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Islamic Republic of Iran sends its tourists to Syria


tourismAccording to a report published by the Cultural Heritage Agency of IRI, and following the negotiations between Adnan Mahmoud, the Syrian ambassador to Tehran, with Saeed Owhadi, the head of the Religious Pilgrimage Organization of Iran, an agreement has been signed in which the travel of Iranian pilgrims to the religious sites of Syria would be resumed. The report reflects the hope of the Syrian government for the continuation of tourist activities and visits from other countries such as Russia, China and South Africa.

Nevertheless, the decision comes at a time when many tourist organizations point to the war, destruction, and unsafe conditions in Syria due to the activities of Islamic fundamentalist groups, causing the diversion of tourists to more stable counties of the region. Just recently, American and European governments have advised their tourist citizens to avoid Syria as the most dangerous place on earth.

According to ‘travel experts,’ certain destinations, however, may even be benefiting from lessened travel to traditional summer destinations. Holiday bookings to Thailand have increased 27%, Barbados bookings have increased 24%, Canada by 45%, Indonesia by 63% and Sri Lanka by 101%. Additionally, Turkey has fallen from fourth to eighth on the list of the UK holiday industry’s most booked destinations this summer, and Egypt has fallen from 11th to 35th place. Also in the UK, The Mirror has reported that last minute bookings to Turkey have fallen by 57% and those in Egypt have fallen 85%, and many UK families are choosing “safe haven” resorts in Spain, Portugal and Italy as alternatives.*


* http://www.hoteliermiddleeast.com/27353-turkey-egypt-tourism-suffers-due-to-safety-fears/

International Day of Cooperatives


International Day of Cooperatives

icaThe United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Cooperatives is observed on the first Saturday of July each year. Some of the day’s goals are to increase awareness on cooperatives, as well as strengthen and extend partnerships between the international cooperative movement and other supporting organizations including governments.

What Do People Do?

Cooperatives around the world celebrate the International Day of Cooperatives in many ways. Activities include: messages from the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) and the UN translated into local languages for worldwide distribution; news articles and radio programs publicizing the awareness of the day; fairs, exhibits, contests and campaigns focused on the topics related to the day; meetings with government officials, UN agencies and other partner organizations; economic, environmental, social and health challenges (such as tree planting); and sponsored cultural events such as theatres and concerts.


Cooperatives are important in the world’s economic and social development. Based as on the principle of cooperation, cooperatives help create new ethics and values in business and economics. In 1895 ICA was formed and since 1927 it observes the first Saturday of July as International Cooperative Day. In 1994 the United Nations recognized and reaffirmed that cooperatives were vital in the world’s economic, social and cultural development. However two years earlier – on December 16, 1992 – the UN General Assembly proclaimed the first Saturday of July 1995 as the International Day of Cooperatives, marking the centenary of ICA’s establishment.

International Day of Cooperatives 2016

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Climate Change Impacting Heritage Sites


A new report by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the United Nations Environment Program and the Union of Concerned Scientists, released earlier this month finds that climate change is a major threat to several of the world’s heritage sites. The experts warned that many heritage sites that are very popular with tourists around the world could be impacted by climate change.

The report in addition identifies 31 natural and cultural World Heritage sites across 29 countries that are vulnerable to a range of climate change-related impacts, from increasing temperatures, melting glaciers and rising sea levels to extreme weather events, intensifying droughts and more frequent and more severe wildfires.  All the continents with the exception of Australia were looked at in the report. The Australian continent was originally included in the report, but its government requested it be removed because of concerns that the information would hurt its tourism industry.

The scientists reported that many factors including a rise in sea levels, intense storms and wildfires, are impacting these sites and planning at this point is critical in order to lessen the impact.  Some of these sites have already experienced impact from climate change as the experts warn.  These include Easter Island and Yellowstone National Park.

The information and data for the report was drawn from peer-reviewed science literature, technical reports and local experts, as well as domestic evaluations of the sites prepared for the World Heritage Committee.  Thirteen listed heritage sites were examined in comprehensive case studies intended to demonstrate the way climate change has already had an impact. In a study of the Statue of Liberty, for instance, the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which scientists have shown were exacerbated by a rise in the sea level, are explored at length. 

