Five Libyan World Heritage Sites on the Danger List

January 03, 2017

* Dr. Ahmad Issa Faraj

On July 14, 2106, during the World Heritage Committee meetings held in Istanbul, Turkey, Libyans received the news of placing five World Heritage sites in Libya on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

First, we have to ask what are Libya's five World Heritage sites?

1.    Archaeological Site of “Leptis Magna”

“Leptis Magna” is the oldest Phoenician settlement in Libya that was founded at "Wadi Lebda" and believed to date to 514[1]. The city of Leptis Magna became one of the most important Roman cities of the ancient world. The whole world acknowledged its importance when it was declared a World Heritage Site during the sixth session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Paris from 13th to 17th of December, 1982. The meeting was attended by the late Dr. “Abdallah Shiboub”, the Chairman of the Libyan Antiquities Department, and Mr. “Abdelkader Al-Atrash”, Former Ambassador of Libya to UNESCO. [2]


“Leptis Magna” was included in the World Heritage Sites after it met the following criteria:

Criterion 1 (i): "To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;"

Criterion 2 (ii): "To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time, or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design";

Criterion 3 (iii): "To bear a unique, or at least exceptional, testimony to a cultural tradition, or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared." [3]

2.    Archaeological Site of "Sabratha"

"Sabratha" is one among the three Phoenicians cities in Libya[4]. It was founded by Phoenician traders coming from the city of "Tyre" or "Sidon," but the exact date of its foundation is unknown. The city of "Sabratha" is among the most beautiful and important archaeological sites in Libya. It is marked by its Phoenician and Roman antiquities. Among its most famous landmarks are: the famous Phoenician tomb, Roman Amphitheater, and stadium.   

The Archaeological site of “Sabratha” was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1982 at the same session (sixth session) which included the site of “Leptis Magna”.

The document inscribing the archaeological site of "Sabratha" shows that the site fulfilled the criterion number 3 (iii).

Criterion 3 (iii): "To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared."[5]

3.    Archaeological Site of “Cyrene”

"Cyrene" or (Korana) was the first Greek settlement in Libya that is believed to be founded in 631 BC, capital of the district "Cyrenaica". It was founded by immigrants from an island called "Thera". Herodotus tells[6] the story of the founding of the city, which was a great mixture of myth and historical events. 


The core archaeological site could be divided into three main areas:

·       Southern Hill which includes Agora, Forum, and Acropolis, which are all connected through the road “Battos” Stoa of Hermes and Herakles.

·       North-Eastern Hill area, which includes the Great Temple of Zeus and the Hippodrome.

·       The Northwest region, which is the Valley area that separates both hills and includes the oldest buildings like the Temple of "Artemis" and the Temple of "Apollo". It is the Sanctuary of Apollo with its temples and Greek gate (Greek Propylaeum), Roman gate (Roman Propylaeum), Byzantine and Trajan baths, and the Greek theater.



Assistant Professor in the Management of Libyan Antiquities and Heritage

Faculty of Tourism and Antiquities – Sousa

University Omar Al-Mokhtar       

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