CAIRO - 18 April 2023: World Heritage Day falls on April 18 every year. It is tailor made to increase awareness about the vitality of cultural heritage and find ways to protect and preserve our heritage.
In 1982 the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) suggested celebrating heritage on April 18, and it was approved by the General Assembly of UNESCO in 1983.
Celebrating World Heritage Day, Egypt Today will give its readers a list of the Egyptian archaeological sites that were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
1-Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
Nubia is a geographic region in the south of Egypt and the north Sudan. A number of important sites are located in the region between Aswan and Abu Simbel, and in 1979, ten were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
These are, from south to north: The temples of Ramesses II in Abu Simbel; Amada; Wadi Sebua; Kalabsha; Philae (Island of Agilkia); the ancient granite quarries and unfinished obelisk in Aswan; the Islamic Cemetery; the ruins of the ancient city of Elephantine; the Monastery of St Simeon; and the Old and Middle Kingdom tombs in Aswan (the so-called Tombs of the Nobles).
The construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s threatened these monuments with submersion, but they were all saved thanks to the efforts of an International Campaign launched by UNESCO from 1960 to 1980.
2-Ancient Thebes and its Necropolis
The ancient city of Thebes, modern Luxor in the south of Egypt, was one of the most important cities from the Middle Kingdom (c.2055–1650 BC) onwards.
The vast majority of the ancient Egyptian monuments that can still be visited there today were built during the New Kingdom (c.1550–1069 BC), Egypt’s age of empire. Ancient Thebes and its necropolis, or burial areas, were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979.
The monuments that may be seen here are the Karnak temple complex and Luxor Temple on the east bank of the Nile, and those on the west bank include the temple of Ramesses III in Medinet Habu; the Ramesseum of Ramesses II; Amenhotep III’s Colossi of Memnon; the temple of Hatshepsut in Deir al-Bahari; the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, where Tutankhamun was buried; the tombs in the Valley of the Queens; and the town and tombs of the workmen of the royal tombs in Deir al-Medina.
3-Memphis and its Necropolis
Memphis, near the modern village of Mit Rahina not far from Cairo, and its necropolis were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979.
Said to have been founded by the legendary first king of Egypt Menes in 3100 BC, the ancient city of Memphis was the capital during the Early Dynastic Period (c.3100–2686 BC) and Old Kingdom (c.2686–2181 BC), and continued to be one of the most important cities throughout more than three-thousand years of ancient Egyptian history.
It was a center for the worship of the god Ptah, whose temple was one of the most important places in all of ancient Egypt. It was so important, that the origin of the word “Egypt”, from Greek Aigyptos, comes from the temple’s ancient name, Hikuptah “The Temple of the ka (‘soul’) of Ptah.
The city’s longevity is reflected in the sheer size and number of the many ancient cemeteries in its area. These include, from north to south, Abu Rawash; the Giza Plateau, the site of the three world-famous Pyramids of Giza; Zawyet al-‘Aryan; Abu Ghurab; Abusir; Saqqara; Mit Rahina; and Dahshur.
Cairo, the capital of Egypt, was founded in 969 BC by Jawhar al-Siqilli, the general of the Fatimid Caliph al-Mu’izz. As the city grew over time, it came to absorb the older capitals that had been founded nearby since the Arab conquest in 20 AH/641 AD, such as al-Fustat.
Modern Cairo thus conceals within it the many sites and monuments of its complex past. The following were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979: Al-Fustat, which includes the Nilometer on Rawdah Island, the Mosque of ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, the Hanging Church, and the Ben ‘Ezra Synagogue; the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the Citadel, the Fatimid nucleus of Cairo and its necropolis; al-Imam al-Shaf’i Necropolis; al-Sayyidah Nafisah Necropolis; and the Qaytbay Necropolis.
Added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979, Abu Mena is the site of the ruins of a church, monasteries, houses, workshops, and various public buildings that were built on the tomb of Saint Menas of Alexandria.
It is said that, after his martyrdom in the late 3rd or early 4th century AD, the camel transporting his body through the desert south of Alexandria spontaneously refused to proceed any further.
This was interpreted as a sign from God, and Saint Menas was buried on this spot. This became the site of a miraculous healing spring, and word spread. Already by the late 4th century AD, Abu Mena had already become a very popular center for pilgrimage.
6- Saint Catherine’s Monastery and its surrounding area
On the slopes of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, lies one of the oldest functioning monasteries in the world. It was built by order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (527–565 AD) in 548–565 AD. The eponymous Saint Catherine of Alexandria was martyred in the early 4th century AD. The monastery bears her name because its monks discovered her incorrupt body on nearby Mount Saint Catherine in the 9th century AD, where it had been deposited by angels after her martyrdom.
The monastery, which was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2002, encompasses multiple structures, the most important of which is the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ the Savior, which itself contains nine smaller churches.
One of these is the Church of the Burning Bush, from which God spoke to the prophet Moses. Saint Catherine’s Monastery also includes ten other churches, the monks’ accommodations, a refectory, an olive press, ossuaries, a Fatimid mosque from the 12th century AD, and a library that boasts rare books and 6,000 manuscripts.