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Timbuktu’s Manuscripts Destroyed



As reported by BBC, yesterday (28th Jan, 2013) (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21227053), as the French and Malian troops reached Timbuktu, they found that thousands of ancient manuscripts had been destroyed by the rebels.  The reports also show that militants also destroyed a library of ancient manuscripts, dating back to the 13th Century. The video footage of the library shows charred books and empty boxes.  The library, the Ahmed Baba institute, held about 30,000 manuscripts, and included documents about many centuries of life in Mali and neighboring countries.

About six months ago, the UNESCO reported that the rebels were destroying the ancient city of Timbuktu and the government of Mali also petitioned the UNESCO  for help and for the preservation of ancient and national heritage sites like the Tomb of Askia in Gao (http://www.policymic.com/articles/11190/al-qaeda-groups-are-destroying-timbuktu-a-unesco-world-heritage-site-in-mali)

Mali’s Heritage Sites


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Earlier this month the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova appealed to all military forces in Mali and asked them to protect the cultural heritage of the country, which has already been severely damaged.  In a statement Ms. Bokova invoked the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of armed conflict and its two Protocols. She sent a letter to Malian and French authorities urging them to respect the Convention and in addition, mobilized the UNESCO’s Emergency Fund, the World Heritage Fund to protect the Cultural Property of Mali.


Cologne Cathedral May be in Danger



Cologne Cathedral, is a UNESCO national heritage site since 1995 and one of Germany’s famous landmarks was built between 1248 and 1880.  The cathedral was heavily damaged by the Allied bombers during World War II but survived the war and now is one of most visited sites in Germany by tourists.  However, the Cathedral could be in danger being greatly damaged one more time.  The building has started to shake from the underground trains from a new station and the tunnels underneath the Cathedral.

At this time the city of Cologne, the transport and city representatives and the Cathedral officials have appointed a working group to look into the matter and solutions including for the trains to slow down when they are running under the building.


Celebrating the Sade Festival


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Sadé or Sada is the most important Iranian winter festival.  Sada also is a celebration to honor fire and to defeat the forces of darkness and cold.

Some of Iranians believe that the festival dates back to the time of Houshang, the first Kianid king who discovered how to light a fire.

Sade is a non-religious festivity and until the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iranians openly and freely celebrated it in Iran.  However, at this time only Zorostarians are allowed to celebrate it freely.

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Qeshm Geo-Park



The Qeshm’s Geo-Park is the only Middle Eastern geo-park that has been listed by UNESCO.  This park because of negligence and standards that these parks need to have has received a red warning card from the UNESCO.  The red card is given as a warning that unless the list of warnings are not followed and corrected the park could be taken off the UNESCO’s list of natural national heritage list.

After giving a yellow card (which is the first warning) to the management of the park and giving them 2 years to help and bring the park to the original standards and up keeping, the park was given a red card in Jan 2013.  This was due to the lack of the response from the management of the park.

UNESCO had asked for a number of things to be done to bring the park back to the original conditions under which the park was listed as a natural national heritage park. These include: 1) creating signs throughout the park for better guidance of visitors, b) building more roads for the tourists to get to the park, c) creating hotels or places for tourists to stay close to the park, d) unapproved structures that were either blocking views or access to the park, e) close proximity to mines that were established later and after the UNESCO’s designation, f) destruction of beaches and selling of sand by the management of the park.

Mr. Bijan Darreh-shuri, one of the important people natural national heritage in Iran and the person who had with tremendous effort and work created this Geo-park in Iran, in a conversation with Save Passargad.com said “that the managers of Qeshm did not realize the great importance of this area for tourism and did not do what was needed.  “When we were there our management team was very strong and responsible and felt responsible before the people and the future of Iran and for that area.  Qeshm is an amazing geological area with vegetation and ecological importance that is about 100,000 acres.  For example Qeshm annually hosts 400 white pelican a year and these birds are so rare and currently extinct as only 1000 of them remain in the world.  And Qeshm is also one of the areas of the world that still remains a habitat for turtles. … But unfortunately after we left, other people came in and did not feel the same. Their irresponsible behavior led to the park being delisted by the UNESCO. ” Mr. Darreh-Shuri said.  In spite of this, Mr.Darreh-shuri says that:” I am positive that if the managers even now attempt to rectify and correct the past mistakes, the UNESCO will once again list the Qeshm’s Geo-park as a national environmental heritage.”

