A group of Arabian Oryx in ‘Uruq Bani Ma’arid (Saudi Arabia)
A group of Arabian Oryx in ‘Uruq Bani Ma’arid (Saudi Arabia)

42 New Heritage Sites!

UNESCO creates more World Heritage Sites for 2023.

The list has forts and forests. The treasures include temples and towns too. Some are beautiful to look at, while others are important for human history. UNESCO works to protect all these places with its World Heritage List. A UNESCO committee met September 10–25 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They agreed to add 42 new World Heritage Sites for 2023!

These protected places come from countries all across the globe. Five can be found in the nations of Argentina, Belgium, Cambodia, Denmark, and Ethiopia. One site sits in the United States. Nine of the new heritage sites are natural wonders, and 33 of them are cultural sites. Many of these spots played a key role in human history.

One of UNESCO’s new natural sites lies in the largest sandy desert on Earth. That’s Ar Rub’ al-KhaIi, which means “the Empty Quarter” in the Arabic language. Arabian oryx and Arabian sand gazelles live along the huge, orange-red sandy dunes. These creatures were in the wild for many years. But animal experts have worked to bring the herds back to their natural . This area — called ‘Uruq Bani Ma’arid — is the sixth UNESCO world heritage site in Saudi Arabia.

Another new natural site includes an active volcano named Mount Pelée. The peak rises high over Martinique, a Caribbean island controlled by France. A critically endangered species of frog lives there (and nowhere else on Earth). UNESCO also protected a large forest area in the Congo. The Forest Massif of Odzala-Kokoua is a very important area for elephants of Central Africa. UNESCO added a new natural site in Italy as well. It’s a complex of more than 900 deep caves.

The 2023 UNESCO world heritage sites includes several key religious places. One is Koh Ker — a group of sacred temples in Cambodia. It was the capital of the ancient Khmer Empire about 1,100 years ago. Another is called the Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysalas. That features three temple complexes in southern India from the 1100s and 1200s. Then there are the five from Türkiye. The Wooden Hypostyle Mosques of Medieval Anatolia date back to the 1200s and 1300s.

One new UNESCO cultural site is older than all of those. The Maison Carrée of Nîmes was built about 2,000 years ago during the Roman Empire. At that time, the empire controlled nearly all of western Europe — including France (where the site is today). The design of the Roman temple inspired many other structures, such as churches in Paris and Poland — and the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia.

UNESCO also announced that some of its sites are in danger. That means their history may be lost forever. The List of World Heritage in Danger now includes places in Ukraine, such as buildings in L’viv, Odesa, and the capital, Kyiv. UNESCO says these areas “have remained under permanent threat” since February 24, 2022. That is when Russia began the war in Ukraine.

There is now a total of 1,199 properties in the UNESCO world heritage site list. Each one tells a bit about our Earth — and the countless cultures across the globe.

Updated September 25, 2023, 5:03 P.M. (ET)
By Russell Kahn (Russ)

A group of Arabian Oryx in ‘Uruq Bani Ma’arid (Saudi Arabia)
A group of Arabian Oryx in ‘Uruq Bani Ma’arid (Saudi Arabia)

The list has forts and forests. The treasures include temples and towns too. Some are beautiful to look at, while others are important for human history. UNESCO works to protect all these places with its World Heritage List. A UNESCO committee met September 10–25 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They agreed to add 42 new World Heritage Sites for 2023!

These protected places come from countries all across the globe. Five can be found in the nations of Argentina, Belgium, Cambodia, Denmark, and Ethiopia. One site sits in the United States. Nine of the new heritage sites are natural wonders, and 33 of them are cultural sites. Many of these spots played a key role in human history.

One of UNESCO’s new natural sites lies in the largest sandy desert on Earth. That’s Ar Rub’ al-KhaIi, which means “the Empty Quarter” in the Arabic language. Arabian oryx and Arabian sand gazelles live along the huge, orange-red sandy dunes. These creatures were in the wild for many years. But animal experts have worked to bring the herds back to their natural . This area — called ‘Uruq Bani Ma’arid — is the sixth UNESCO world heritage site in Saudi Arabia.

Another new natural site includes an active volcano named Mount Pelée. The peak rises high over Martinique, a Caribbean island controlled by France. A critically endangered species of frog lives there (and nowhere else on Earth). UNESCO also protected a large forest area in the Congo. The Forest Massif of Odzala-Kokoua is a very important area for elephants of Central Africa. UNESCO added a new natural site in Italy as well. It’s a complex of more than 900 deep caves.

The 2023 UNESCO world heritage sites includes several key religious places. One is Koh Ker — a group of sacred temples in Cambodia. It was the capital of the ancient Khmer Empire about 1,100 years ago. Another is called the Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysalas. That features three temple complexes in southern India from the 1100s and 1200s. Then there are the five from Türkiye. The Wooden Hypostyle Mosques of Medieval Anatolia date back to the 1200s and 1300s.

One new UNESCO cultural site is older than all of those. The Maison Carrée of Nîmes was built about 2,000 years ago during the Roman Empire. At that time, the empire controlled nearly all of western Europe — including France (where the site is today). The design of the Roman temple inspired many other structures, such as churches in Paris and Poland — and the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia.

UNESCO also announced that some of its sites are in danger. That means their history may be lost forever. The List of World Heritage in Danger now includes places in Ukraine, such as buildings in L’viv, Odesa, and the capital, Kyiv. UNESCO says these areas “have remained under permanent threat” since February 24, 2022. That is when Russia began the war in Ukraine.

There is now a total of 1,199 properties in the UNESCO world heritage site list. Each one tells a bit about our Earth — and the countless cultures across the globe.

Updated September 25, 2023, 5:03 P.M. (ET)
By Russell Kahn (Russ)

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