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Abu Mena

Egypt
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Housing
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Water (rain/water table)
  • Other Threats:

    Encroachments within the property and inappropriate recent constructions; Lack of engagement with local communities and other stakeholders

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Rise of the underground water table level and ensuing damage to the structures
  • 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.
  • Encroachments within the property and inappropriate recent constructions
  • Lack of engagement with local communities and other stakeholders
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Failure to implement corrective measures
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

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

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Adopted, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/1279 but outdated and needs to be revised

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2021
Requests approved: 1 (from 2001-2014)
Total amount approved : 7,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2021**

2002: Expert mission; 2005, 2009 and 2012: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring missions; 2018: UNESCO and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 31 January 2020, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report and an executive summary of which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/90/documents/. Progress in a number of areas addressed by the Committee at its previous sessions and by the 2018 joint UNESCO/Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Advisory mission is presented in the report, as follows:

  • The Supreme Committee for the Management of World Heritage Sites has agreed upon tasks for each institutional stakeholder for the property’s improvement and maintenance;
  • Community representatives have been involved in some management initiatives, and community groups, such as students, have participated in visits to the property;
  • The Groundwater Level Reduction Project (GLRP) was due to be completed by the end of 2020, and the following actions have been implemented:
  • Purchase of pumps for draining water from the property,
  • Preparation of the site in advance of pump installation, which has included removing old pumps, improving generators, maintaining pipes, clearing banks to ensure water flow, cleaning out and examining existing wells, and commissioning new wells to be dug,
  • Surveys have been carried out to understand groundwater movement. In addition, soil and water samples have been taken for analysis, water levels measured, and soil permeability measured to study leachate tracks,
  • A study is being carried out regarding the potential use of solar energy to power the pumping system,
  • The Ministry of Agriculture is preparing a study to consider changing to a drip irrigation system in the surrounding area to reduce groundwater flow;
  • A Restoration and Conservation Plan was finalized and will be implemented following the completion of the GLRP. In the meantime, some interim restoration work on the Great Basilica and the Aramid Walls is taking place;
  • A team from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has been formed to prepare the Management Plan, which would be integrated into the Sustainable Development Plan. The latter is a recently launched process that has involved a series of institutional meetings and site visits to prepare the plan. A progress report on its development was submitted as an annex to the State Party’s report;
  • New property boundaries have been clarified and, once a ministerial decree has been issued to this effect, a request for a minor boundary modification will be submitted;
  • The roads leading to the property have been upgraded, particularly the route from the airport, and street lighting around the Monastery has been improved;
  • Informal constructions in and around the property have been removed to control land encroachment;
  • The State Party would welcome a mission to the property to evaluate the possibility of removing Abu Mena from the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

Progress is being made in response to previous Committee Decisions and the recommendations of the 2018 mission. The establishment of the Supreme Committee for the Management of World Heritage Sites in Egypt has brought together all relevant institutions in a cross-sectoral approach to tackling issues at the property. The outcomes of this are seen in the ongoing implementation of the GLRP and the preparation of a Sustainable Development Plan.

However, it is of concern that current restoration work (on the Great Basilica and the Aramid Walls) is mentioned only very briefly in the Sustainable Development Plan progress report. It is therefore not clear what urgent or interim conservation measures are being carried out to accompany the changes in water levels that are occurring under the GLRP and if these measures are adequate, noting that a sustainable and long-term solution is needed. In particular, there are no reassurances that specific measures are being taken to protect the Mar Mena Tomb. This is concerning, given the difficulty in ensuring the property’s conservation under fluctuating environmental conditions, and previous delays in addressing critical conservation issues. An update on the State Party’s actions in that regard, and the Restoration and Conservation Plan that has been recently prepared, should be communicated to the World Heritage Centre as soon as possible.

