Riyad, 12 September 2023 (TDI): The 45th Extended Session of the World Heritage Committee is currently taking place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from September 10 to September 25.

The session is chaired by Princess Haifa Al-Mogrin, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to UNESCO, and aims to raise the profile of heritage on the public policy agenda.

It emphasizes the importance of the World Heritage Convention, which now has 195 States Parties after Tuvalu’s recent ratification.

The inaugural event at Riyadh’s National Museum marked a historic gathering in the Saudi capital for this occasion. The session, chaired by Princess Haifa Al-Mogrin.

Prince Badr bin Abdullah, Saudi Minister of Culture, inaugurated the session, highlighting Saudi Arabia’s commitment to heritage as a cultural and knowledge treasure.

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He also announced the establishment of the Saudi UNESCO Fund to support heritage preservation programs worldwide.

The 45th session’s logo draws inspiration from Nabataean rock engravings found in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra in AlUla, which is located in Saudi Arabia.

The Ministry of Culture has been actively promoting sustainable tourism, vocational training, and scholarships in partnership with UNESCO.

Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia for hosting this historic session and noted that it would focus on topics such as corals, forests, biodiversity, and indigenous peoples’ prehistory, highlighting the world’s beauty and fragility.

The opening ceremony featured a performance illustrating the evolution of civilization in the region, paying tribute to the late Saudi archaeologist Prof. Abdulrahman Al-Ansary.

It showcased various historical periods, including the Stone Age with Thamoudian petroglyphs in the Hail region, established trade routes, the Kingdom of THajj, and the Nabataean civilization’s remarkable trade and architecture.

The performance also highlighted the spread of knowledge, scientific advancements, poetry, and the influence of Islam, as well as the rich and diverse cultures across Saudi Arabia.

Prince Badr also previewed Expo 2030, where Saudi Arabia will share its story of national transformation under the theme “Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow,” aligning with Vision 2030 goals.

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The UNESCO sessions, featuring 130 organizations in dialogue, will focus on collaboration, sustainability in preserving global heritage sites, building common ground, fostering strategic partnerships, and uniting for a shared future.

The Extended 45th session of the World Heritage Committee will scrutinize a diverse range of cultural and natural nominations from around the globe.

Among the cultural nominations are the Cultural Landscape of Old Tea Forests of the Jingmai Mountain in Pu’er, China, the Deer Stone Monuments and Related Sites of Bronze Age in Mongolia, Gaya Tumuli in the Republic of Korea, Gordion in Türkiye.

Cultural Landscape of Old Tea Forests of the Jingmai Mountain in Pu’er, China
Cultural Landscape of Old Tea Forests of the Jingmai Mountain in Pu’er, China

The Historic center of Gorokhovets in the Russian Federation, the Jewish-Medieval Heritage of Erfurt in Germany, and the Koh Ker Archaeological Site of Ancient Lingapura or Chok Gargyar in Cambodia, to name a few.

Deer Stone Monuments and Related Sites of Bronze Age, Mongolia

These nominations represent a rich tapestry of heritage sites, each with its unique historical and cultural significance.

Additionally, the list includes Modernist Kaunas: Architecture of Optimism, 1919-1939 in Lithuania, National Archaeological Park Tak’alik Ab’aj in Guatemala, Santiniketan in India, and the Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor, encompassing Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor. Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

Spain’s nomination of Talayotic Menorca A cyclopean island odyssey, Ethiopia’s The Gedeo Cultural Landscape, and Iran’s The Persian Caravanserai also highlight the global diversity of cultural heritage being considered.

The Persian Caravanserai, Iran (Islamic Republic of)

On the natural side, the Forest Massif of Odzala-Kokoua in Congo and the Volcanoes and Forests of Mount Pelée and the Pitons of Northern Martinique in France are nominated for their exceptional natural value.

Volcanoes and Forests of Mount Pelée and the Pitons of Northern Martinique, France.

These nominations represent important efforts to recognize and preserve our planet’s natural treasures and cultural legacies, showcasing the ongoing commitment to safeguarding our shared heritage for future generations.

The session is expected to conclude on September 25 by Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to UNESCO.

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