The Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve is the Kingdom’s first UNESCO Natural Heritage Site and joins six other UNESCO Heritage Sites in Saudi Arabia.
The Uruq Bani Ma‘arid Reserve in Saudi Arabia has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, as announced by His Highness Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud, Saudi Minister of Culture, Chairman of the National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, and Chairman of the Heritage Commission. The decision was taken during the extended 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh between the 10th and 25th of September. The successful nomination of the site marks Saudi Arabia’s very first UNESCO Natural Heritage Site and celebrates the Kingdom’s continued efforts to protect and maintain its natural ecosystems and cultural heritage.
The Minister congratulated Saudi Arabia’s leadership on this monumental international inscription. The inscription came on the back of unwavering support for culture and heritage in the Kingdom and reflects Saudi Arabia’s vast culture and biodiversity across its regions.
Praising the joint national efforts that supported the site inscription, the Minister also emphasised Saudi’s commitment to the conservation of natural heritage and the sustainable development of natural heritage. This commitment highlights the importance of natural heritage and its strategic importance to Saudi Vision 2030.
His Highness Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud said: “The inscription of the Reserve on the UNESCO World Heritage List as the first Natural Heritage Site in the Kingdom contributes to highlighting the importance of natural heritage on a global scale and reflects the outstanding value of the Reserve.”
Situated along the western edge of ar-Rub al-Khali (The Empty Quarter), Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve occupies an area of over 12,750 km2 and is the only major sand desert in tropical Asia and the largest continuous sand sea on Earth. With a world-class panorama of the sands of the Empty Quarter and some of the world’s largest complex linear dunes, Uruq Bani Ma‘arid Reserve embodies outstanding universal value. It is an exceptional showcase of the environmental and biological evolution of flora and fauna in Saudi Arabia and provides vital natural habitats for the survival of more than 120 indigenous plant species, as well as endangered animals living in harsh environments, including gazelles and the only free-ranging herd of Arabian Oryx in the world.
Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve fulfils the World Heritage standards as a sand desert that embodies outstanding universal value and forms a unique and diverse landscape. The Reserve contains a range of extensive natural habitats vital to the survival of key species and includes five sub-groups of the Kingdom’s national ecosystems, which is vital to maintaining the site’s biodiversity.
The inscription of the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve as a World Heritage Site comes as a result of joint national efforts by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, the National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, the National Centre for Wildlife, and the Heritage Commission.
The inscription of the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve adds to the six other Saudi UNESCO sites, which are Al-Ahsa Oasis, Al-Hijr Archaeological Site, At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah, Ḥimā Cultural Area, Historic Jeddah, and Rock Art in the Hail Region.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is proud to be hosting the extended 45th session of the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The session is taking place in Riyadh from 10-25 September 2023 and highlights the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting global efforts in heritage preservation and protection, in line with the goals of UNESCO.
UNESCO World Heritage Committee:
The UNESCO World Heritage Convention was founded in 1972 as the UNESCO General Assembly approved it in its Session # 17. The World Heritage Committee acts as the governing body of the World Heritage Convention, and meets annually, with membership tenure for six years. The World Heritage Committee is comprised of representatives from 21 States Parties to the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage elected by the General Assembly of States Parties to the Convention.
The current composition of the Committee is as follows:
Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, and Zambia.
The essential functions of the Committee are:
- To identify, on the basis of nominations submitted by States Parties, cultural and natural properties of Outstanding Universal Value which are to be protected under the Convention, and to inscribe those properties on the World Heritage List.
- To monitor the state of conservation of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, in liaison with States Parties; decide which properties included in the World Heritage List are to be inscribed on or removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger; decide whether a property may be deleted from the World Heritage List.
- To examine requests for International Assistance financed by the World Heritage Fund.