Similar concerns arise over the fact that, while a team has been created to prepare the Management Plan, there is still no specific progress reported on this aspect, although it is noted that it will form part of the broader Sustainable Development Plan under development. This latter plan aims to ‘revive and maximise the benefit of the Abu Mena area to the local community, Egypt and the world’ and addresses issues related to ensuring the property’s conservation and increased visitor numbers. Emphasis on attracting tourism will inevitably lead to changes at the property and in use patterns, which need to be managed in advance so that visitation is consonant with conservation and the property’s role as a place of pilgrimage. The involvement of the religious community and local communities in the elaboration of the Management Plan and sustainable tourism strategy would be highly recommended.

Some recommendations of the 2018 mission have been acted on, while others, such as the completion of a boundary fence and a planting campaign to support water removal, remain unaddressed. In addition, some basic tools for the property’s management are still not in place, including the submission of revised boundaries for the property and its buffer zone, and the retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

It should be noted that in 2007, the Committee adopted a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) with the following indicators: a) consolidated structures; b) water table lowered and monitoring system established in and around the property; and c) Management Plan implemented. Of these, only point b) has been partially addressed at this stage, with some of the corrective measures carried out. Therefore, the future conservation of the property is not yet guaranteed. For this reason, it is recommended that the Committee retain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Finally, regarding the fact that the State Party indicates that it would welcome a World Heritage Centre monitoring mission with a view to remove the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that it may be premature for such Reactive Monitoring mission at this stage, but the modalities for an Advisory mission to assist the State Party in identifying a sustainable and long-term solution to lowering the water table and establishing a monitoring system in and around the property could indeed be discussed with the State Party.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7A.5
Abu Mena (Egypt) (C 90)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7A
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7A.17, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Welcomes the ongoing efforts of the State Party to improve the conservation conditions of the property, in particular through the Groundwater Level Reduction Project and the new Sustainable Development Plan, and requests the State Party to submit the Restoration and Conservation Plan to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  4. Expresses concern that the State Party has not reported on recent conditions of the archaeological remains or current conservation work, and urges the State Party to closely monitor conditions while changes are being made to the water levels, with prompt intervention, where necessary, in particular ensuring protection of the Mar Mena Tomb;
  5. Also urges the State Party to complete all necessary corrective measures to protect and conserve the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) in order to reach the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) adopted in 2007, also in light of the recommendations of the 2012 Reactive Monitoring mission and the 2018 Advisory mission;
  6. Also requests the State Party to elaborate as soon as possible the Management Plan, as well as the Sustainable Development Plan, including consideration of an appropriate visitor strategy which supports the property’s OUV and its role as a place of pilgrimage, while also tying into sustainable development objectives and including community participation;
  7. Reminds the State Party of its obligations to submit to the World Heritage Centre, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, details of all on-going or planned projects, including restoration and rehabilitation of the property, as well as any new envisaged construction, for review by the Advisory Bodies prior to implementation;
  8. Notes the information provided on the clarification of property’s new boundaries and further requests the State Party to finalize this process and to submit a minor boundary modification, according to paragraphs 163-165 of the Operational Guidelines, to the World Heritage Centre;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to finalize the draft Retrospective Statement of OUV, which is needed to inform all the plans and strategies being developed for the property;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session;
  11. Decides to retain Abu Mena (Egypt) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
44 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/21/44.COM/7A, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add.2.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
  • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Decision 44 COM 7A.28)
  • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 44 COM 7A.29)
  • Austria, Historic Centre of Vienna (Decision 44 COM 7A.32)
  • Bolivia (Plurinational State of), City of Potosí (Decision 44 COM 7A.35)
  • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.39)
  • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.40)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Garamba National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.41)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.42)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.43)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.45)
  • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 44 COM 7A.5)
  • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.55)
  • Indonesia, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Decision 44 COM 7A.52)
  • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 44 COM 7A.6)
  • Iraq, Hatra (Decision 44 COM 7A.7)
  • Iraq, Samarra Archaeological City (Decision 44 COM 7A.8)
  • Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (site proposed by Jordan) (Decision 44 COM 7A.10)
  • Kenya, Lake Turkana National Parks (Decision 44 COM 7A.47)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Cyrene (Decision 44 COM 7A.11)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna (Decision 44 COM 7A.12)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Sabratha (Decision 44 COM 7A.13)
  • Libya, Old Town of Ghadamès (Decision 44 COM 7A.14)
  • Libya, Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus (Decision 44 COM 7A.15)
  • Madagascar, Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Decision 44 COM 7A.48)
  • Mali, Old Towns of Djenné (Decision 44 COM 7A.1)
  • Mali, Timbuktu (Decision 44 COM 7A.2)
  • Mali, Tomb of Askia (Decision 44 COM 7A.3)
  • Mexico, Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (Decision 44 COM 7B.56)
  • Micronesia (Federated States of), Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia (Decision 44 COM 7A.30)
  • Niger, Aïr and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 44 COM 7A.49)
  • Palestine, Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir (Decision 44 COM 7A.17)
  • Palestine, Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town (Decision 44 COM 7A.16)
  • Panama, Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Decision 44 COM 7A.36)
  • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 44 COM 7A.37)
  • Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.50)
  • Serbia, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Decision 44 COM 7A.33)
  • Solomon Islands, East Rennell (Decision 44 COM 7A.53)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Aleppo (Decision 44 COM 7A.18)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Bosra (Decision 44 COM 7A.19)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Damascus (Decision 44 COM 7A.20)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (Decision 44 COM 7A.21)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (Decision 44 COM 7A.22)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Site of Palmyra (Decision 44 COM 7A.23)
  • Uganda, Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi (Decision 44 COM 7A.4)
  • United Republic of Tanzania, Selous Game Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.51)
  • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.54)
  • Uzbekistan, Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz (Decision 44 COM 7A.31)
  • Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Coro and its Port (Decision 44 COM 7A.38)
  • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 44 COM 7A.25)
  • Yemen, Old City of Sana’a (Decision 44 COM 7A.26)
  • Yemen, Old Walled City of Shibam (Decision 44 COM 7A.27).
Draft Decision: 44 COM 7A.5

