UNESCO warns Yemen for the second time to repair historic sites

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The city of Sanaa, capital of Yemen has been warned twice by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to restore the original appearances of its historic sites or face an immediate removal from the world heritage list next month.

More than 8,000 houses in Sanaa, with a unique architectural style, have a history of over 2,500 years. They became part of the UNESCO’s list of World Cultural Heritages in 1998.

However, 16 percent of such houses have been rebuilt or enlarged in recent years by their owners still living inside. Some damaged parts of the houses have been repaired, and as a result, the original appearances of the houses are gone forever.

The use of such construction materials as steel and cement banned UNESCO for the repairs by residents is largely changing the original houses’ stone structure and wooden windows and doors, according to General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities of Yemen (GOPHCY).

In response to the warning by UNESCO, the government of Sanaa has already made plans to repair the houses in the required manner.

“A total of 1.3 million US dollars have been allocated by the city government to demolish all the new houses built in the past two-and-a-half years,” said Salim Al-Haimi, the vice mayor of Sanaa.

On the other hand, it poses a great challenge to the preservation of the historic sites as it has to be done a populated area, a lively city with over 100,000 people residing all year round.

“It is a lively city rather than a tourist destination without anyone residents, and as a result, we feel great pressure in trying to preserve the historic sites as well as meeting the demands of local living standards, and we also have to coordinate the work of preservation and handling private properties,” said Nagi Thowabeh, chairman of General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities of Yemen.

According to reports, about 73 percent of the houses in Sanaa requires repair and many were not repaired after collapsing due to lack of funding. And now, 80 percent of the houses are personal property and many local residents repair the houses themselves without any government assistance.

“I once asked the GOPHCY for help to repair my house, but they said that that it’s out of their hands, their regulation. And so when my house had suffered a collapse, I had to repair it myself. What’s more, when I was repairing and complete the process, no body warned me or stopped me,” said Fawzi Amer, a local resident.

The UNESCO will hold a meeting in Paris, France in June next month, to discuss whether to remove Sanaa from its world heritage list.

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