The report also includes a series of recommendations for government agencies, the tourism industry and heritage site managers. The experts believe that tourism, which is one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors, will likely be affected by the dramatic changes expected at these sites, and so will the local communities that depend on that tourism.


Discovery of Cambodia’s Vast Medieval Cities


cambodiaUsing laser technology, archaeologists in Cambodia have found multiple, previously undocumented medieval cities, as reported by the Guardian newspaper and several other news outlets. These cities which are not far from the ancient temple city of Angkor Wat, would have made up the world’s largest empire in 12th century.

Dr Damian Evans, an Australian archaeologist led the team of archeologists who captured and gathered the data in 2015 during the most extensive airborne archeological study ever undertaken. The data was just recently analyzed and will be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science in the next few days. The team has announced that cutting-edge airborne laser scanning technology has revealed multiple cities between 900 and 1,400 years old beneath the tropical forest floor, some of which rival the size of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. The data shows that the colossal, densely populated cities would have constituted the largest empire on earth at the time of its peak in the 12th century.

Dr. Evans has received European Research Council (ERC) funding for the project, based on the success of his first lidar (light detection and ranging) survey in Cambodia in 2012. That earlier project uncovered a complex urban landscape connecting medieval temple-cities, such as Beng Mealea and Koh Ker, to Angkor, and confirmed what archaeologists had long suspected, that there was a city beneath Mount Kulen. It was not until the results of the significantly larger 2015 survey were analyzed that the size of the city was apparent according to the Guardian newspaper. Archeologists uncovered in the earlier survey that elaborate water systems that were built hundreds of years before historians believed the technology existed. The findings are expected to challenge theories on how the Khmer empire developed, dominated the region, and declined around the 15th century, and the role of climate change and water management in that process.

The team explains that they fired lasers to the ground from a helicopter to produce extremely detailed imagery of the Earth’s surface. Evans said the airborne laser scanners had also identified large numbers of mysterious geometric patterns formed from earthen embankments, which could have been gardens.

The Angkor temple ruins, which expand across the UNESCO-protected Angkor archaeological park, are the country’s top tourist destination, with the main temple-city, Angkor Wat, appearing on the Cambodian national flag. Experts in the archaeological world agree that these are the most significant archaeological discoveries in recent years.


US Returns 200 Stolen Artifacts to India


indiaIt took almost a decade but over two hundred artifacts which had been stolen and smuggled out of India to be sold in the international market were finally returned to India.

It has been reported by a number of media outlets that about nine years ago, federal investigators received a tip about a shipment of seven crates destined for the U.S. The shipment had been labeled as “marble garden table sets.” Further examination of the shipment by the U.S. border authorities revealed that the crates actually contained numerous antiquities, setting off “Operation Hidden Idol,” which resulted in the arrest of six people. According to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an investigative arm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the artifacts are worth more than $100 million.

Last week, more than 200 of those artifacts were returned to the government of India in a joint ceremony with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


As reported by CNN and ABC, the treasured artifacts were stolen from religious sites and date back to 2,000 years ago. The Department of Homeland Security returned religious statues, bronzes and terracotta pieces to the Indian government. The collection includes a statue of Saint Manikkavichavakar, a Hindu mystic and poet from the Chola period (circa 850 AD to 1250 AD), that was stolen from the Sivan Temple in Chennai, India. It is valued at an estimated $1.5 million. The items also include a bronze sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesh estimated to be 1,000 years old.

The crates were allegedly imported by former New York-based art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who was arrested and is now awaiting trial in India for allegedly looting tens of millions of dollars’ worth of rare antiquities from several nations, according to ICE. He has pleaded not guilty. ABC reported that, in addition to Kappor, five people were arrested in connection to the looted artifacts. Some items allegedly brought into the U.S. through various schemes were found in the Honolulu Museum and Peabody Essex. It is unclear how those museums actually obtained the artifacts. Those items were also turned over to federal authorities.

Over the past decade, the U.S. has returned more than 7,500 artifacts to countries around the world. Last summer, a $15 million Picasso painting was turned over to France at least 14 years after it was stolen from a Paris museum. And, just last month, a stolen Christopher Columbus letter, which turned up in the Library of Congress, was returned to Italy.


