Perched on the edge of Libya’s Mediterranean coast, the ancient city of Sabratha remains an awe-inspiring spectacle, the pink columns of its amphitheatre towering above turquoise waters. Shell casings and bullets still litter the surrounding earth, a year after clashes between rival armed groups…
From prehistoric settlements and wonders of the ancient world to classical palaces and entire cities, some of the planet’s most amazing sights haven fallen victim to the forces of nature. Some were beaten into oblivion by severe weather, and others were simply abandoned by their human inhabitants, allowing nature to run its course. We pick some of the world’s most fascinating spots all but forgotten by mankind, but ravaged by Mother Nature.
Ross Island, India
Part of India’s remote Andaman archipelago, Ross Island became a colonial British settlement in the 18th century. But, due to the intense heat and changeable weather, these settlers soon left. The British returned again in 1857, when they turned the jungle-clad island into a penal colony for Indian revolters. As the prison expanded to the other Andaman isles, Ross Island became its administrative headquarters.
As the Indian rebels suffered in makeshift barracks, the British ensured the rest of Ross Island was transformed into their own lavish base. Comfortable houses and a grand church were built by the prisoners for the colonizers. But, by the early 1940s, the prison had ceased operation.
Libya, like Syria, is home to a prized array of temples, tombs, mosques and churches.
ALEXANDRIA – In parallel to the destructive conflicts plaguing countries of the Middle East, another war is being waged on the collective memory of the people in the region and their historic identity.
From Iraq to Syria, Yemen and Libya, the region’s cultural and archaeological heritage is being wiped out amid the appalling idleness of the international community and UNESCO, archaeology experts complained.
Grievances about the disappearing heritage of the region, considered the cradle of ancient civilisations, were voiced at a forum on the role of media in the protection of cultural heritage organised by local NGOs and the Swedish Cultural Institute in Alexandria, Egypt.
Military bases set up in the perimeter of archaeological sites, bombardment of museums and historical monuments, illegal excavations, plundering, looting and illicit trafficking of artefacts is what Syria’s heritage has been exposed to for seven years, said Syrian archaeologist Cheikhmous Ali, founder of the Strasbourg-based Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology (APSA).
They are world-renowned and a Unesco heritage site. The catch? They are in Libya.
The limestone and marble ruins of Leptis Magna on Libya’s coast could be a hive of activity and a top tourist destination, but conflict has left one of ancient Rome’s great Mediterranean cities almost entirely cut off from the outside world.
Guards are unpaid and most visitors are local, with only the occasional handful of foreigners, including one or two intrepid tourists, making it to the site.
On weekdays, it is almost deserted, with only the odd group of local teenagers dotted among the expansive ruins.
“There’s something that remains of the tourist police, but they can’t protect it,” says 60-year-old Ali Hrebish, one of several dozen volunteer guards who “for God and country” help watch over the site. “We live here, we protect it.”
On 21 September, UNESCO was informed by several sources that military action is intensifying within and around the Archaeological Site of Sabratha in Libya, inscribed on the World Heritage List since 1982. According to reports, military action is growing within and around the property.
In view of this situation, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, calls on all parties to cease violence and ensure the protection of Sabratha’s invaluable cultural heritage, including its archaeological museum. The Director-General underscored the need to protect cultural heritage in times of conflict, as recently urged by the UN Security Council in its Resolution 2347, notably.
“I call on all parties to ensure the safeguarding of Sabratha’s unique cultural heritage,” said Mrs. Bokova.
As we all sit in our own sweat, wondering when this hell will end, spare a thought for the places that have really got it bad. Here are the 10 hottest places on earth.
1. Death Valley, California, USA
This currently holds the record for hottest air temperature ever recorded. The desert valley reached highs of 56.7 degrees in the summer of 1913, which would apparently push the limits of human survival. Average temperatures today reach 47 degrees during summer, and it’s the driest place in the States.
2. Aziziyah, Libya
The former capital of the Jafara district, 25 miles south of Tripoli, used to claim the title of hottest place on earth – in 1922 the temperature was recorded as a sweltering 58 degrees.
Other endangered sites include ones in Libya, Iraq and Syria.
Liverpool’s World Heritage Site is still in danger – but it is in some remarkable company.
There are 55 sites worldwide on Unesco’s danger list – from ancient cities in war zones to rainforests threatened by logging and mining.
Liverpool is on the List of World Heritage in Danger because Unesco is worried new developments – especially the £5bn Liverpool Waters scheme – could threaten the very things that make the city’s World Heritage Site so special.
Unesco’s World Heritage Committee will meet again in Poland in July and may decide that “Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City” is no longer endangered.
This week Liverpool council will approve a new management plan for the site as part of an effort to persuade Unesco to remove Liverpool from the danger list.
Leptis Magna (AFP) — Ali Hribish stands by the Arch of Septimius Severus which dominates Libya’s ancient city of Leptis Magna, brandishing letters of thanks for his efforts to protect the site.
The former electricity company employee in his 50s has become the Roman city’s unlikely saviour, protecting it from looting and vandalism as chaos rocks the country following the 2011 downfall of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
Despite having no background in archaeology, Hribish gathered a band of fighters who dedicated themselves to preserving the ancient Roman city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
While others set up armed groups to protect banks and public buildings, “we immediately thought of Leptis Magna,” says Ashraf Mohammed, 33, one of the first fighters to join Hribish’s group.
“A bank can be rebuilt, but our monuments and our history are things we can’t replace,” he says.