Biggest Threat To World Heritage: ISIS

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Whenever I visit a new place I make sure to check out the UNESCO World Heritage list to see if any places nearby are on the list.

For those of you unsure of what the UNESCO World Heritage List is, here’s a description.

According to UNESCO:

World Heritage is the designation for places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity and as such, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. Places as diverse and unique as the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, the Taj Mahal in India, the Grand Canyon in the USA, or the Acropolis in Greece are examples of the 1007 natural and cultural places inscribed on the World Heritage List to date“.

So far I’ve been to 95 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (I’ve been keeping track of my count on the site Most Traveled People for years now.)

It’s safe to say that I would’ve never came across some of these sites if not for the UNESCO designation. I’ve even gone out of my way to visit some of them. While most are pretty interesting and unique, some sites have turned out to have not been worth the time invested… I guess you never fully know until you’re there!

Either way, sites designated as World Heritage made it to the list for (most likely) a very good reason.

Last month’s natural disaster, a devastating earthquake, took many lives in Nepal. Along with the huge loss of life, many of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites were badly damaged, some being totally destroyed. Find out about this here.

So would I say that natural disasters are the biggest current threat to world heritage? Probably not.

If I had to guess (at least in the Middle East), I’d say that ISIS has to be the biggest threat to destroying sites that have survived and been protected for many years.

A month or so back, The Guardian had an article (with video) about the destruction of UNESCO World Heritage site- Hatra, a 2,000 year old site in Iraq by Isis.

CNN has an interesting article which Tracks the Trail of Historical Obliteration. The article mentions what happened in Hatra as well as at other sites ISIS destroyed in Iraq.

Over the past week or so there has been worry that “one of the most important cultural sites in the Middle East” (according to UNESCO), Palmyra in Syria was being threatened by ISIS fighting close by.

In January I wrote how Terrorism in Paris= Less Tourists. I also wondered how terrorism is shrinking our travel world.

Well what about terrorism destroying such valuable artifacts and pieces of history and culture which have withstood thousands of years of time and conflict?

Sad, isn’t it.

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