Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Starting February 2007, Saudi Arabia will begin procedures to register a number of historical sites in the kingdom with UNESCO (The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization), beginning with Madaen Saleh, as the first Saudi historical site to be listed internationally.
An official source revealed to Asharq Al Awsat that as well as Madaen Saleh, the cities of Old Jeddah and the Tareef district of Al Dariya would also be presented to UNESCO to be registered as world heritage sites.
The source further pointed out that UNESCO annually receives one heritage site per country in order to ensure impartibility between countries, indicating that Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries of the world that has not listed a number of its heritage sites. A large number of countries have registered over 20 of their respective heritage sites with the international organization.
Commenting on the reluctance of Arab states to enlist historical sites, the source told Asharq Al Awsat that some states fear that this would result in interference with their sovereignty over historical sites, highlighting that being listed as a UNESCO world heritage site means that the organization’s experts would supervise the concerned area and contribute to its maintenance in normal circumstances and if any disaster occurs.
The official source stated that there are a number of moral benefits to registering historical sites with UNESCO such as international concern and maintenance for the site, international presence and support by providing archaeological experts, conducting studies in the area, as well as helping to preserve the site.
After receiving the initial approval to enlist Madaen Saleh, a panel of experts from UNESCO is due to examine the site for 16 months before announcing its status as a world heritage site, which the official source said is expected to take place in June 2008. The source told Asharq Al Awsat that Saudi Arabia issued a noble decree in August 2006 to approve the registration of Madaen Saleh, Al Dariya and the historical area of Jeddah as UNESCO’s world heritage sites.