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Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis

Egypt
Factors affecting the property in 2009*
  • Deliberate destruction of heritage
  • Flooding
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Housing
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Land conversion
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Water (rain/water table)
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Raise of the underground water level;

b) Risks of flooding (Valleys of Kings and Queens);

c) Absence of a comprehensive management plan;

d) Major infrastructure and development projects taking place or scheduled;

e) Uncontrolled urban development;

f) Housing and agricultural encroachment on the West Bank;

g) Demolitions in the villages of Gurnah on the West Bank of the Nile and transfer of the population.

UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2009

Total amount provided to the property: USD 1,131,000 from the Japanese Funds-in-Trust 2002-2004 and 2008 (wall paintings restoration).

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2009
Requests approved: 1 (from 2001-2001)
Total amount approved : 7,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2009**

2001: ICOMOS mission; 2002: hydrology expert mission; July 2006 and May 2007: World Heritage Centre missions; April 2008: World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS mission; May 2009: World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS mission.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2009

During its 32nd session, (Quebec City, 2009) the World Heritage Committee reiterated its request to the State Party to revise the design of the Avenue of the sphinxes and its surroundings and toabandon the project of building a landing stage for tourism cruise boats on the Western Bank of the Nile close to the new bridge, and to limit all such developments to the Eastern Bank. In addition, the Committee reiterated its request to the State Party to prepare and/or finalise the management plans for Karnak, Luxor and the West Bank and to integrate these plans into one comprehensive and coordinated Management plan, including a conservation plan and a tourism control strategy. It alsourged the State Party to establish a formal coordination mechanism under the responsibility of the Supreme Council of Antiquities between the latter, the Supreme Council of Luxor, the international scientific teams and other concerned stakeholders, and to hold regular consultations prior to the approval and launching of projects affecting the property and its buffer zone. The Committee invited the State Party to strengthen efforts to restore Hassan Fathy’s new Gurnah village and to forward all projects related to the village prior to their approval for review by the World Heritage Committee.

 

The State Party submitted its state of conservation report on 5 February 2009. The State Party report does not refer to the requests made by the Committee at either its 31st or 32nd sessions, but rather is organized to describe recent activities and initiatives taking place at the property. The report describes general works accomplished in various zones of the property, issues surrounding use of the territory of the temple of Luxor, the villages of Gurnah, the village of Hassan Fathy, the transport system, threats and high level risks in the region of Thebes, and the priorities of the State Party in West Thebes. The major points made in the State Party report include:

 

a) current efforts by the Supreme Council of Luxor to relocate the inhabitants of the village of Al Hassasna “camped practically in the archaeological zone north of the temple of Karnak for hundreds of years” in order to reveal important evidence re the use of Karnak in the second century BC;

b) Further to the disengagement of the area in front of the Temple of Karnak from current use, in order to restore the traditional connection to the Nile, replacement of the current entry point to the temple of Karnak by a modern visitor’s centre and demolition of structures associated with the last century of excavation; excepting one witness structure;

c) development of the Avenue of the sphinxes to link the temples of Karnak and Luxor, recreating the former processional avenue, at the expense of many structures currently in place including residences, a mosque and an Orthodox church. The State Party report notes that “Egypt, always with the same perspective of site management, sees that is it obligatory to unblock this section of the route and to reconstitute the processional axis of the Pharaonic era”. The report acknowledges that all recent monitoring visits have been opposed to this approach ;

d) relocation of the corniche route to the Temple of Luxor necessitating the recovery of several “metres” of existing structures (the Luxor Museum, and Chicago House);

e) examination of a new tourist boat Marina on the west bank of the Nile, proposed by the Council of Luxor, and which without careful development and management could become the core of new touristic development threatening the World Heritage value of the property;

f) efforts since 2007 to revitalize and restore the celebrated modern vernacular village of Hassan Fathy;

g) current physical problems challenging the property, including changes to the water table, geological instability in the Valley of the Kings, and increasingly menacing torrential rains. The report describes proactive approaches to improving conservation of the Theban tombs and temples.

 

A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission took place from8 to12 May 2009.The mission had a very constructive dialogue with the local authorities on the on-going urban projects. The mission considered that these projects will remove the major factors of environmental risk and pollution from the city centre, re-establishing the view on the Luxor temples from the river, and upgrading the urban front of the Corniche along the Nile. The suggestions on the implementation of the following phases of the interventions were agreed as well as the development of a project proposal for the safeguarding of the Hassan Fathy New Gurnah village. The principal recommendations of the mission are the following:

 

a) The Corniche project

The mission considered it was important to avoid any widening of the two lane vehicular road along the riverbank, to upgrade the existing riverbank as a promenade, and to further study specific site conditions along its length, to be sure that treatment proposed matches both visual and technical needs, in front of both Karnak and Luxor Temples. In particular, the planned works will give the opportunity to find more appropriate solutions to technical problems, as the existing concrete retaining walls at the Luxor Temple that, preventing the natural drainage of underground waters towards the river, represents a danger for the conservation of the site.

