1.         Historic Town of Zabid (Yemen) (C 611)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1993

Criteria  (ii)(iv)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger   2000-present

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/611/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1994-1994)
Total amount approved: USD 45,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/611/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/611/

Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1996

The Centre was informed that totally inappropriate work has been undertaken at the Grand Mosque of Zabid, which dates from the 15th century.

It appears that damage has already been done to the authenticity and the integrity of the monument: the roof has been repaired with concrete, the dedicatory inscription of 1492 has been partially cut in order to install beams, the decorative wall panels have been damaged by electrical installation work, and concrete block toilets have been built in the area of the old ablution courtyard. There is also question of the foundations being raised to protect the Mosque from possible flooding.

By letter of 16 February, the Centre transmitted its grave concern to the Minister of Culture and Tourism, drawing his attention to the Articles of the Convention and the Guidelines for the work, the principles of restoration and respect of authenticity, and proposing the assistance of an international expert. By letter of 5 March, the Permanent Delegation informed the Centre that the Minister had replied that the works were financed by local donation and that the restoration was being carried out "without deformation". The Minister also accepted the offer of an expert.

The Centre proposed to the Director of the Canadian archaeological mission in Yemen that he assist the Yemeni authorities in this matter.

Action Required

The Bureau informs the Yemeni authorities of its concern with regard to the work undertaken by local donors at the Grand Mosque, part of the World Heritage site of the Historic Town of Zabid, and which appears to be causing serious damage to the authenticity and integrity of the monument.

It draws their attention to Articles 4 and 5 of the World Heritage Convention whereby States Parties undertake to ensure the protection and the conservation of their heritage, and that conservation must be carried out in accordance with international standards, such as the Charter of Venice, in order to ensure respect of authenticity. It also recalls that Paragraph 24(b) of the Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritacre Convention concerning the respect of authenticity of properties inscribed, and requests them to conform in the future to Paragraphs 56 and 75 which invite States Parties to inform the Committee, through the Secretariat, of their intention to undertake or to authorize, in an area protected by the Convention, major restoration work or new constructions.

Finally, it reminds the Yemeni authorities that the Committee is always ready to provide international expert advice prior to any restoration work, and requests that the work be discontinued until this expert advice can be obtained.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1996

The World Heritage Bureau during its twentieth session was informed that renovations which were seriously threatening the authenticity and integrity of the Great Mosque of Zabid had been undertaken by the local authorities.

By letter of 16 February, the Centre shared its concern with the Minister of Culture and Tourism, reminding him of the terms of the Convention and the Guidelines for the work, the principles of restoration and the respect of authenticity, whilst proposing the assistance of an international expert. By letter of 5 March, the Permanent Delegation informed the Centre that the Minister had indicated that this work was financed by local donors and was being carried out "without deformation", and the offer of an expert was accepted.

On 10 July, the Centre transmitted to the Yemenite authorities the Bureau's anxiety concerning this work. Since then, the Centre has received the report of its expert stressing that the work is presently being carried out in a manner more in keeping with the traditional techniques; however, a water conveyance project planned by the National Water and Sewerage Authority of Yemen and the German Ministry for Cooperation (BMZ), and financed by a German agency (KfW), could be a major hazard for the preservation of the monuments of the city. If, as it would seem, this project does not include a system for the evacuation of waste water, by considerably increasing the permanent humidity of the ground, it would pose the serious threat of erosion to the brick walls of the historic monuments.

Following a working meeting held on 16 July, the Permanent Delegate of Yemen to UNESCO informed his Government of the situation, and by letters of 16 and 17 July, the Centre wrote to the BMZ and to one of the German Delegates to the World Heritage Committee to stress the necessity for an in-depth evaluation of the possible negative impacts of this work.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

In view of the importance of this issue, the Bureau may wish to transmit the report to the Committee and recommend that it adopt the following text:

"After being informed of the situation of the monuments of the Historic Town of Zabid, the Committee thanked the Yemenite authorities for having adopted traditional methods more in conformity with the respect of authenticity for the work of the Great Mosque of Zabid and recommended that they consult as often as necessary the expert designated by UNESCO. It also called their attention to the potential dangers to the preservation of the monuments by the water conveyance project planned by the National Water and Sewerage Authority of Yemen, the German Ministry of Cooperation (BMZ) and the KfW which, if no plan for a waste water evacuation system is foreseen, will considerably increase the ground humidity and accentuate the erosion of the brick walls of this World Heritage Site."

A copy of this correspondence could also be sent to the Permanent Delegation of Germany to Unesco.

Decision Adopted: 20 BUR IV.7

The Bureau informed the Yemeni authorities of its concern with regard to the work undertaken by local donors at the Grand Mosque, part of the World Heritage site of the Historic Town of Zabid, and which appears to be causing serious damage to the authenticity and integrity of the monument.

It drew their attention to Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the World Heritage Convention whereby States Parties undertake to ensure the protection and the conservation of their heritage, and that conservation must be carried out in accordance with international standards, such as the Charter of Venice, in order to ensure respect of authenticity. It also recalled Paragraphs 24(b), 56 and 75 of the Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention.

Finally, it reminded the Yemeni authorities that the Committee is always willing to provide international expert advice prior to any restoration work.

Decision Adopted: 20 COM VII.D.71

VII.71 Historic Town of Zabid (Yemen)

The World Heritage Bureau during its twentieth session was informed that renovations which were seriously threatening the authenticity and integrity of the Great Mosque of Zabid had been undertaken by the local authorities.

The Secretariat informed the Bureau at its twentieth extraordinary session that, since then, it had received the report of its expert stressing that the work is presently being carried out in a manner more in keeping with the traditional techniques; however, a water conveyance proj ect planned by the National Water and Sewerage Authority of Yemen and the German Ministry for Cooperation (BMZ) and financed by a German agency (KfW), could be a major hazard for the preservation of the monuments of the city. Following consultations with the Yemeni and German authorities the Secretariat received confirmation from the German Delegation that an agreement had been reached with the Yemeni authorities that the water project will integrate sewage provisions.

The Bureau thanked the Yemeni authorities for having adopted traditional methods more in conformity with the respect of authenticity for the work of the Great Mosque of Zabid and recommended that they consult as often as necessary the expert designated by UNESCO. It also congratulated the Yemeni and German authorities, the National Water and Sewerage Authority of Yemen, the German Ministry of Cooperation (BMZ) and the KfW for having decided last August to simultaneously implement the water supply and sanitation systems in Zabid and other historic cities in order to avoid any deterioration of their cultural monuments.