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Sites in Yemen and Lebanon added to UNESCO World Heritage List


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

The seven major landmarks of the ancient Yemeni kingdom of Saba and the Rachid Karami International Fair in Tripoli were listed by UN agencies in “an emergency procedure”, in hopes of better preserving the neglected sites. Now added, both sites will have access to enhanced technical and financial assistance, according to UNESCO.

The pre-Islamic Yemeni kingdom of Saba, which once stretched from Sanaa to Marib, now occupies one of the main front lines separating Houthi rebels from Saudi coalition forces. The threat of destruction from 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 ancient Marib.

Yemen’s disastrous conflict began in 2014 when Iranian-backed rebels fell from the mountain and occupied the capital, Sanaa, along with much of northern Yemen, ousting the internationally recognized government. A Saudi-led coalition – armed with US and British weapons and intelligence – entered the war in March 2015 on the side of the Yemeni government-in-exile.

A barrage of Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes has destroyed historic mud houses in North Saada, the historic Houthi heartland, and damaged much of the more than 2,500-year-old Old Town in central Sanaa, also a UNESCO World Heritage site. – world heritage site. In 2015, airstrikes partially destroyed part of the Great Marib Dam, near Awwam Temple, one of the Seven Landmarks.

The modernist Rachid Karami International Fair in Lebanon was designed in the 1960s as part of a wider policy to modernize the country. Funding shortfalls constantly interrupted construction before the half-completed site was finally abandoned following the outbreak of the Civil War in the mid-1970s.

In recent years, the 70-hectare site, topped by a boomerang-shaped concert hall, has attracted the attention of several developers. UNESCO said it added the site after concerns about its “conservation status” and fears another renovation could undermine the “integrity of the complex.”

Since 2019, Lebanon has been embroiled in an economic crisis, with the currency losing more than 90% of its value since then. The financial crisis has plunged three-quarters of the population into poverty, while millions of people struggle to cope with some of the sharpest inflation in the world.

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