Committee Decisions

35 COM 8B.15

Mixed Properties - Wadi Rum Protected Area (Jordan)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-11/35.COM/8B, WHC-11/35.COM/INF.8B1 and WHC-11/35.COM/ INF.8B2,

2. Inscribes the Wadi Rum Protected Area, Jordan, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (iii), (v) and (vii);

3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

 

Brief synthesis

Wadi Rum Protected Area (WRPA) is located in the southern part of Jordan close to the border with Saudi Arabia, around 290 km south of Amman and 60 km northeast of the coastal city of Aqaba. The total area of WRPA is 74,200 ha. The property extends approximately 42 km from north to south and approximately 33 km from east to west. A buffer zone of c.5 km in width, with some excepted areas, surrounds the area and is stated as having a total area of 60,000 ha.

Wadi Rum is a major feature within the Hisma desert lying to the east of the Jordan Rift Valley and south of the steep escarpment of the central Jordanian plateau. Its natural values include desert landforms developed within continental sandstones. These landforms have been developed under the influence of a combination of various controlling factors such as lithology, tectonic activities (including rapid uplift, numerous faults and joints) and surface processes (including various types of weathering and erosion associated with desert climate as well as humid climates in the past), representing million years of ongoing landscape evolution.

Widespread petroglyphs, inscriptions and archaeological remains testify to 12,000 years of human occupation and interaction with the natural environment, illustrating the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban human activity in the Arabian Peninsula and the environmental history of the region.

Criterion (iii): The Wadi Rum Protected Area bears a unique testimony to the practice of rock art and inscriptions that has been on-going for millennia. The combination of 25,000 petroglyphs with 20,000 inscriptions and their continuity over a period of at least 12,000 years sets Wadi Rum apart from other rock art and/or inscription sites. The petroglyphs, representing humans and animals, are engraved on boulders, stones, and cliff faces. They trace the evolution of human thought, the long term patterns of pastoral, agricultural and urban human activity in the Arabian Peninsula, and the environmental history of a distinct region that has evolved climatically from mildly humid to semi-arid. The engravings indicate an elaborate sense of aesthetics and a pictorial culture. Numerous inscriptions in four different North-Arabian scripts testify to the very early emergence of alphabets from iconic representations, and widespread literacy among pastoral societies in the Arabian Peninsula.

Criterion (v): The variety of landforms at Wadi Rum has played an essential role in fostering human settlement and, as a result, the development of sophisticated intellectual activity that is documented by abundant petroglyphs and rock inscriptions. This graphic testimony to diverse cultural traditions and civilizations over millennia is one of the world's richest sources of documentation. Nowhere else in the world can one find such a wealth of information that enables the study and understanding of the continuum of settled and mobile lifestyles in a desert landscape illustrating the adaptability and ingenuity of human communities who have made the most of scarce resources to sustain continuous presence after the climate became dryer in the Bronze Age.

Criterion (vii): Wadi Rum is recognised globally as an iconic desert landscape, renowned for its spectacular series of sandstone mountains and valleys, natural arches, and the range of narrow gorges, towering cliffs, massive landslides, and dramatic cavernous weathering forms displayed. Key attributes of the aesthetic values of the property include the diversity and sheer size of its landforms, together with the mosaic of colours, vistas into both narrow canyons and very large wadis, and the scale of the cliffs. The property displays, in a protected setting, an exceptional combination of landforms resulting from drainage incision, severe weathering by salt, biological and other processes, and the undermining of steep sandstone cliffs by these weathering processes, together with the world's most spectacular networks of honeycomb weathering features. Its associations with the writings of T.E. Lawrence, stressed strongly in the nomination, have ensured a high profile for the property and have reinforced its reputation of the area as a classic desert landscape both globally and within the Arab States.

Integrity

The boundaries of the property include the key cultural and natural attributes and are well designed. Low population density and lack of development impacts have helped maintain WRPA in relatively pristine and authentic conditions. Nevertheless there are a number of threats which require careful and increased attention including mainly the impacts of visitor pressure and car tracks, and to a lesser extent possible encroachment of the village of Rum, groundwater exploitation and firewood collection by local people.

The boundaries of the property have been clearly defined and the 5 km buffer zone surrounding the property is adequately configured to address threats to the area arising from outside its boundaries.

Authencity

The rock art remains in its original setting, largely unaltered except for the effects of weathering which has led to fading by rain and wind erosion, leaving some hard to distinguish. In addition in some cases, there is the addition of modern graffiti. However the fact that so many have been documented means that their ability to convey the cultural traditions of the people who made them has been captured and they can be studied.

Protection and management requirements

WRPA was established as a protected area in 1997 to conserve the desert landforms and ecosystems along with their associated cultural values. The property lies within the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZA) and was designated as a Special Regulations Area in perpetuity in two phases. In 1997 54,000 ha was designated and in 2002 a further 18,000 ha was added.

The entirety of the property falls within a special regulation considered the strongest governance framework for a protected area in Jordan.

The primary plan guiding the management and development program of WRPA is the ASEZA land use plan which covers the whole governorate of Aqaba. The property requires the maintenance and continuous updating of an effective management plan.

 

4. Requests the State Party to ensure that the management plan provides effective policies, backed by the necessary staff and financial resources, to enable effective management of the property and its buffer zone, including the regulation of development activities, tourism infrastructure and facilities, and to develop a strategy for visitor management including vehicle route control within the property;

5. Also requests the State Party to ensure, in implementing the management plan, provision for additional and appropriately trained staff within the management unit for the property focused on research, protection and presentation of the geological, geomorphological and cultural values of the property and engagement of national and international research institutions in the management system for the property;

6. Recommends the State Party to ensure the implementation of the integrated monitoring programme for both natural and cultural values;

7. Also recommends strengthening the focus on the management of the cultural attributes of the property fully involving the Department of Antiquities in the management of the property and the Ministry of Environment;

8. Encourages the State Party to extend funding for the natural and cultural components of the site;

9. Further recommends that the State Party consider the following in relation to the cultural attributes of the property:

a) Establish a solid and liquid waste management system for Rum Village and camping sites,

b) Ensure the effective implementation of the strategy for visitor management including vehicle route control,

c) Observe with great caution what concerns exterior reconstruction of the archaeological sites, which could impact on their authenticity. The remains appear to be sufficient to enable understanding, and reconstruction works should cease;

10. Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies mission to the property to assess progress on the above recommendations and report back to the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties: Jordan
Session: 35COM