Preserving Libya’s Cultural Heritage

Old Town of Ghadamès. (Photo credit: ©UNESCO/ Yvon Fruneau)

Libya has recently grabbed headlines for its political turmoil, but there’s another important aspect of the conflict that deserves to be mentioned: it’s history. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is calling on the coalition involved in military operations in Libya to respect the country’s cultural heritage by refraining from committing any damage to its World Heritage sites.

Of the 10 states in the coalition (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Qatar, Spain, United Arab Emirates, the U.K. and the U.S.), eight are party to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two protocols, which require that military operations be conducted away from cultural sites.

Temple of Zeus, Cyrene. (Photo credit: ©UNESCO//Thierry Jolly)

The World Heritage sites include the Old Town of Ghadamès, one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities; the Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus, which features thousands of cave paintings dating from 12,000 B.C. to A.D. 100; the Archaeological Site of Cyrene, ruins of what was once a province of the Roman Empire; the Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna, which represents an early artistic realization of urban planning; and the Archaeological Site of Sabratha, a Phoenician trading post that was once part of the Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa.

To learn more about Libya’s cultural heritage or any of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, explore UNESCO’s interactive map or view National Geographic’s guides.