Culture

Iraqis Celebrate as UNESCO Lists Babylon as World Heritage Site

Iraq

Babylon, the city that was at the heart of the ancient Babylonian empire over 4,000 years ago, has just been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, to the delight of Iraqis.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee named on Friday Iraq’s historic city of Babylon a World Heritage Site.

Iraq had been trying since 1983 to have the site — a massive 10-square-kilometre complex of which just 18 percent has been excavated thus far — recognised by UNESCO.

Straddling Iraq’s Euphrates River about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad, the city was the centre of the ancient Babylonian empire more than 4,000 years ago.

“What is the world heritage list without Babylon? How to tell the history of humanity without the earliest of old chapters, Babylon?” said Iraq’s representative to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee ahead of the vote.

The committee met in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku to consider Babylon and another 34 sites, including in Brazil and Burkina Faso, for the World Heritage List.

It opted not to designate Babylon as the World Heritage in Danger after objections from Iraq.

“Babylon is the largest populated city in ancient history,” said Qahtan al-Abeed, who heads the Basra Antiquities Department and led efforts to get the site listed.

“The Babylonians were the civilisation of writing, administration and science,” he told AFP.

Putting Babylon on the World Heritage List “will encourage research and development of the site,” and would “be free publicity for tourists,” he added excitedly.

Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi and Minister of Culture Abdul-Amir al-Hamadani congratulated the Iraqi people on the announcement.

Article: Asharq al-Awsat

Image: AFP