1.         Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis (Egypt) (C 87)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (i)(iii)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/87/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2001-2001)
Total amount approved: USD 7,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/87/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 1,131,000 from the Japanese Funds-in-Trust, 2002-2004 and 2008 (wall paintings restoration in the tomb of Amenophis III);  Special Account for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage of Egypt: USD 931,674 for ‘Hassan Fathy New Gourna’, and USD 310,381 for ‘Memphis and Thebes Sites Management Support’; Euro 150,000 from the Government of France for Enhancing Capacities for the Protection of World Heritage Properties in Egypt (2020).

Previous monitoring missions

2001: ICOMOS mission; 2002: hydrology expert mission; July 2006 and May 2007: World Heritage Centre missions; April 2008, May 2009 and April 2017: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS missions; January/February 2021 UNESCO Advisory mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/87/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 17 December 2020, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation, a summary of which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/87/documents/ and reports on progress in implementing Committee Decisions and current projects, as follows:

In relation to the Management Plan for the property, the State Party advises that each component is managed in an appropriate yet separate way to preserve the attributes and Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), such as in the management of restoration plans, periodic maintenance, tourism, human resources management, community engagement, and other activities and components of the management plan. The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities proposes to use studies and proposals prepared by the supervisors of the missions working on the sites, to prepare a unified site management plan.

A UNESCO Advisory mission to Egypt took place from 30 January to 4 February 2021. The mission considered several issues related to the conservation of World Heritage properties, including Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis. High level meetings, onsite consultations and a workshop with site managers and focal points were held, in addition to a short online workshop prior to the mission, to provide a detailed introduction to the World Heritage Convention and the Operational Guidelines for its implementation.

One of the tasks of the mission was to review the situation of the relocation of four ram-headed sphinxes from Karnak Temple to Tahrir Square in Cairo. In the view of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, this action has no impact on the OUV of the property. The subject sphinxes were not directly visible at the site owing to their location at the far end of the row of sphinxes, and also as they were covered with rubble remaining from the construction of the temple walls.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The State Party has undertaken a number of excavation and restoration works and has provided responses to some of the issues addressed by the Committee and to some of the recommendations of the 2017 mission. The report presents some technical information about this work, but still lacks detailed illustrated and graphical material, which is important for its assessment in terms of quality and scope. The Committee has previously urged the State Party to implement and report on the recommendations of the 2017 mission, and to expedite preparation of an integrated Management Plan, and the revision of the 2030 Masterplan to integrate the conservation of OUV across all projects, mitigate the adverse effects of tourism and consider an integrated development approach, in addition to the elaboration of a conservation plan setting out priorities and needs. More information is needed on the lighting and security camera project, the (completed) underground water project, and the Flood Emergency Plan. The 2021 mission was informed by the site management team that work is ongoing for the lighting and security projects as well as the integrated Management Plan and the 2030 Masterplan revision. Furthermore, the mission observed that an overall project to improve interpretation and enhance some visitor services was ongoing. It is crucial that the State Party implements the recommendations of the 2017 and 2021 missions. The site management and national authorities should inform the World Heritage Centre if any technical support for the monitoring of the climatic conditions for the tombs in the Valley of the Kings is required.

The State Party had not provided information to the World Heritage Centre regarding the intention to move the four sphinxes located within the property, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and its state of conservation report does not include detailed information on the transfer or the restoration work, although it included information on the conservation of other sphinxes. The 2021 mission was advised that such relocations take place regularly, in accordance with Egyptian antiquities protection law. The mission noted that other statues and sphinxes are nearby in the garden of the Egyptian Museum, and that the sphinxes had been previously moved in the Pharaonic Era and during the 1970s. A preliminary report on the conservation of the sphinxes was provided to the mission.