Experts Agree to Emergency Measures for Safeguarding Syria’s Heritage


syriaEarlier this month on June 2nd, an expert meeting was held in Berlin for two days and brought together over 230 Syrian and international experts to discuss safeguarding Syria’s heritage.  The meeting which was organized by UNESCO and Germany aimed to assess damage to cultural heritage sites in Syria, develop methodologies and define priority emergency safeguarding measures for the country’s heritage. The meeting was opened by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and Maria Böhmer, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Germany.

The Conference participants included leading archaeologists, anthropologists, and experts in monument preservation, architects and urban planners. Among them were representatives of the Syrian Antiquities Directorate (DGAM) as well as other scientists and experts from or working in Syria.  A number of young Syrian experts were also invited to the meeting and a new mentoring system structure was proposed to bring together young experts and to establish training of professionals for the protection of Syrian cultural heritage.

According to the UNESCO’s website, the expert meeting for the emergency safeguarding of Syria’s cultural heritage included several roundtable discussions on damage assessment and current actions by cultural heritage professionals. In addition, thematic sessions focused on the role of local communities, documentation and archives, capacity building and safeguarding plans. Participants also proposed practical measures to address damage assessment, mapping and inventories, legal and institutional frameworks, technical assistance, including first aid measures for built heritage, and capacity building, as well as communication and awareness-raising. Concrete measures were identified for historic cities, archaeological sites, museums, movable objects and intangible heritage and these were added to the UNESCO Recommendations and Road Map, adopted in 2014.

One of the major subjects discussed included the critical and persistent issue of looting and illicit trafficking of cultural heritage. The experts called for a comprehensive list of looted objects from Syria to complement the International Council of Museum’s existing Red List and appealed on all governments to implement United Nations Security Council Resolutions banning the trade in cultural heritage from the country.

Furthermore the experts appealed to international funding and development agencies to include cultural heritage in major funding programs and post-conflict recovery plans. At the end of the conference, the experts presented proposals to improve the future prospects of Syria’s heritage through post-conflict recovery plans.

2500 year-old “Black Bardak Palace” is on the verge of extinction


Bardak-Siah-1 According to a report published on the Iranian site ” Aftab Net Daily”, the Black Bardak Palace and its valuable contents, those which belonged to the Iranian emperor Darius the Great around 500 B.C., are in a rapidly stage of deterioration.
The palace was discovered and unearthed by a group of Iranian archaeologists headed by Ehsan Yaghmaei, in the city of Bushehr in southern Iran. It is mainly made of two kinds of black and white stones, unique in color and structure. A large amount of gold has also been discovered that is believed to be the cover of wooden doors of the palace. From the beginning of the excavations, the archaeologist came to believe that this palace might have been larger and more luxurious than Persepolis.
Due to unknown reasons, however, the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran stopped further excavations ten years ago and the site was left without any security and control.
During this long period, the remains of the palace, including the columns and black murals, have been deteriorating due to the lack of supervision.
One of the unique Bardak-Siah-2artifacts discovered in the palace is a bas-relief depicting Darius and his entourage, very similar to the bas-reliefs in Persepolis. The artifact possesses written lines of Babylonian calligraphy, and was put inside a short oval wall made of bricks, held together by mortar and then covered in textile material. Experts believe that the penetration of water can damage the stony bas-relief.
The existence of other scattered broken stones and smashed artifacts at the site show the extent of many unauthorized excavations.
It is interesting to note that the palace was registered in the list of national treasures of the country but never received any due maintenance and control.
In an interview with the head of the archaeological group, Ehsan Yaghmaei has expressed his utmost apprehension about the situation, adding that the Cultural Heritage Organization of the country has been reluctant to publish a book that details the two seasons of excavations at this ancient site.

World Environment Day


khali.1World Environment Day is celebrated every year on JUNE 5 to raise global awareness to take positive environmental action to protect nature and the planet Earth. It is run by the United Nations Environment Program.I

It was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 on the day that United Nations Conference on the Human Environment began.