The Forum for Partners in Iran's Marketplace

September 2017, No. 85


Iran’s Yazd City Inscribed on World Heritage List

Yazd is home to UNESCO-listed ancient Persian qanats as well as Dolat Abad Garden, which is one of nine Iranian gardens inscribed collectively on the World Heritage List as “the Persian Gardens”.

The historical city of Yazd in central Iran has become the country’s 22nd world heritage site after the World Heritage Committee voted in favor of its inscription (July 9) during the committee’s 41st session in Krakow, Poland.

Almost 200 hectares of the city’s 2,270-hectare historical texture now boast world heritage status.

Yazd is now the only UNESCO-listed Iranian city where people still live. It is also believed to be the world’s largest inhabited adobe city.

Registering the site on the coveted list was a tougher task than Iranian officials had hoped. The ancient city’s dossier was supposed to be considered for inscription last year but was deemed incomplete by UNESCO’s assessors who gave Iran a long list of shortcomings that had to be redressed to improve the city’s chances of inscription on the coveted list.

Cultural heritage authorities have envisioned a buffer zone of around 665.93 hectares for the designated area.

Yazd is home to UNESCO-listed ancient Persian qanats as well as Dolat Abad Garden, which is one of nine Iranian gardens inscribed collectively on the World Heritage List as “the Persian Gardens”.

The city is known for its adobe architecture, Zoroastrian fire temples and tall structures known as badgirs, or wind-catchers, which in ancient times functioned as natural ventilation in large buildings.

One of the key measures that Iran had been told to take was “extending the buffer zone in the area of Dolatabad Garden to provide improved protection of its setting from the impacts of future development”.

This is a common problem facing historical and cultural sites in Iran, whose buffer zones are either too small or otherwise ignored by city officials, thanks to lax laws.

Mohammad Hassan Talebian, deputy for cultural heritage at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, has said that the organization had addressed all the issues outlined by UNESCO.

With 22 world heritage sites, Iran is ranked first in the Middle East and eleventh worldwide.

Iran’s UNESCO-listed cities, such as Shahr-e-Soukhteh (Burned City), are all uninhabited, which would make Yazd the first city on the coveted list inhabited by a large population.

As of May 19, Iran has listed 10 sites on UNESCO’s tentative list of world heritage sites this year, which are up for inscription within five to 10 years.

Yazd Inscription on UNESCO List Will Add to its Allure

The inscription of Yazd on the UNESCO World Heritage List will pave the way for inscribing other historical and adobe cities in the country.

Talebian said preparing the dossier for Yazd would not have been possible without the coordinated effort of authorities and activists.

“We prioritized Yazd’s inscription on the list and managed to prepare its dossier in time to submit to UNESCO last year,” he was quoted as saying.

Last October, experts from the France-based International Center for Earthen Architecture, CRAterre, traveled to Yazd to help officials compile the dossiers for the city’s inscription on the World Heritage List and help monitor and preserve its historical texture.

Restoring Yazd’s historical texture will no doubt help the city’s growth and dynamism–important factors in the eyes of UNESCO members.

Talebian said Yazd’s inscription on the coveted list will have a significant impact on the city’s tourism industry, as it will add a certain allure to its historical, religious and cultural attractions. 

More about Yazd

Yazd is the capital of Yazd Province, Iran. The city is located 270 km (170 mi) southeast of Isfahan.

Because of generations of adaptations to its desert surroundings, Yazd has a unique Persian architecture. It is nicknamed the “City of Windcatchers” from its many examples. It is also very well known for its Zoroastrian fire temples, ab anbars, qanats, yakhchals, Persian handicrafts, handwoven cloth, silk weaving, Persian Cotton Candy, and its time-honored confectioneries.

Yazd has a history of over 5,000 years, dating back to the time of the Median Empire, when it was known as Ysatis or Issatis. The present city name, however, is derived from Yazdegerd I, a Sassanid ruler of Persia. The city was definitely a Zoroastrian center during Sassanid times. After the Arab conquest of Iran, many Zoroastrians migrated to Yazd from neighboring provinces. By paying a levy, Yazd was allowed to remain Zoroastrian even after its conquest.

Always known for the quality of its silk and carpets, Yazd today is one of Iran’s industrial centers for textiles. There is also a considerable ceramics and construction materials industry and unique confectionery and jewelry industries. A significant portion of the population is also employed in other industries including agriculture, dairy, metal works, and machine manufacturing. There are a number of companies involved in the growing information technology industry, mainly manufacturing primary materials such as cables and connectors. Currently Yazd is the home of the largest manufacturer of fiber optics in Iran.

In 2000 the Yazd Water Museum opened; it features exhibits of water storage vessels and historical technologies related to water.

Yazd has expanded its industrial fields since the 1980s. With at least three main industrial areas each containing over 70 different factories, Yazd has become one of the most technologically advanced cities of Iran. The most famous corporations include Yazd Steel, Shimi Plastic of Yazd, and Yazd Polymer. 

Iranian Properties Inscribed on the World Heritage List

The following are the Iranian properties inscribed on the World Heritage List:

Cultural (21)

·         Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran (2008)

·         Bam and its Cultural Landscape (2004)

·         Bisotun (2006)

·         The Cultural Landscape of Maymand (2015)

·         Golestan Palace (2013)

·         Gonbad-e Qābus (2012)

·         The Historical City of Yazd (2017)

·         Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan (2012)

·         Meidan-e Emam, Isfahan (1979)

·         Pasargadae (2004)

·         Persepolis (1979)

·         Shahr-e-Soukhteh (2014)

·         Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardebil (2010)

·         Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System (2009)

·         Soltaniyeh (2005)

·         Susa (2015)

·         Tabriz Historical Bazaar Complex (2010)

·         Takht-e Soleyman (2003)

·         Tchogha Zanbil (1979)

·         The Persian Garden (2011)

·         The Persian Qanat (2016)  

Yazd is now the only UNESCO-listed Iranian city where people still live. It is also believed to be the world’s largest inhabited adobe city.

