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Abu Mena

Egypt
Factors affecting the property in 2013*
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Water (rain/water table)
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Rise in the water table (issue mostly solved);
  • Impact on structures due to earth trembling and other forms of damage likely to result from the use of heavy earth-moving equipment (works completed);
  • Lack of conservation plan, defining short-, medium-, and long-term objectives and establishing technical parameters (materials, techniques, etc);
  • Need for a management plan, to include research, presentation and interpretation, the role of stakeholders (e.g. the Mar Mena community), staffing, sponsorship, visitor facilities, access, etc.
Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger
  • A land-reclamation programme and irrigation scheme with no appropriate drainage mechanism, for the agricultural development of the region has caused a dramatic rise in the water table;
  • The destruction of numerous cisterns, disseminated around the property, has entailed the collapse of several overlying structures. Huge underground cavities have opened in the north-western region of the property;
  • A large, banked road has been built to enable movement within the property. 
Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Adopted, See page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/1279

Corrective Measures for the property

Identified, See page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/1279

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures
Adopted, See page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/1279
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2013
Requests approved: 1 (from 2001-2001)
Total amount approved : 7,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2013**

2002: Expert mission; 2005, 2009 and 2012: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring missions.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 20 February 2013 which provides details of progress with lowering the groundwater levels, and with constructing a protective perimeter fence. From 18 to 23 November 2012, a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission visited the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012). The mission considered progress with corrective measures. It also identified new threats arising from the de-watering process and from inappropriate reconstruction and new construction.

The mission report is available online at the following Web address: https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/37COM/documents

a) Lowering the groundwater levels

The State Party reported on the technical details of the de-watering project which was initially defined in three phases. The mission reported that the first phase of the dewatering project in the central area has been implemented, while the second and third phases within the wider agricultural ditch have been abandoned as the underlying methodology of electrical pumping was now seen to be unaffordable and unsustainable in the long term. A new project is now being developed to modify the irrigation methodology in the agricultural areas surrounding the property to one using a “drip” method, thereby reducing the underlying problem and eliminating the root causes of the high water table.

The water problem in the central area of the property is now under control, as long as the pumps keep running. However, the lowering of the water table has resulted in the re-deposition of subterranean soluble salts from the soil onto the surface of exposed archaeology with devastating results, such as rapid deterioration of stone blocks and subsurface voids which precipitate the collapse of archaeological structures. The mission considered that this salt problem is the most pressing threat to the property and that a conservation condition survey needs to be carried out immediately to establish the level of damage and the rate of deterioration of the constituent parts. Once the survey data is collected, it needs to be examined to establish a prioritized treatment programme for the exposed remains that can be implemented urgently. Flooding still affects approximately 25% of the property and approximately 30% of the entire area enclosed by the agricultural drainage ditch. The mission considered that it would be very unwise to risk further destruction of exposed archaeological material by draining more areas before methods for mitigating the negative effects of drainage have been determined, and the resources for their implementation secured. The mission confirmed that exposed archaeological features in the still flooded areas are at risk and considered that the most cost effective method of protecting them would be to rebury the exposed structures on the basis of an agreed, specific, reburial methodology that could guide future excavations and also aid current interpretation.

b) Reconstruction work at the Great Basilica

Between late 2010 and early 2011 a project of dismantling and rebuilding archaeological walls was undertaken at the Great Basilica. This involved the complete dismantling of the walls, removal of all historic mortar and other original construction materials, discarding of blocks not deemed to be usable, the rebuilding of walls with modern mortar and with new blocks to replace those discarded, and the cutting back of the original face of the retained original blocks in order that they match the new material. It appeared that the aim was to re-build the walls to allow them to support a new roof and thus provide a covered area for visitors. The mission considered that the methodology for this work is completely inappropriate. The current work has led to total loss of all authenticity or historic context for the walls concerned. The work was being undertaken in the name of anastylosis, although anastylosis should not, except in the most exceptional of cases, involve the demolition and rebuilding of remaining in-situ original structures. The mission considered that the only anastylosis work that might be considered at Abu Mena is the re-erecting of some of the marble columns. It recommended that no further reconstruction should be considered, just conservation of existing materials.

c) Proliferation of constructions on the property

The mission observed that adjacent to the main Basilica, at the culmination of the road that was built for accessing the dewatering pumps and service buildings, a flat area has been developed. In addition to the wooden church built over the altar of the main Basilica, there is now a large pilgrims rest building and several other structures of varying degrees of permanence. The mission recommended that these permanent structures, tents and container cabins need to be removed, with the exception of the church and rest house to be addressed at a later stage, as soon as possible and that there should be a moratorium on all construction in both the property and its setting within the agricultural drainage ditch. Several other recent constructions can also be found on the land of the property.