As noted by the 2021 mission, the most critical issue is the continued conservation and physical protection of the sphinxes, and the mission was able to see the major ongoing conservation project. Humidity, pollution, vibration and vandalism, may pose a concern to their state of conservation, and close monitoring is needed. Detailed scans could provide a necessary baseline against which any future delamination, decay or granular disaggregation can be measured accurately. It is recommended that dialogue is continued with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies on the approach to the monitoring and conservation of the relocated sphinxes, as well as the overall approach to the conservation work undertaken at the property. The mission recommended that an evaluation of the conservation of the four sphinxes should be undertaken after six months. It is welcome that a project for the rehabilitation of the five main public buildings built by the architect Hassan Fathi has been initiated by the UNESCO Office in Cairo. The State Partys intention to consider a unit whose tasks will be focused on preparing Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) is also welcome and, it is recommended that such initiatives build upon the 2019 and 2021 HIA workshops and the forthcoming detailed technical discussions to be addressed in the framework of the capacity building initiative that the World Heritage Centre will implement with support from France in 2021.

In light of the above, and the outcomes of the 2021 mission, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission, to evaluate the propertys state of conservation, assess implementation of the recommendations from the 2017 and 2021 missions, review ongoing and planned projects, and assess how they may affect the propertys OUV.

Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7B.126

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7B.43 adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Welcomes the intention of the State Party to consider establishing a unit focused on preparing Heritage Impact Assessments (HIA) and encourages the State Party to build upon the 2019 and 2021 HIA workshops in the framework of the capacity building initiative that the World Heritage Centre will implement with support from France during 2021;
  4. Notes the findings and recommendations of the 2021 UNESCO Advisory mission and requests the State Party to implement its recommendations, and to prepare a unified and comprehensive Management Plan for the property, addressing risk preparedness and sustainable tourism;
  5. Regrets that four sphinxes from the Karnak Temple were transferred to Tahrir Square in Cairo, without prior preparation of a HIA, and without notification of the World Heritage Centre in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and also requests the State Party to conduct an evaluation of the situation of the four sphinxes after six months, in accordance with the recommendations of the 2021 mission;
  6. Reiterates its requests to the State Party to complete HIAs for proposed projects, following the 2011 ICOMOS Guidelines on HIAs for Cultural World Heritage Properties, prior to carrying out any further work within the property, which may affect it, and to submit these HIAs and relevant project documentation to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse;
  7. Also notes information provided by the State Party regarding implementation of the recommendations of the 2017 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission, and urges the State Party to fully implement and report on the mission recommendations as a matter of urgency, and to advise whether technical support for the monitoring of the climatic conditions of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings is required;
  8. Also regrets that the State Party has not fully complied with requests expressed by the Committee in its previous Decisions and considers that the continuing absence of the Management Plan, and pressures of tourism are exerting a growing impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, and therefore also urges once again the State Party to expedite the finalization of the Management Plan, incorporating a Conservation Plan and a comprehensive Tourism Management Plan, and to revise the 2030 Masterplan for the property to integrate conservation of OUV across all projects within the property;
  9. Also reiterates its previous requests for the State Party to provide:
    1. Comprehensive documentation on the lighting and security cameras project, with full details regarding its implementation,
    2. A detailed report on the completed underground water project, including design and implementation,
    3. A report on the flood channeling and Flood Emergency Plan established for the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens,
    4. Full details of restoration and rehabilitation works at the Temple of the Apt, the Temple of Medinet Habu, the Ramesseum, and the Temple of Seti I,
    5. Full details of works undertaken to facilitate access for the disabled at Karnak,
    6. Details of any other infrastructure, development or conservation projects proposed within property or its buffer zone prior to making any irreversible decisions or commencing works;
  10. Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property, to evaluate the property’s state of conservation, assess implementation of the recommendations from the 2017 and 2021 missions, and review ongoing and planned projects and assess how they may affect the property’s OUV;
  11. Encourages the State Party to continue the exchanges with ICOMOS and the World Heritage Centre to finalize the Retrospective Statement of OUV;
  12. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 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 46th session.