 

b) The Avenue of the sphinxes

The mission noted that the demolition of houses along the planned Avenue of the Sphinxes has been carried out without an objective assessment of significance, and that it was important to maintain connections between all of the architectural layers of the city. The mission recommended strongly a number of interesting buildings to be maintained, including a minaret and a church, whereas the main urban fabric of the neighbourhood to be eliminated does not constitute any heritage value. On the contrary the neighbourhood's physical and socio-cultural elements are fully degraded. A revised overall plan for the Avenue's scheme needs to be developed, setting out the full rationale/vision and the evidence on which it is based, as well as a multi-disciplinary approach.

 

c) The Marina project

The mission while satisfied with the justification for plans to relocate the boat landing stage to the west bank of the river recognized that this plan could, if not constrained, foster undesirable new urban and tourist development on the west bank. To this end, the mission recommended establishing a buffer zone for the World Heritage property on the west bank of the river, to protect the property from over development of the marina.

 

d) Hassan Fathy's New Gurnah Village.

The mission recommended stopping on-going building activity inside the village area, establishing immediately protective measures for the safeguarding of the existing buildings, and establishing a buffer area linked to the original plan of the village, to control undesirable transformations. The mission further recommended initiating appropriate studies to investigate how New Gurnah might be linked formally to the attributes of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value.

 

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies remain concerned that the approach to the long term rehabilitation of the site thus far – cleansing the site of historic and contemporary structures and layers extraneous to the Pharaonic period – has a lack of historical accuracy and a potential negative impact on the cultural context and integrity of the property.

However, while appreciating the State Party's desire to present the property in a visually dramatic way, they strongly recommend that, before the cleansing of these layers of later heritage is complete, the State Party organises an international consultation in order to design the projects and plans which could highlight and present the property’s Outstanding Universal Value. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies would be very pleased to support such an event. 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2009
33 COM 7B.54
Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis (Egypt) (C 87)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.57, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Regrets that the detailed state of conservation report provided by the State Party does not respond to many of the requests made by the Committee in its decisions of the 31st and 32nd sessions:

a) Revision of the design of the Avenue of the sphinxes and its surroundings,

b) Preparation and/or finalisation of the management plans for Karnak, Luxor and the West Bank and integration of these plans into one comprehensive and coordinated Management plan, including conservation plans for individual site elements and a tourism control strategy,

c) Establishment of a formal coordination mechanism under the responsibility of the Supreme Council of Antiquities to review all projects with the potential to affect the property and its buffer zone,

d) Development in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, as a central part of the establishment of the management plan and related co-ordinated mechanisms;

4. Accepts the arguments offered by the State Party and the recent mission to relocate the landing stage for cruise boats to the west bank of the Nile, with the constraint that a buffer zone be developed for the West Bank to limit new developments;

5. Urges the State Party to adopt the recommendations made by the recent joint reactive monitoring mission as summarized in the report above, concerning the development of the Corniche, the Avenue of the sphinxes, the Marina project, the Hassan Fathy New Gurnah Village, and in particular requests the State Party to submit a revised proposal for the Avenue of the Sphinxes' project, with appropriate details of a long-term vision, and the multi-disciplinary evidence and justification on which it is based;

6. Suggests that the State Party organises an international consultation in order to design projects and plans to highlight and present the property's Outstanding Universal Value;

7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a detailed progress report on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.

Draft Decision: 33 COM 7B.54

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.57, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Regrets that the detailed state of conservation report provided by the State Party does not respond to many of the requests made by the Committee in its decisions of the 31st and 32nd sessions:

a) Revision of the design of the Avenue of the sphinxes and its surroundings;

b) Preparation and/or finalisation of the management plans for Karnak, Luxor and the West Bank and integration of these plans into one comprehensive and coordinated Management plan, including conservation plans for individual site elements and a tourism control strategy;

c) Establishment of a formal coordination mechanism under the responsibility of the Supreme Council of Antiquities to review all projects with the potential to affect the property and its buffer zone;

d) Development in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, including the conditions of integrity and authenticity, as a central part of the establishment of the management plan and related co-ordinated mechanisms;

4. Accepts the arguments offered by the State Party and the recent mission to relocate the landing stage for cruise boats to the west bank of the Nile, with the constraint that a buffer zone be developed for the West Bank to limit new developments;

5. Urges the State Party to adopt the recommendations made by the recent joint reactive monitoring mission as summarized in the report above, concerning the development of the Corniche, the Avenue of the sphinxes, the Marina project, the Hassan Fathy New Gurnah Village, and in particular requests the State Party to submit a revised proposal for the Avenue of the Sphinxes’ project, with appropriate details of a long-term vision, and the multi-disciplinary evidence and justification on which it is based;

6. Suggests that the State Party organises aninternational consultation in order to design projects and plans to highlight and present the property's Outstanding Universal Value;

7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a detailed progress report on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.

 

 

Report year: 2009
Egypt
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(iii)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 33COM (2009)
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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