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Decision 18 EXT.COM 5.3
Any other matter: Nominations to the World Heritage List - Nominations to be processed on an emergency basis - Yemen

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/23/18.EXT.COM/5 and WHC/23/18.EXT.COM/INF.5,
  2. Inscribes the Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba in Marib Governorate, Yemen, on the World Heritage List according to the emergency procedure, on the basis of criteria (iii) and (iv);
  3. Taking note that the authenticity, integrity, protection and management of the property or its potential vulnerabilities could not have been fully evaluated at this stage due to the lack of a technical evaluation mission to the site,
  4. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    The Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba represents a period of the South Arabian history from the 1st millennium BCE until the arrival of Islam to the region around 630 CE, when the ancient Yemeni kingdoms developed amidst the harsh and arid environment of the Arabian Peninsula and flourished through their involvement with the Incense Trade Route linking South Arabia to the Mediterranean, from about the 8th century BCE to the 3rd century CE, before it was overpowered by the Ḥimyar people.

    Located in the Marib Governorate in central Yemen, seven archaeological sites reflect the affluent Kingdom of Saba, arising from its control of the incense trade in South Arabia and its architectural, aesthetic and technological achievements that bear witness to a highly complex society with a strong, well-organised and centralised administration, as evidenced by numerous historical wall inscriptions.

    The Sabaeans' culture and wealth is clearly evident in the ensemble of two cities, temples and extensive irrigation systems. The walled capital city Ma’rib, was the administrative, cultural and economic centre of the Kingdom of Saba, while the fortified city of Sirwah, some forty kilometres to the west, may have acted as its military capital. The monumental sanctuaries with propyla in the temples of Ḥarūnum, Awām and Bar’ān were linked by a processional pilgrimage route, which attracted adherents from across the Arabian Peninsula. Technological knowledge in the field of hydrological engineering enabled the Sabaeans to create the Ma’rib dam, which fed an innovative irrigation system of canals that allowed cultivation of a vast territory spreading north and south of Ma’rib, that was considered to be the largest artificial oasis in ancient Arabia.

    Criterion (iii): The Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba, with the monumental architecture and the preserved hydraulic structures erected by the Sabaeans, demonstrate high level of technological know-how and engineering skills. They are an exceptional testimony to the affluence of the Kingdom of Saba, which dominated South Arabia in the period between the 8th century BCE to the 3rd century CE as a political and cultural power. They reflect the high socio-political and economic status of the kingdom, which owed its prosperity to control of the incense trade, and its survival in the harsh arid environment of the Arabian Peninsula through the creation of large oases based on a sophisticated irrigation system linked to the Ma’rib dam. The preserved wall inscriptions that document historical events, religious occasions, and administrative decisions offer a glimpse into the main domains of life of the kingdom.

    Criterion (iv): The Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba with their monumental architecture and diverse technological advances represent an outstanding example of an ensemble that testifies to the cultural tradition of the Kingdom of Saba that served as a central node in the frankincense trade route through the Arabian Peninsula. Flourishing within the semi-arid landscape of valleys, mountains and deserts of South Arabia thanks to a highly advanced irrigation system, the kingdom played a key influential role among neighbouring realms and in the wider network of cultural exchanges at a time when trade routes linked South Arabia with the Mediterranean and East Africa. The dam of the Ma’rib irrigation system, which enabled farming in what is said to be the largest artificial oasis in ancient Arabia, represents the pinnacle of hydrological engineering in the region.


    The component parts of the property include the attributes necessary to ensure the representation of the features and processes, which convey the property’s Outstanding Universal Value. The physical fabric of the property can be considered as very poor with some attributes having been gravely damaged. Considering the existing threats related to the war and the developmental pressures, integrity of the individual component parts and of the property as a whole can be considered as highly vulnerable.


    The authenticity of the individual component parts and of the whole series can be considered as highly vulnerable due to historical developments and contemporary threats. Despite changes in the landscape of the property associated with the development of the modern city of Ma’rib, and the urban sprawl that led to the destruction of some areas with archaeological potential, the historical oasis setting of the component parts can be still understood. Demolishing of post-Sabaean vernacular architecture, which reflects the traditions that link the pre-Islamic Sabaean culture with the cultures that developed in the area after the arrival of Islam, and which constitutes part of the historical context of the property, is of concern.

    Management and protection requirements

    The archaeological material at all component parts is legally protected at the national level through the Law on Antiquities N. 21/1994 and its amendments set forth by Law N. 8/1997. The ancient city of Ma’rib is protected as a historic town by Law N. 16/2013. The legal authority within the boundaries of the component parts is unclear, as are protection mechanisms that apply to the property. The legal basis for the buffer zones, including buffer zone B, is also not known at this stage.

    Protection and management of the property reside at the highest level with the General Organization of Antiquities and Museums; the Ma’rib branch being responsible for the monitoring and maintenance of the component parts. The General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen is in charge of the protection and management of the ancient city of Ma’rib as a historic town. Besides the legal-institutional protection, the component parts benefit from traditional protection provided by the local tribes.

    At present, there is no management plan for the property in place. Conservation and Management Guidelines have been developed to guide future management and protection of the component parts. But it is unclear how the proposed plan of action will be implemented given the precarious political situation. The management measures for the buffer zones, including buffer zone B, have not been provided.

  5. Also inscribes the Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba in Marib Governorate, Yemen, on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  6. Recommends that the State Party give urgent consideration to the following:
    1. Inviting, as soon as feasible, a Reactive Monitoring mission to the property, to:
      1. Prepare a detailed report on the state of conservation,
      2. Assess protection of the property and its buffer zones,
      3. Consider the effectiveness of its boundaries,
      4. Establish a Desired state of conservation and a programme of corrective measures for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger,
    2. Halting the implementation of the 2018 Master Plan until a full assessment has been undertaken, through a Heritage Impact Assessment, of its potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and its setting, and, based on the results of the Heritage Impact Assessment, undertaking necessary revisions of the Plan,
    3. Reinstating funding for management and conservation,
    4. Developing as a matter of urgency risk preparedness plans for each component part to address vandalism and looting as well as overall protection,
    5. Including local tribes as traditional custodians of the component parts in the management and protection of the property to ensure buy-in from local communities and prevent potential conflicts,
    6. Extending protection measures onto the post-Sabaean vernacular architecture in the ancient cities of Ma’rib and Sirwah as part of the safeguarding of the historic and traditional context of the property, and involving local populations in the protection and management of these heritage resources,
    7. Completing an inventory of Sabaean monuments and sites,
    8. Enhancing the coordination of inputs from varied research institutions and international agencies to ensure that there is no duplication of work or resources and to maximise and sustain the initiatives aimed at capacity-strengthening, knowledge production, protection and management of the property,
    9. Informing the World Heritage Centre of the intention to undertake or authorise all major projects which may affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, in line with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  7. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2024, a report on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 46th session;
  8. Decides that the name of the property be changed to become “Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba, Marib”, as the governorate of Marib is a present-day administrative unit which does not reflect the boundaries of the ancient Kingdom of Saba, there is no need to reference it in the name of the property.
    Decision Code
    18 EXT.COM 5.3
    Inscriptions on the World Heritage List, List of World Heritage in Danger
    States Parties 1
    Report of the Decisions adopted during the 18th extraordinary session of the World Heritage Committee (UNESCO, 2023)
    Context of Decision