d) Boundaries of the property

The mission confirmed that the current boundary of the property bears little relationship to the extent of the ancient complex. In order to define a boundary that reflects the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value, there is an urgent need for a thorough archaeological survey to determine the extent of the archaeological remains. This could then inform the delineation of an appropriate boundary which would need to be submitted, along with a buffer zone, to the World Heritage Committee as a minor boundary modification.

e) Security

The State Party reported that work on surrounding the property with a fence had started on 21/10/2009 and, although currently stopped, it will be continued. The mission noted that the property is not permanently staffed or patrolled. The surrounding agricultural drainage ditch has crossing points around its circumference and unrestricted vehicular access is available at all times. There is evidence of vehicles accessing all areas within the agricultural ditch and it would appear that an area adjacent to the northern most drainage channel is being used as a dumping ground for construction waste.

f) Visitor Facilities

The mission noted that visitor facilities at the property are limited to those supplied by the modern monastery which caters for the needs of pilgrims. The majority of visitors are indeed pilgrims who tend to visit only the main Basilica and surrounding archaeological structures. Upwards of two hundred thousand people visit the site on Christian holy days and services are held for these pilgrims at the Basilica. The pilgrim facilities consist of a moderately substantial wooden rest house located at the end of the pump house service road and a small wooden church built over the ancient altar of the main Basilica. These facilities are not sanctioned and cannot be thought of as anything more than temporary. The State Party reported that various proposals for a visitor centre outside the archaeological area had been considered and that these would need to be implemented as funds become available. The mission considered there was a need for a strategy to inform the development of appropriate structures at appropriate places and the provision of information on or near the property. It also suggested that consideration should be given to allowing the local community to run necessary transportation across the site in the summer months, in order that they profit from the property and therefore have a vested interest in its preservation.

g) Archaeological and conservation surveys

The mission noted that there has been no further progress on initiating a survey of the extent of the archaeological remains within the boundary of the property since the missions of 2005 and 2009. There has also been no further progress on initiating a conservation condition survey of the exposed archaeological structures at the property. Other than the reconstruction work (now halted) at the main basilica, there has been no progress on designing and/or testing conservation methodologies for their suitability as treatment options at the property. There is no formalized conservation recording system at the property. A conservation strategy is urgently needed that will encompass necessary surveys, condition reports, investigation into appropriate methodologies, and the need for capacity building and adequate resources.

h) Management plan

The mission noted that there has been no further progress on the preparation of a management plan for the property since the missions of 2005 and 2009. It also noted the real need to manage the property both for its archaeological remains that are the attributes of its Outstanding Universal Value and for its focus as a pilgrim destination. A management system and plan that draws together these two aspects is needed urgently, which would set out visitor management arrangements that allow coordination between arrangements for pilgrims and for other visitors, and address appropriate facilities for both, better interpretation and improved security, as well as mechanisms for delivering the necessary conservation surveys and planning.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2013

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that the first phase of the de-watering project that involves continuous pumping of water has been implemented in the central areas and that it is now considered possible to change the irrigation arrangements in the surrounding agricultural areas. They also note that lowering of the water table in the central area of the property has resulted in the deposition of subterranean soluble salts onto the exposed archaeology, which are having a devastating impact on the deterioration of stone masonry. In order to mitigate this damage, they further note the recommendation of the mission that a conservation condition survey needs to be carried out immediately to establish the level of damage and rate of deterioration to inform the establishment of a prioritized treatment programme for the exposed remains that could be implemented urgently. And as a corollary, they note the need to delay immediate de-watering of the remaining areas and to bury existing remains until adequate stabilisation methodologies have been devised.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies take note of the view of the mission that the dismantling and rebuilding at the Great Basilica carried out was entirely inappropriate in terms of its methodology and impact on authenticity and historical context, and that no further reconstruction should be considered.

As well as being visited as an archaeological site, parts of the property attracts large number of pilgrims and there is a need for a visitor strategy, within the framework of a management plan, that allows for a coordinated approach to all visitations and to the provision of information and interpretation. The current uncontrolled development around the Basilica was considered by the mission to be most regrettable and certain buildings should be removed.

Although the political situation over the past two years has inhibited progress with securing the property and with the development of conservation surveys, conservation plans and a management plan, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies reiterate the view of the mission that basic surveys and conservation plans are essential in order that any work can be undertaken with adequate knowledge, as is the management plan that should provide the agreed framework for action based on of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and an agreed and logical boundary. 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2013
37 COM 7A.23
Abu Mena (Egypt) (C 90)

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add,

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7A.20, adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.  Notes with alarm the devastating effect the de-watering has had on the archaeological remains, and urges the State Party to undertake conservation condition surveys as soon as possible and establish a prioritized treatment programme that could be implemented urgently;

4.  Also notes the need to delay immediate de-watering of the remaining archaeological areas until adequate stabilisation methodologies have been devised and in the meantime to consider burying existing remains on the basis of a detailed re-burial strategy;

5.  Expresses its concern at the inappropriate dismantling and rebuilding carried out at the Great Basilica and its impact on authenticity, and also urges the State Party not to undertake further reconstruction;

