evidence to the continuity of habitation and land-use over a period of at least 12,000 years. The petroglyphs, representing human and animal figures, are engraved on boulders, stones, and cliff faces. They provide evidence of long-term patterns of pastoral, agricultural and urban human activity in the property. Engravings indicate an elaborate sense of aesthetics in a pictorial culture, and the archaeological findings span all eras from the Neolithic to the Nabataean. Thamudic, Nabataean and numerous Arabic inscriptions in four different scripts testify to the widespread literacy among its pastoral societies.

I’m so glad Wadi Rum was added to the World Heritage list. It was one of the most deserving locations that I’ve visited that was not on the list. I spent two nights in Wadi Rum in a bedouin camp and it was a great experience. Wadi Rum is famous as the location where the movie Lawrence of Arabia was shot. The stunning desert backdrop made it an obvious choice for an epic film. Oddly enough, TE Lawrence never passed through Wadi Rum during the actual Great Arab Revolt.

Overview

Wadi Rum Protected Area

Wadi Rum Protected Area is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Jordan. This UNESCO site is also known as The Valley of the Moon. This valley is made up of sandstone and granite rock formations in southern Jordan within the Aqaba Governate. The term Wadi Rum is of Arabic origin, which literally translates to “Roman valley”.

It consists mostly of a desert landscape and stretches to 720 square kilometers in land area. It is open to public and there are even camp sites available for those willing to spend the night at the desert.

About Wadi Rum Protected Area

Wadi Rum Protected Area was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. It is considered as a strict nature reserve by UNESCO. For many years, this landscape was inhabited by several human cultures, even as far back as the prehistoric times. Of all the human cultures that inhabited Wadi Rum, the Nabateans is the most notable of them. To show proof that they have inhabited this region, there were many rock paintings, temples and graffitis that were left behind and remained intact for many centuries after they have left this area.

Wadi Rum Protected Area

In addition to these paintings and rock art from the Nabateans, there are also petroglyphs that were discovered on the cave walls at Khaz’ali Canyon. These petroglyphs depict various subjects including humans and antelopes. According to archaeologists, these petroglyphs date back to the Thamudic times.

The central focus of the entire Wadi Rum protected area is the main valley on the desert, which is called Wadi Rum (to which the entire protected area is named after). The area also comprises the highest peak in Jordan, which is Jabal Umm ad Dami. This peak rises at 1,840 meters in height.

One of the most recognizable rock formations in Wadi Rum is called “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. This rock formation was given such name in the 1980s.

Tourism in Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum Protected Area

Since the naming of Wadi Rum Protected Area as a UNESCO site, it has experienced tremendous growth in terms of the tourism industry. It is now one of Jordan’s most popular tourist attractions, along with Petra. The focus of the tourism activities in Wadi Rum are towards eco-adventure activities such as climbing, trekking, and camping. In fact, the tourism industry has been the main source of income in the region.

Aside from eco-adventure tourism who go after the sandstone mountains of the area, there are also luxury camping retreats available in the desert. Meanwhile, other tourism opportunities include day camel safaris, desert trips, riding Arabian horses, and more.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Jordan.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Aug 16, 2017 @ 10:49 pm

Ningaloo Coast

UNESCO World Heritage Site #144: Ningaloo Coast
Ningaloo Coast: My 144th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Ningaloo Coast:

The 604,500-hectare marine and terrestrial property of Ningaloo Coast, on the remote western coast of Australia, includes one of the longest near-shore reefs in the world. On land, the site features an extensive karst system and a network of underground caves and water courses. Annual gatherings of whale sharks occur at Ningaloo Coast, which is home to numerous marine species, among them a wealth of sea turtles. The terrestrial part of the site features subterranean water bodies with a substantial network of caves, conduits, and groundwater streams. They support a variety of rare species that contribute to the exceptional biodiversity of the marine and terrestrial site.

I knew that eventually someplace I visited would be declared a world heritage site after I visited. This happened for the first time this year when the Ningaloo Coast and Wadi Rum were added to the list. I debated about how I should count them: should I add them to my list as I visited them, or put them later down the list reflecting when they were added? I eventually decided to add them as they were put on the list, not when I visited. If I put them on my list based on my visit then I could get in a nightmare situation of having to renumber everything, every year. So, even though I visited back in 2008 I’m counting it between sites I visited in 2011.

The Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringe reef in the world and is overshadowed by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Also, because the northwest part of Australia gets so few tourists, few people know about it.

I went swimming with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Coast in 2008. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the sharks themselves because I didn’t have an underwater camera. I did, however, get some photos of humpback whale tails which unfortunately is the best I can do.

Overview

Ningaloo Coast

The Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Australia. It was inscribed in 2011 under the Natural category. The property covered by the UNESCO heritage site is about 705,107 hectares in size. It is located along the Eastern Indian Ocean and north of Perth. The Ningaloo Reef is one of the most distinctive features of this coast and it is 260 kilometers long. It is also known as the largest fringing coral reef in Australia.

