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Let’s Celebrate Yalda, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza – 2014


Happy Yalda, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa. 

The Yalda festival was a Mithraic celebration, which finds its origins among the earliest Iranians. But in 53 BCE, when Roman legions were unable to conquer Parthian Mithraists, they adopted Mithra the “Unconquered Sun” as their own military deity, and Yalda or “Yule” became an official celebration of the Roman Empire.

Many of the original pagan symbols survive in what has come to be known as Christmas such as: holly, ivy, the color red, the mistletoe, Yule logs, the giving of gifts, decorated evergreen trees, Santa Claus, etc..

Christmas Day (December 25th) is a Christian holiday which is celebrated around the world by decorating Christmas trees, attending church, traditional food, and exchanging gifts.

Kwanzaa is an African American holiday celebrated by millions of people in the United States.  It is a week long holiday, observed from December 26th to January 1st every year. 

Hanukkah (also known as Chanukah) is an eight-day festival of lights and a Jewish holiday.  It commemorates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem during the second century BC.  It begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev and usually falls in November or December.  Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 days and nights with the lightening of the menorah, food, and gifts. 


Ancient Gate Discovered in Tel Ajori



As reported by several media outlets last month (Nov 2014), excavations at Persepolis, have uncovered an ancient gate in Tale-Ajori. The joint Iranian-Italian expedition team has been exploring Tel Ajori or ‘brick mound’in Persepolis during October and November. During the recent excavations, a large gate was unearthed. Perspolis is a magnificent palace complex in Iran founded by Darius the Great around 518 BC. Even older than Persepolis itself, Tale-Ajori lies 3,500 meters outside the city and is believed that it is of great significance for understanding the Achaemenid Empire.

The expedition has been led by Alireza Askari Chaverdi Ph.D of Shiraz University and Prof. Pierfrancesco Callieri of Italian University of Bologna, and financed by provincial department of Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO).

The researcher believe that most exciting findings of this excavation are 30 pieces of glazed bricks adorned with images of winged animals, incorporating mythic beasts of Elamite and Achaemenid eras in a style not unlike that of Mesopotamia and Susa in southwestern Iran. The entire outer surface and the great passageway under the gate opening are covered with the colorful glazed bricks.

The discovery of the new gate may shed new light on the role Tale-Ajori played within the ancient landscape.

Photographs were taken by Hassan Zohari and kindly shared with WCHV

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Saving Rhinos from Poaching


A recent initiative in South Africa is focusing on saving Rhinos from poaching by moving them to safe areas away from poachers as reported by CNN recently.

At the Kruger National Park, South Africa, wildlife veterinary team is working with the government to move away rhinos from poaching hotspots along the Mozambique border, to a recently established “intensive protection zone” deeper into the park.



The team’s members are no ordinary veterinarians according to CNN. The team quickly captures rhinos daily by using tranquilizers and park’s guards and then moves them to safer areas. They’ve already conducted more than 30 relocations since last month, and will conduct hundreds more. They are a key part of a protection plan which has taken on even greater urgency since the country’s environmental minister announced that a record 1,020 of South Africa’s rhinos have been poached this year as CNN reported.

The illegal trade in rhino horn is mostly fueled by an major demands in Asia, where it is prized as a sign of wealth and believed to have medicinal value with no scientific evidence to support healing properties.

Rhino horn is made of keratin, the same protein found in human fingernails, but it can still fetch as much as $5,550 an ounce on the black market — that’s more than the price of gold, more than the price of platinum — and roughly equivalent to the price of cocaine.

Kruger National Park, which is home to roughly 10,000 rhinos — a quarter of the world’s population — shares a 350-kilometer border with impoverished Mozambique, making it a massive target for poachers.

This past year, the use of the new equipment and technology has helped lead to a record number of poaching arrests but there is still so much more to be done. Last month alone, 600 poachers infiltrated the park from Mozambique as reported by CNN.

Rhinos are now being slaughtered for a horn that for millennia has been its first line of defense, conservationists are now counting on the rhino’s extreme adaptability to save it from extinction.

Give the Gift of World Heritage


holida1Give the gift of World Heritage this holiday season.

Give your family and friends the gift of preservation and knowledge of World Cultural Heritage, so that they could also be part of the protection and conservation of beautiful and historic sites of their own countries as well as our planet.

By becoming a member of World Cultural Heritage Voices, you can also partner with us in our educational programs in order to preserve sites in countries suffering from wars, conflicts and poverty.

Remember that every donation makes a difference, regardless of size.

Hungary proposing to restrict shops in Heritage sites


shoppingA bill submitted to the Hungarian Parliament last month by the economy minister would prohibit big supermarkets and discount shops from opening in the area of Budapest’s World Heritage sites. The rules would apply to discount shops and supermarkets. Budapest has two World Heritage sites according to UNESCO: the Banks of the Danube and the Buda Castle Quarter (451 hectares), and the Andrássy Avenue and the Underground, with a property area of 58 hectares and a buffer zone of 240 hectares. The legislation is scheduled to go into effect starting next year and would force existing shops to close in 2018.
SPAR, One of the supermarket chains which has invested greatly in the Hungarian market has confirmed that it would postpone a significant part of the planned investments because of several food supervisory fees and proposed legislation related to retail trade affecting the company’s operations in Hungary and not just because of the latest bill. The company is not planning to leave the Hungarian market where it has invested over 500 million Euros over the last 23-years according to Hungary Today.
For many years now, major food companies have been setting up branches close to Heritage Sites around the world. Companies like Starbucks, McDonald and Pizza Hut have opened branches at the Louvre, Beijing’s Forbidden City, and Peru’s Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.

General Assembly and Scientific Symposium of ICOMOS


icomosThe 18th General Assembly and Scientific Symposium of ICOMOS took place in Florence, Italy from Nov 9th to 14th, 2014.  The conference is an opportunity to make contact with ministries, institutions, businesses, and local authorities interested in heritage matters, both in Italy and abroad. You can learn more by visiting ICOMOS General Assembly 2014

UNESCO Calls for Protecting Libya’s Cultural Heritage


Protecting Libya’s heritageThere have been many recent reports of acts of vandalism, illicit trafficking and attacks on Libyan cultural heritage. These reports have been amid increasing deterioration of the security situation in Libya. Therefore, UNESCO has called on all parties for protection of Libya’s Cultural Heritage. In a statement, Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova stated that: “Libyan heritage is the expression of a shared memory of the country, and its respect represents a corner stone for long lasting national reconciliation”. She urged Libyan people to commit to and act for safeguarding of its national heritage and urged all parties to refrain from using cultural property and its immediate surroundings for military purposes as well as to abstain from any act of hostility directed at such property.

It has been reported that UNESCO is working with INTERPOL, the World Custom Organization (WCO) and specialized national police corps such as the Carabinieri (Italy), to order to increase vigilance on attempts of import, transit and sales of Libyan cultural property. UNESCO has also alerted Libyan neighboring countries on the threats of illicit trafficking of cultural property.

In addition, UNESCO is directly engaging with Libyan cultural professionals and NGOs to reinforce emergency measures for cultural heritage protection, and enable the rapid assessment, documentation and monitoring of heritage.