Syria’s World Heritage



 Syria’s World Heritage Sites damaged in the war.

Several articles and reports published in late 2012 paint a grim picture for Syria’s cultural heritage sites (http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/oct/05/aleppo-souk-syria-destroyed-war) and (http://world.time.com/2012/09/12/syrias-looted-past-how-ancient-artifacts-are-being-traded-for-guns/#ixzz26ujLHJ8C.

It is true that the greatest loss from wars and conflicts are human losses.  Syria’s unbelievable human toll has been over 60,000 deaths, over 250,000 refugees and 1.2 million internally displaced people.  In addition to this tremendous human suffering, all the six Syria’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites have been damaged. These include Archeological sites of northern Syria.

Jean Perrot


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Jean Perrot, an internationally well known French archeologist was born in 1920. He studied archeology at the Ecole du Louvre where he specialized in Syrian archaeology.  In 1945, he entered École biblique et archéologique française in Jerusalem to continue his studies during which time he researched ancient sites in Iran, Israel and Turkey.  Perrot went to Iran for the first time in 1968 and took over as the director of the Delegation Archéologique Français (DAFI) while researching and studying ancient Iranian Sites in collaboration with the Iranian Center of Archaeological Research, and experts from France and the United States.  His most significant and well known work was in Susa (Shush) and Jafar Abad and one of his notable discoveries is the headless statue of Darius which is now housed in the National Museum of Iran in Tehran.  He continued his work until the Iranian revolution in 1979.  While in Iran he was also a professor at the Sorbonne, Paris and a researcher at the CNRS, France.  The most recent work that Perrot has done, titled, Darius’ Palace in Susa,  (Le palais de Darius à Susa) was published in 2010.  Jean Perrot was married to an Iranian woman and passed away on December 25th, 2012.

Jewish historical manuscripts found


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The Jewish manuscripts which are believed to about 1,000 years old reveal details of a thriving Jewish society in what was then parts of Persian Empire.(http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/15/world/middleeast/documents-illuminate-jewish-life-in-ancient-muslim-empire.html?_r=0). The manuscripts were reportedly found in a cave in the mountainous northern area of Afghanistan and look very well preserved possibly because of the dry conditions in the cave. The manuscripts show details about the cultural, economic and religious life of the Jewish society at the time. The documents reportedly contain writings in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic, and the unique Judea-Persian language of that era.


Susa* is invaded by termites


Recent news from Susa, one of the world’s oldest cities, show the evidence of termite infestation in the hall where the ancient artifacts are kept.

Ehsan Yaghmaei, a prominent Iranian archeologist who supervises the excavations in numerous old castles in Susa and is considered as the discoverer of Bardak-e-Siah Palace, an Archimedes remains, has told the ISNA, a government reporting agency that: “There is so much bad news about Susa that the invasion of the termites could be considered just a negligible event!”

He reports about the vast destructions that have taken place in the ancient sites of Susa and refers to the fact that these sites are now used as sheep pasture and a gathering place for the addicts.

He says: “At this moment, the Susa sites are neither under the supervision of local Cultural Heritage officers nor any other authority. They are now in the hands of those who are constructing a hotel right on the ancient site.”


*Susa (Persian: ý Shush) was an ancient city of the, Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about 250 km (160 mi) east of the Tigris River. The modern Iranian town of Shush is located at the site of ancient Susa. Shush is the administrative capital of the Shush County of Iran’s Khuzestan province.

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Tomb of Askia



In 2012, the Tomb of Askia was added to the African endangered heritage list as reported by African World Heritage Sites.  The Tomb of Askia which is located close to the banks of the River Niger was built in 1495 in Gao, Mali.  The structure stands about 17 meter high and was made from hardened mud. 

From the early 15th century to the late 16th century, the Songhai (or Songhay) empire not only controlled vast part of West Africa but it had also become a major trading center for gold and salt. Gao which was initially the capital of Gao empire then became the capital of Songhai empire.  The Tomb of Askia symbolizes a major period in the history of west Africa and its gradual destruction is a significant loss.