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Nurturing the democratic debate.  
Nine new sites on the World Heritage List

26-06-2002 10:00 pm Budapest - UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, meeting here for its 26th session, chaired by the Hungarian Tamas Fejerdy, today added 9 new sites to the World Heritage List, bringing the total to 730 cultural, natural and mixed sites of "outstanding universal value," including for the first time a site in Afghanistan. The new bearers of the "world heritage" label are: the Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Afghanistan), the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and the Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar (Germany), the Saint Catherine Area (Egypt), the Tokaji Wine Region Cultural Landscape (Hungary), the Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodhgaya (India), the Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto, in Sicily (Italy), the Ancient Maya City of Calakmul, in Campeche (Mexico) and the Historic Inner City of Paramaribo (Suriname).

Afghanistan. Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam. The 65-metre Minaret of Jam is the second tallest in the world, after Qutb Minar in New Delhi (India). It was built in 1194 at the intersection of two steep river valleys in the west-central province of Ghur and has elaborate brickwork, with geometric and floral motifs and Kufic inscriptions, and a band of blue tiles around it. The quality of the decoration represents the high point of the artistic and architectural tradition of the Ghurid dynasty that ruled Afghanistan and northern India in the 12th and early 13th centuries. The site also includes traces of an old Jewish cemetery and remains of fortifications.

Germany. Upper Middle Rhine Valley. This cultural landscape stretches 65 km along the Rhine, between the plain of Oberrheingraben and Lower Rhine basin. It includes about 60 towns and a wide range of landscapes and cultural properties (many of them classified monuments), such as castles, abbeys, fortresses, terraced vineyards, copses, steep valleys and the Lorelei Rock. The area, shaped by 2,000 years of history, has had a powerful influence on poets, painters and composers over the past two centuries. The Lorelei and the old Germanic legend of the Nibelungs were particularly in vogue during the Romantic Era and composer Richard Wagner drew on it for his famous Ring Cycle.

Germany. Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar. Founded in the 13th century on the northwestern Baltic coast, these towns were major commercial centres of the Hanseatic League in the 14th and 15th centuries. They are Germany's best remaining examples of this group of nearly 200 trading towns. Wismar has preserved its port and medieval canal, while the historic centre of Stralsund, built on an island, is virtually unchanged since the 13th century, despite some damage during World War II. The two towns, which fell under Swedish rule after the Thirty Years War, contributed to the growth of military technology in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Egypt. Saint Catherine Area. This area of Sinai is of great spiritual importance for the three monotheistic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The very-well preserved 5th century Orthodox monastery of Saint Catherine is the only Byzantine Christian monument continuously in use since it was built 1,500 years ago. It contains remarkable collections of ancient manuscripts and icons, as well as a small mosque, and stands at the foot of the 2,285-metre Mount Horeb (Jebel Musa in Arabic), where the Old Testament says Moses received the Tablets of the Law. The area also includes Bronze Age archaeological sites, ancient Egyptian mines and Nabatean, Byzantine and pre-Islamic remains.

Hungary. Tokaji Wine Region Cultural Landscape. This cultural landscape displays the long tradition of wine production in northeastern Hungary. The first vines were planted here in the 12th century or earlier. But it was not until the Ottoman period that the famous "Tokaji Aszu" wine, made from grapes left to rot on the vines, brought prosperity to the region under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Then the vineyards went into decline before being restored in the early 1990s. The region is an intricate pattern of vineyards, farms, villages and small towns with large networks of cellars and illustrates every aspect of Tokaji (or Tokay) wine production, whose quality has been strictly regulated for three centuries.

India. Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodhgaya. Situated in the northeastern state of Bihar, this is one of the four holy places linked to the life of Buddha. It was here, at the age of 35, in the year 531 BC, that he attained Enlightenment while sitting under the Bodhi Tree. The first temple was built on the spot in the 3rd century BC by Emperor Asoka, but the present one dates from the 5th or 6th century, though some balustrades are from the Asoka period. The temple, in the centre of Bodhgaya, is surrounded by other holy places and is considered one of India's oldest existing temples. Some 400,000 tourists and pilgrims visit the siteeach year, two-thirds of them Indians.

Italy. Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto. Caltagirone, Militello Val Di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli are eight towns in southeastern Sicily all rebuilt since 1693 on or nearby towns destroyed by the earthquake that killed 93,000 people that year. They were a considerable joint operation, involving well-known architects and artists and thousands of craftsmen. All are in keeping with the late Baroque style of the time and displaydistinctive innovations in town planning and construction. The first anti-earthquake regulations were implemented in the rebuilding of Catania.

Mexico. Ancient Maya City of Calakmul (Campeche). Calakmul, in the tropical forest of the Tierras Bajas of southern Mexico, is an exceptionally well-preserved Mayan city. It was founded in about 300 BC and with its rival, Tikal, was one of the region's two Mayan capitals for more than 12 centuries. The city was at its peak in the 6th and 7th centuries and thendeclined as the centre of power moved north to Yucatan. The site includes two large pyramids as well as richly-decorated royal tombs. It is very well-preserved because it was not discovered until 1931 and restoration work only began in 1993.

Suriname.Historic Inner City of Paramaribo. The old Dutch colonial capital of Paramaribo is unique in South America. It was founded in 1667 with the building of Fort Zeelandia, it grew over the centuries spreading first south along the Suriname River and then towards the north on land that was reclaimed by Dutch civil engineers. The city has retained its original street plan and its buildings illustrate the gradual blending of Dutch architecture and use of local techniques and materials. The presidential palace, for example, built in 1730, has a stone ground-floor with wooden upper storeys.

The Committee also approved the extension of two sites already on the World Heritage List. These are Budapest, the Banks of the Danube and the Buda Castle Quarter (formerlyAndrassy Avenue and the Millennium Underground) in Hungary, and the Marine Zone of Cocos Island National Park (formerly Cocos Island National Park) in Costa Rica.

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Source Press Release No.2002-40

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