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Decision 41 COM 8B.18
Historic City of Yazd (Islamic Republic of Iran)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/17/41.COM/8B and WHC/17/41.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes the Historic City of Yazd, Islamic Republic of Iran, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (iii) and (v):
  3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    The City of Yazd is located in the deserts of Iran close to the Spice and Silk Roads. It is a living testimony to intelligent use of limited available resources in the desert for survival. Water is brought to the city by the qanat system. Each district of the city is built on a qanat and has a communal centre. Buildings are built of earth. The use of earth in buildings includes walls, and roofs by the construction of vaults and domes. Houses are built with courtyards below ground level, serving underground areas. Wind-catchers, courtyards, and thick earthen walls create a pleasant microclimate. Partially covered alleyways together with streets, public squares and courtyards contribute to a pleasant urban quality. The city escaped the modernization trends that destroyed many traditional earthen cities. It survives today with its traditional districts, the qanat system, traditional houses, bazars, hammams, water cisterns, mosques, synagogues, Zoroastrian temples and the historic garden of Dolat-abad. The city enjoys the peaceful coexistence of three religions: Islam, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

    Criterion (iii): bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;

    The historic city of Yazd bears witness to an exceptionally elaborate construction system in earthen architecture and the adaption of the ways of living to hostile environment for several millennia. Yazd is associated with the continuity of traditions that cover social organization these include Waqf (endowment) benefitting public buildings, such as water cisterns, mosques, hammams, qanats, etc. as well as developed intangible and multi-cultural, commercial and handicrafts tradition, as one of the richest cities of the world entirely built of earthen material; a quality which contributes to the creation of an environment-friendly microclimate. It reflects diverse cultures related to various religions in the city including Islam, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, which are still living peacefully together and having a combination of buildings including houses, mosques, fire temples, synagogues, mausoleums, hammams, water cisterns, madrasehs, bazaars, etc. as it can be seen in their traditional crafts and festivities.

    Criterion (v): be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.

    Yazd is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement which is representative of the interaction of man and nature in a desert environment that results from the optimal use and clever management of the limited resources that are available in such an arid setting.


    From the 1930s onwards, several policies were established to modernize the city. That led to the creation of a few wide commercial streets and provision of easy access to “modern” housing. This happened mostly outside the historic city. Contrary to some intentions including those belonging to higher classes, the populations of Yazd, as well as the city decision-makers have managed to maintain large zones of the historic city intact, including possible restoration and conservation for a number of large houses.

    Today, Yazd possesses a large number of excellent examples of traditional desert architecture with a range of houses from modest ones to very large and highly decorated properties. In addition to the main mosque and bazaar which are in a very good state, each district of the historic city still has all its specific features such as water cisterns, hammams, tekiehs, mosques, mausoleums, etc. In the core zone, there are still many streets and alleys which have kept their original pattern, having also many sabats, i.e. partially or entirely covered alleys, and series of arches crossing them for protection from the sun. The skyline of the city punctuated with wind catchers, minarets and domes of the monuments and mosques offer an outstanding panorama visible from far away, from inside and outside the historic city.


    Being a living dynamic city, Yazd has evolved gradually with some inevitable changes. However, there are still many qualities which allow Yazd to meet conditions of authenticity, including those related to the continuity of its intangible heritage.

    Yazd is recognized as the place where religious festivals and pilgrimages have a special dimension. There is also a lively network of social organizations (Waqf) that still play a strong role at district level, besides those represented by the municipality and the government. In terms of use and function, mention must be made to the religious activities said above. Bazaar is still in function, with addition of a few shops specifically addressing the tourist market. Also a large part of the historic city is still inhabited (with a rate of 80% private ownership). On the other hand, some elements have lost their original use but there are new ideas for their adaptive re-use. A part of the University of Yazd has been established in the historic city. There are also some hotels and restaurants that are operating within some of the existing structures which have been rehabilitated and restored by keeping their main physical elements and minimizing the interventions.

    This has had a positive influence in terms of authenticity linked to location, setting, form, design and materials. Apart from the changes that have occurred throughout the 20th century, the nominated core zone boasts plenty of well-preserved buildings and public spaces. In all interventions, priority has always been given to traditional techniques whenever restoration works were needed.

    Protection and management requirements

    As a living city, a fact that needs to be maintained, adaptations will still need to be made so as to respond to the legitimate expectations and desires of its inhabitants and users.

    Besides that, as the values of Yazd are interesting sources of inspiration to solve some of the most important problems of the contemporary world (culture of peace, sustainable development, bio and cultural diversity, etc.), the city should be prepared to welcome more visitors. For all these reasons, the past and present efforts which have been made by the local population itself, in some instances under the districts organizations and social structure of Waqf (endowment), as well as efforts by Yazd Municipality, ICHHTO, and local representatives of the Government of Iran (Ministries of education, health, …) have to be still promoted. To that end, all these partners have joined an effort to elaborate a new management mechanism that will allow directing their capacities towards common goals. This has concretized with the creation of a steering committee in charge of defining general orientations for the management and conservation of the historic city. As a first important decision, this committee has officially adopted specific and clear rules and regulations for the both nominated core and buffer zones.

    A technical committee has also been composed with representatives of the major stakeholders, who will work under the direction of specialized working groups to identify, study, and monitor different kinds of projects.

    As the national body responsible for World Heritage properties, including reporting to UNESCO World Heritage Committee, ICHHTO has decided to establish a specific office (Base) that will have the responsibility to coordinate the meetings of these two committees and to organize the monitoring of the historic city regarding its state of conservation.

    Within the next ten years, it is expected that the living conditions in the historic city be improved, poverty eradicated, and the number of national and foreign visitors to be increased so that the cultural values of Yazd can be presented and globally appreciated.

  4. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
    1. Undertaking analytical studies of the Historic City of Yazd, elaborating the relationships between the intangible aspects of each district (including social, cultural and religious dimensions) and the tangible aspects (such as the qanats, water cisterns and religious structures),
    2. Conducting research on risk preparedness for the site with regards to earthquakes,
    3. Developing guidelines for the use, maintenance and conservation of earthen historic buildings, with attention to interiors, that will assist private owners of historic buildings,
    4. Continue training ICHHTO staff on relevant conservation philosophies, and the impacts of different interventions on the integrity and authenticity of the property,
    5. Continue further studies and documentation in relation to the justification of criteria (iii) and (v).
Decision Code
41 COM 8B.18
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 1
Properties 1
Decisions adopted during the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee (Krakow, 2017)
Context of Decision