JOHANNESBURG: Bahrain Fort is among 13 cultural gems that were added to the United Nations list of world heritage sites yesterday, officials said.
Of the new sites, seven are in Europe, three in the Gulf and Middle East region, two in Asia and one in Africa, according to officials attending a meeting of the Unesco World Heritage Committee in Durban.
Dating back to the third millennium BC, Bahrain Fort is one of the oldest military fortifications found in the region. It stands on a mound of accumulated settlements: Kassite and Assyrian settlements dating from 1500 to 600 BC, a Hellenic settlement of which there are no visible remains, an 11th-century Islamic fort, and a 16th-century Portuguese fort.
On April 27, His Majesty the King, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, had opened the restored Bahrain Fort, which also marked the gold jubilee of the discovery of the Dilmun civilisation.
An Islamic fort dating back to the 16th century dominates the site and may be the location of the ancient capital of Dilmun. It contains remains of cities which were inhabited during many periods, 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.
Excavations by a Danish archaeological expedition have unveiled the remains of buildings of six cities located around the fort. The first city was built about 2800 BC but buildings of the second city covered it. Many parts of the internal front of the wall of this second city are still intact. the third city was probably built during the period 1700-1200 BC and is the best preserved city as shown by excavations. The ruins of the fourth city are contemporary with the Assyrian Empire, aboud 900-600 BC. the fifth city was built during the time of Alexander and his successors (about 300 BC).
Other sites added on the UN list include the city of Le Havre in France, the Ottoman town of Gjirokastra in eastern Albania.
Unesco also recognised Italy's Siracusa in Sicily and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica dating back to Greek and Roman times.
The World Heritage list currently includes 788 properties in 134 countries.