A UNESCO World Heritage Site is any location throughout the world—whether a forest, desert, building or entire city—that has been granted an official designation by the UN agency for having ‘outstanding universal value.’ Its legacy goes back to 1954, when the organization launched a worldwide campaign to preserve the Abu Simbel and Philae temples in Egypt, which faced destruction from a planned dam project.
According to UNESCO’s official World Heritage list, there are currently 911 designated properties in 151 countries, 704 with cultural significance, 180 with natural significance and 27 mixed.
And this past weekend, Tajikistan became one of the newest members of the UNESCO World Heritage club, with the announcement of its first-ever location officially recognized by the UN body.
At the UNESCO annual committee held in Brazil through August 2, the country’s Proto-urban site of Sarazm, which houses ruins from one of the oldest human settlements in Central Asia, made this year’s cut.
There are a total of 21 new locations that have been chosen for 2010, among which 12 are from the Asia-Pacific region:
Australian Convict Sites (Australia)
Jantar Mantar astronomical observation site (India)
Bikini Atoll, Nuclear Test Site (Marshall Islands)
Historic Villages of Korea: Hahoe and Yangdong (South Korea)
Proto-Urban site of Sarazm (Tajikistan)
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long-Hanoi (Vietnam)
China Danxia (China)
Central Highlands of Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka)
Phoenix Islands Protected Area (Kiribati)
And, while most of us are likely familiar with some of the major sites, like the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall, there are far more Heritage Sites than many might think in some of Asia’s giants (for those that are interested, here’s a list of the top five in the Asia-Pacific):
1. China: 40
2. India: 27
3. Australia: 18
4. Japan: 14
5. Iran: 12