About Ningaloo Coast

The Ningaloo Coast is one of the most unique natural features in the world. This is where the arid coast and ocean meets, which produced a beautiful landscape and seascape. The importance of the Ningaloo Coast as a natural feature goes beyond the visual aesthetics though. It is home to one of the major shore reef systems in the world. It is also located adjacent to a limestone karst system. Meanwhile, there is a variety of habitats and species that thrive along this coastline.

The biodiversity of the marine species that inhabit this area near and within the Ningaloo Coast is one of the reasons that UNESCO recognized it as a World Heritage property. There is a high level of endemism in the terrestrial species in the coastline. It also features high level of diversity and abundance as far as marine species are concerned. There are up to 500 whale sharks that annually aggregate in the region that also coincide with the mass coral spawning in the Ningaloo Coast.

Aside from the aggregation of whale sharks, there are several other types of marine species that have formed a habitat of the Ningaloo Coast. These are as follows:

  • 300+ coral species (documented)
  • 700+ reef fish species
  • 650+ mollusk species
  • 600+ crustacean species
  • 1,000+ marine algae species
  • 155+ sponge species
  • 25 new species of echinoderms

The natural habitats that are available in the region include lagoon, open ocean, reef, continental shelf, and continental slope. The landscape features along the coastline are also defined by diversity. These intertidal systems range from sandy beaches, to rocky shores, to mangroves, and estuaries. The Ningaloo Reef is the most recognized part of the coast because it is the most dominant marine habitat in the region.

Facts About the Ningaloo Coast

Ningaloo Coast

Here are some more interesting facts about the Ningaloo Coast you might want to know:

  • According to experts, the Ningaloo Reef in the Ningaloo Coast is one of the last remaining coral reef systems in the world that are healthy.
  • This reef system along the coast is home to a rich diversity in underwater and marine species. There are about 300 coral species, 500 fish species, and 600 mollusk species in the area.
  • Whale sharks are the largest types of fish in the world. There are plenty of them to be found in the Ningaloo Coast. In fact, they have become one of the top tourist attractions in the area.
  • The UNESCO site has been regarded as in danger in the past few years. Human influence had contributed to the decline of the species in the region.
  • Twice a year, there is a huge migration of humpback whales in the Ningaloo Coast.
  • A lot of dugongs come to the Ningaloo Reef to become protected as they are the world’s most vulnerable species. Aside from the dugong, other vulnerable creatures that form a habitat within the reef are loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles.
  • Aside from providing a natural habitat to various marine species, it also serves as a resting and nesting site for many of these species.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Aug 16, 2017 @ 9:34 pm

Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek

UNESCO World Heritage Site #143: Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek
Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek:
My 143rd UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek:

The Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek national parks and protected areas along the boundary of Canada and the United States of America are the largest non-polar icefield in the world and contain examples of some of the world’s longest and most spectacular glaciers. Characterized by high mountains, ice fields, and glaciers, the property transitions from northern interior to coastal biogeoclimatic zones, resulting in high biodiversity with plant and animal communities ranging from marine, coastal forest, montane, sub-alpine and alpine tundra, all in various successional stages. The Tatshenshini and Alsek river valleys are pivotal because they allow ice-free linkages from coast to interior for plant and animal migration. The parks demonstrate some of the best examples of glaciation and modification of landscape by glacial action in a region still tectonically active, spectacularly beautiful, and where natural processes prevail.

Wow. I can’t even express how amazing Kluane National Park was. I had the pleasure of flying over the ice fields on two separate days in both a helicopter and a fixed-wing airplane. The images were incredible. I have so many I have no idea how I’m ever going to be able to pick the best ones. Kluane doesn’t get as many visitors as the parks on the Alaska side of the border because it is more difficult to reach, but it is well worth the effort if you can make the trip.

Overview

Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek

Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek are a group of sites that make up one UNESCO World Heritage Site belonging to Canada and the United States. It is located in the Yukon area of Canada and Alaska in the United States. All of these national parks are noted for their spectacular mountainous setting and their geological processes that have resulted in the land formation in these national parks today. There are over 100 glaciers in the area and noted for the diversity in wildlife habitat.

Aside from being enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, the site is also believed to contain the largest non-polar icefield. There are four site components that makeup this UNESCO site: Kluane National Park and Reserve in Canada, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve in the US, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in the US, and Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park in Canada.

Kluane National Park and Reserve

The Kluane National Park and Reserve is the first component site of the Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek UNESCO property. It is one of the national parks in Canada and is located in Yukon province. The park was established in 1972 and spans more than 22,000 square kilometers in land area. It also contains Mount Logan, which is the highest mountain peak in Canada. About 83% of the park’s landscape is made up of glaciers and mountains, while the rest are covered with tundra and forest. This park and natural reserve is home to over 120 bird species and several tree species.

Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek

This is a US national park that belongs to the Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek recognized by UNESCO for its natural value. It is managed by the US National Park Service and is located in Alaska. This is not just a national park and preserve though; it is also an International Biosphere Reserve. It is the largest national park managed by the US National Park Service with over 13 million acres in land area (equal to 6 Yellowstone National Parks!). Many of the peaks that are found within this park are also part of the Saint Elias Mountain range that spans many of the different sites belonging to this UNESCO property.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

The Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is located in the Alaskan panhandle. It is governed by the US National Park Service and was established in 1980. As of 2016, this park and preserve is visited by more than half a million visitors per year. It is also an International Biosphere Reserve and was given that recognition in 1986. The Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve consist of a federally protected marine ecosystem, coastal mountain range, and ancestral homelands. It is also home to a rich array of fauna species that include marine mammals and birds.

This park is difficult to get to with no roads that lead to the park. The only way to get here is via air travel.

Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park

Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek

The last park that comprises the Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek UNESCO site is Canada’s Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park. It is located in British Columbia and was established in 1993. The park was initially founded in order to halt mining exploration and development within the area that is now protected as part of the park. It is also recognized as part of this UNESCO site for its biodiversity and natural heritage.

Aside from its natural value, there is also a cultural heritage embedded within the lands that belong within this park. There have been records of settlement for the indigenous people. Most of them lived on fishing villages along the river. Meanwhile, this park serves as a natural habitat for grizzly bears and other fauna species.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Aug 15, 2017 @ 1:35 am

UNESCO World Heritage Site #142: Historic Areas of Istanbul

UNESCO World Heritage Site #142: Historica Areas of Istanbul
UNESCO World Heritage Site #142: Historica Areas of Istanbul

From the World Heritage inscription:

With its strategic location on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul has been associated with major political, religious and artistic events for more than 2,000 years. Its masterpieces include the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 16th-century Süleymaniye Mosque, all now under threat from population pressure, industrial pollution and uncontrolled urbanization.

I don’t even know where to begin talking about Istanbul. It has quickly become one of my favorite cities in the world. There are several world heritage sites (Rome, Paris, Prague) where everything in the city is lumped together because there could be multiple sites which would merit listing otherwise. Istanbul is one of those cities. The Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace and many other places would justify inclusion as world heritage sites on their own merits. Istanbul is truly one of the great cities of the world.

Overview

Historic Areas of Istanbul

The Historic Areas of Istanbul is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey. It was inscribed into the list in 1985 under the Cultural category. This collective historic site features various sites within the capital district of Faith within the city of Istanbul.

The city has had a long history with the original record of settlement dating back to 6500 BC. It also served as the ancient capital during the Ottoman and Eastern Roman Empires. Over the 1,600-year history, the city fell under the rule of over 120 emperors and sultans. This rich and long history is commemorated by the naming of the different sites that comprise the Historic Areas of Istanbul.

What’s Included in the Historic Areas of Istanbul?

Historic Areas of Istanbul

There are four zones that are comprised within the Historic Areas of Istanbul. Each of these four zones illustrates the different stages of history that the city bore witness to. At the same time, each of these zones features various important monuments and structures.

Sultanahmet Archaeological Park

The Sultanahmet Archaeological Park is an important component of the Historic Areas of Istanbul. Within this archaeological park are two of Turkey’s most notable tourist attractions: Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque (also known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque). But there are more religious and historical structures found within this zone that reflect the fact that Istanbul is considered a holy city. Other notable features include the Topkapi Palace, the City Walls, Hagia Eirene, and the Basilica Cistern.

Historic Areas of Istanbul

The Topkapi Palace was used as the administrative center during the Period of the Ottoman Empire. This building was in use for nearly 4 centuries. Today, the Topkapi Palace is known to be where the 86-carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond is housed in. The palace is no longer used for administrative purposes but has been converted into a museum wherein unique artifacts depicting the history of the Ottoman Empire is exhibited.

Meanwhile, the Basilica Cistern was built during the 542 AD. This was built to provide water to the situates that belong within the premises of the Archaeological Park. The history of Medusa is very well known; her legend is honored via a stone carving of Medusa’s head at the cistern’s column base.

Zeyrek and Süleymaniye Conservation Area

This is another important part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul that comprise of mansions, public buildings, and timber houses. Most of these buildings were built in the 16th century but they remain intact until today. One of the biggest attractions within this zone is the Suleymaniye Mosque and its Complex. It is considered as one of the best masterpieces from Architect Mimar Sinan.

    Land Walls Conservation Area

This part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul is located near the West boundary. It also lies on the Golden Horn to Sea of Marmara. It is considered as one of the most important projects to emerge from the Ancient period. The construction of the land walls begun in the 5th century under the rule of Theodosius II. The land walls are notable for their size, quality of design, materials, and construction techniques that is well ahead of its time.

Below is a list of other notable monuments and structures that are covered within the protected area of the Historic Areas of Istanbul:

  • Little Hagia Sophia
  • Walls of Constantinople
  • Sarayburnu
  • Zeyrek Mosque
  • Suleymaniye Mosque

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.