Natural (1)

·         Lut Desert (2016)  

Properties Submitted on the Tentative List (57)

A Tentative List is an inventory of those properties which each State Party intends to consider for nomination.  

·         Jame’ (Congregational) Mosque of Isfahan (1997)

·         The Historical ensemble of Qasr-e Shirin (1997)

·         Firuzabad Ensemble (1997)

·         Shush (1997)

·         Nasqsh-e Rostam and Naqsh-e Rajab (1997)

·         Tape Sialk (1997)

·         The Ensemble of Historical Sassanid Cities in Fars Province (Bishabpur, Firouzabad, Sarvestan) (2007)

·         Taq-e Bostan (2007)

·         Kuh-e Khuaja (2007)

·         Persepolis and other relevant buildings (2007)

·         The Historical–Cultural Axis of Fin, Sialk, Kashan (2007)

·         The Historical Ensemble of Qasr-e Shirin (2007)

·         The Historical Monument of Kangavar (2007)

·         The Historical city of Yazd (2007)

·         The Historical City of Maybod (2007)

·         The Historical Port of Siraf (2007)

·         Bazaar of Qaisariye in Laar (2007)

·         The Historical Village of Abyaneh (2007)

·         Bastam and Kharghan (2007)

·         The Historical Texture of Damghan (2007)

·         The Cultural-Natural Landscape of Ramsar (2007)

·         Kaboud Mosque (2007)

·         Tous Cultural Landscape (2007)

·         The Historical City of Masouleh (2007)

·         The Complex of Izadkhast (2007)

·         The Cultural Landscape of Alamout (2007)

·         Zozan (2007)

·         Khorramabad Valley (2007)

·         Jiroft (2007)

·         Ghaznavi- Seljukian Axis in Khorasan (2007)

·         The Cultural Landscape of Uramanat (2007)

·         Hyrcanian Forest (Caspian Forest) (2007)

·         Qeshm Island (2007)

·         Arasbaran Protected Area (2007)

·         Sabalan (2007)

·         Khabr National Park and Ruchun Wildlife Refuge (2007)

·         Alisadr Cave (2007)

·         Silk Route (Also as Silk Road) (2008)

·         The Natural-Historical Landscape of Izeh (2008)

·         The Zandiyeh Ensemble of Fars Province (2008)

·         Kerman Historical-Cultural Structure (2008)

·         Hegmataneh (2008)

·         The Collection of Historical Bridges (2008)

·         Touran Biosphere Reserve (2008)

·         Hamoun Lake (2008)

·         Harra Protected Area (2008)

·         Damavand (2008)

·         Asbads (windmill) of Iran (2017)

·         The Natural-Historical Complex / Cave of Karaftoo (2017)

·         Imam Reza Holy Complex (2017)

·         The Industrial Heritage of Iranian Railway (2017)

·         The Industrial Heritage of textile in the central Plateau of Iran (2017)

·         Persian Caravanserai (2017)

·         Salt Domes of Iran (2017)

·         The Great Wall of Gorgan (2017)

·         The Persian House in Central plateau of Iran (2017)

·         University of Tehran (2017)  

World Heritage List Nominations

Only countries that have signed the World Heritage Convention, pledging to protect their natural and cultural heritage, can submit nomination proposals for properties on their territory to be considered for inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Nomination Process

1. Tentative List

The first step a country must take is to make an ‘inventory’ of its important natural and cultural heritage sites located within its boundaries. This ‘inventory’ is known as the Tentative List, and provides a forecast of the properties that a State Party may decide to submit for inscription in the next five to ten years and which may be updated at any time. It is an important step since the World Heritage Committee cannot consider a nomination for inscription on the World Heritage List unless the property has already been included on the State Party’s Tentative List. 

2. The Nomination File

By preparing a Tentative List and selecting sites from it, a State Party can plan when to present a nomination file. The World Heritage Centre offers advice and assistance to the State Party in preparing this file, which needs to be as exhaustive as possible, making sure the necessary documentation and maps are included. The nomination is submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review and to check it is complete. Once a nomination file is complete the World Heritage Centre sends it to the appropriate Advisory Bodies for evaluation. 

3. The Advisory Bodies

A nominated property is independently evaluated by two Advisory Bodies mandated by the World Heritage Convention: the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which respectively provide the World Heritage Committee with evaluations of the cultural and natural sites nominated. The third Advisory Body is the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), an intergovernmental organization which provides the Committee with expert advice on conservation of cultural sites, as well as on training activities. 

4. The World Heritage Committee

Once a site has been nominated and evaluated, it is up to the intergovernmental World Heritage Committee to make the final decision on its inscription. Once a year, the Committee meets to decide which sites will be inscribed on the World Heritage List. It can also defer its decision and request further information on sites from the States Parties. 

5. The Criteria for Selection

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. These criteria are explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which, besides the text of the Convention, is the main working tool on World Heritage. The criteria are regularly revised by the Committee to reflect the evolution of the World Heritage concept itself.

Until the end of 2004, World Heritage sites were selected on the basis of six cultural and four natural criteria. With the adoption of the revised Operational Guidelines, only one set of ten criteria exists.


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  September 2017
No. 85