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7A.17, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Welcomes the ongoing efforts of the State Party to improve the conservation conditions of the property, in particular through the Groundwater Level Reduction Project and the new Sustainable Development Plan, and requests the State Party to submit the Restoration and Conservation Plan to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  4. Expresses concern that the State Party has not reported on recent conditions of the archaeological remains or current conservation work, and urges the State Party to closely monitor conditions while changes are being made to the water levels, with prompt intervention, where necessary, in particular ensuring protection of the Mar Mena Tomb;
  5. Also urges the State Party to complete all necessary corrective measures to protect and conserve the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) in order to reach the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) adopted in 2007, also in light of the recommendations of the 2012 Reactive Monitoring mission and the 2018 Advisory mission;
  6. Also requests the State Party to elaborate as soon as possible the Management Plan, as well as the Sustainable Development Plan, including consideration of an appropriate visitor strategy which supports the property’s OUV and its role as a place of pilgrimage, while also tying into sustainable development objectives and including community participation;
  7. Reminds the State Party of its obligations to submit to the World Heritage Centre, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, details of all on-going or planned projects, including restoration and rehabilitation of the property, as well as any new envisaged construction, for review by the Advisory Bodies prior to implementation;
  8. Notes the information provided on the clarification of property’s new boundaries and further requests the State Party to finalize this process and to submit a minor boundary modification, according to paragraphs 163-165 of the Operational Guidelines, to the World Heritage Centre;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to finalize the draft Retrospective Statement of OUV, which is needed to inform all the plans and strategies being developed for the property;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session in 2022;
  11. Decides to retain Abu Mena (Egypt) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2021
Egypt
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iv)
Danger List (dates): 2001-present
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2020) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 44COM (2021)
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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