6.  Requests the State Party to demolish the inappropriate structures that have been built around parts of the monuments (apart from the temporary wooden church and pilgrim rest house to be considered at a later stage) as soon as possible and put in place a moratorium on all construction within the property;

7.  Recommends that the State Party develops a visitor strategy, within the framework of a Management Plan, that allows for a coordinated approach to all visitations and to the provision of information and interpretation for both visitors to the archaeological site and for pilgrims;

8.  Notes the progress that has been made by the State Party in recent years, in particular regarding the de-watering of the site, and also requests work on basic surveys and conservation plans or on the Management Plan, all of which are part of the corrective measures;

9.  Encourages the State Party to continue the work in order that an agreed action plan can be put in place based on the attributes of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value;

10. Further requests the State Party, on the basis of surveys, to submit a logical boundary for the property and an appropriate buffer zone as a minor boundary modification;

11. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit, by 1 February 2014, a detailed progress report on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014; and if the Desired state of conservation is met, the Committee may remove the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger in accordance with paragraph 191.b of the Operational Guidelines;

12. Decides to retain Abu Mena (Egypt) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

37 COM 8C.2
Update of the List of World Heritage in Danger (retained properties)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-13/37.COM/7A, WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add and WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add.
  2. Decides to maintain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
  • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 37 COM 7A.29 )
  • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Decision 37 COM 7A.30 )
  • Belize, Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Decision 37 COM 7A.16 )
  • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.1)
  • Chile, Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Decision 37 COM 7A.37 )
  • Colombia, Los Katíos National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.17 )
  • Côte d'Ivoire, Comoé National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.2 )
  • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 37 COM 7A.3 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Virunga National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.4 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.5 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Garamba National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.6 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Salonga National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.7 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 37 COM 7A.8 )
  • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 37 COM 7A.23 )
  • Ethiopia, Simien National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.10 )
  • Georgia, Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery (Decision 37 COM 7A.32 )
  • Georgia, Historical Monuments of Mtskheta (Decision 37 COM 7A.33 )
  • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 37 COM 7A.18 )
  • Indonesia, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Decision 37 COM 7A.14 )
  • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 37 COM 7A.24 )
  • Iraq, Samarra Archaeological City (Decision 37 COM 7A.25 )
  • Jerusalem, Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (Decision 37 COM 7A.26 )
  • Madagascar, Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Decision 37 COM 7A.11 )
  • Mali, Timbuktu (Decision 37 COM 7A.19 )
  • Mali, Tomb of Askia (Decision 37 COM 7A.20 )
  • Niger, Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 37 COM 7A.12 )
  • Palestine, Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Decision 37 COM 7A.27 )
  • Panama, Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Decision 37 COM 7A.36 )
  • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 37 COM 7A.38 )
  • Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.13 )
  • Serbia, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Decision 37 COM 7A.34 )
  • Uganda, Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi (Decision 37 COM 7A.21 )
  • United Republic of Tanzania, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara (Decision 37 COM 7A.22 )
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (Decision 37 COM 7A.35 )
  • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.15 )
  • Venezuela, Coro and its Port (Decision 37 COM 7A.39 )
  • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 37 COM 7A.28 )
Draft Decision :  37 COM 7A.23

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 36 COM 7A.20 , adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3. Notes with alarm the devastating effect the de-watering has had on the archaeological remains, and urges the State Party to undertake conservation condition surveys as soon as possible and establish a prioritized treatment programme that could be implemented urgently;

4. Also notes the need to delay immediate de-watering of the remaining archaeological areas until adequate stabilisation methodologies have been devised and in the meantime to consider burying existing remains on the basis of a detailed re-burial strategy;

5. Expresses its concern at the inappropriate dismantling and rebuilding carried out at the Great Basilica and its impact on authenticity, and also urges the State Party not to undertake further reconstruction;

6. Regrets that inappropriate structures have been built around parts of the monuments and requests the State Party to demolish these (apart from the temporary wooden church and pilgrim rest house to be considered at a later stage) as soon as possible and put in place a moratorium on all construction within the property;

7. Recommends that the State Party develops a visitor strategy, within the framework of a Management Plan, that allows for a coordinated approach to all visitations and to the provision of information and interpretation for both visitors to the archaeological site and for pilgrims;

8. Also regrets that no progress has been made in recent years on basic surveys and conservation plans or on the Management Plan, all of which are part of the corrective measures, and further urges the State Party to initiate the work in order that an agreed action plan can be put in place based on the attributes of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value;

9. Also requests the State Party, on the basis of surveys, to submit a logical boundary for the property and an appropriate buffer zone as a minor boundary modification;

10. Further requests the State Party to submit, by 1 February 2014 , a detailed progress report on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014;

11. Decides to retain Abu Mena (Egypt) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Report year: 2013
Egypt
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iv)
Danger List (dates): 2001-present
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 37COM (2013)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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