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NEWS Istanbul UNESCO World Heritage Community Meeting 10-26 July 2016

8 Jul 2016

Ancient City of Ani to be Discussed at UNESCO Meeting in Istanbul

THE UNESCO World Heritage Committee will convene in Istanbul from the 10th to the 26th of July, to discuss the addition of 29 sites to its World Heritage List including the ancient capital city of Ani in the eastern district of Kars, Turkey. The meeting, chaired by Lale Ulker, the general director of overseas promotion and cultural affairs at the Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry will also discuss the addition of 28 other sites around the world.

What is the UNESCO World Heritage Site List?

UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and they currently list 1031 sites around the world to be of heritage importance. Compiling and highlighting landmarks that display specific cultural or physical significance, countries with heritage sites may receive funding from the United Nations to help with preservation and research projects. On occasions, a new UNESCO landmark site also receives a boost in popularity, as it becomes a tourist attraction. Citing their mission as…

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

They further go on to explain their mission tasks as…

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seek to encourage the identification, protection, and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.

Turkey and the UNESCO World Heritage List

Given the historical timeline of Turkey and the numerous civilizations and empires that have occupied these lands over time, it is no surprise to learn that Turkey currently has 15 sites on the UNESCO list as well as 60 on the tentative list, waiting for approval.

Approved UNESCO sites include popular tourist attractions such as the ancient city ruins of Ephesus and the natural landscape of Pamukkale, to lesser-visited attractions like the Neolithic site of Catalhoyuk, a historical gem enabling archaeologists to learn about farming and lifestyle trends of people that lived 9000 years ago.

Sites that are waiting for approval include Konya that was the capital of the Seljuk Empire and the Mardin landscape that sits on the edge of the ancient Mesopotamia plains, viewed by many to be the cradle of civilization. In the UNESCO meeting due to take place on the 10th of July in Istanbul, discussion regarding the ancient city of Ani will hopefully result in an outcome of acceptance. 

About the Ancient City of Ani

A short drive away from the eastern city of Kars to the Turkish/Armenia border sits the ruins of medieval Ani that was the ancient capital city of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom. Open as a tourist attraction, the numbers of visitors are relatively small. This may be because tourism in that area of Turkey generally consists of independent travellers or visitors wishing to get off the beaten track.

Regardless, representing an insight into Armenian heritage, frustration arose in the past because of a lack of research funding forcing concern about the existing structures that were in danger of collapsing. Acceptance to the UNESCO World Heritage site list may result in funding to support further archeological digs that will preserve and uncover as much of the ancient city as possible. 

Also called the city of 1001 churches, although Ani covers a considerable distance, only a few historical landmarks have been uncovered. These include the church of the holy redeemer dating from the 11th century, the church of Saint Gregory of Tigra Hornets from 1215, the church of the Holy Apostle and it's marvellously intact city walls.

Another main reason to further archeological digs at Ani is that some artefacts found during digging projects of the 19th and 20th centuries showed a connection with Persia, China, Europe, and the Byzantine Empire. All these contribute towards Ani’s status as a major route of the ancient Silk trading road that stretched from Asia to Europe.

Restoration work at the old city of Ani has already received funding and assistance from the World Monument Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the world most treasured places. They had initially placed Ani on their endangered list due to years of neglect, earthquakes, vandalism, and restoration work completed by novices and those without necessary qualifications or knowledge. Without a doubt, their assistance has significantly helped to preserve the existing structures of Ani, but an addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list will further ensure the preservation of this ancient medieval Armenian city for many generations to come.


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