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Sites in Yemen and Lebanon added to UNESCO World Heritage List

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CAIRO — An ancient Yemeni kingdom and a Lebanese modernist concrete fairground were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in Danger on Wednesday, the latest entries from the Middle East.

The seven major monuments of the former Yemeni kingdom of Sheba and the Rashid Karami International Fair in Tripoli have been included on the list of UN agencies in “emergency procedure”, in the hope of better preserving the neglected sites. Now added, the two sites will have access to enhanced technical and financial assistance, UNESCO said.

The pre-Islamic Yemeni kingdom of Sheba, which once stretched from Sanaa to Marib, now sits on one of the main frontlines separating Houthi rebels from Saudi coalition forces. The threat of destruction due to the ongoing conflict was cited as the main reason for adding the seven landmarks which include several ancient temples, a dam and the ruins of old Marib.

Yemen’s ruinous conflict began in 2014 when Iranian-backed rebels descended from the mountain and occupied the capital, Sanaa, as well as much of northern Yemen, toppling the internationally recognized government. A Saudi-led coalition – armed with US and British arms and intelligence – went to war on the side of the Yemeni government in exile in March 2015.

A barrage of Saudi-led airstrikes destroyed historic mud houses in northern Saada, the historic heartland of the Houthis, and damaged much of the more than 2,500-year-old old city in central Sanaa, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2015, airstrikes partially destroyed a section of the Great Marib Dam near Awwam Temple, one of the seven landmarks.

Lebanon’s modernist Rachid Karami International Fair was conceived in the 1960s as part of a broader policy of modernizing the country. Funding shortages continually halted construction before the half-built site was finally abandoned following the outbreak of civil war in the mid-1970s.

In recent years, the 70-hectare (173-acre) site, fronted by a boomerang-shaped concert hall, has attracted the attention of several developers. UNESCO said it added the site following concerns about its “state of conservation” and fears that further renovation could undermine the “integrity of the complex”.

Since 2019, Lebanon has been plunged into an economic crisis, with the currency having lost more than 90% of its value since then. The financial crisis has plunged three-quarters of the population into poverty, with millions struggling to cope with one of the highest inflations in the world.

washingtonpost Gt

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