Albania: New UNESCO World Heritage Site

This year's UNESCO World Heritage Committee's meeting took place in Quebec City, Canada, on July 2-10, and, as a result, 27 new sites were inscribed in the World Heritage List, which now totals 878 sites. According to Stepping Stones blog, the town of Berat in Albania has made it onto UNESCO's list as well:

[…] The addition is an extension by the UN heritage committee, which added the city centre of Berat to the site of [Gjirokastra], which was put on the heritage list in 2005.

Stepping Stones also posted several pictures from her trip to Berat last year, such as the one below (you can see her whole Berat photoset here):

(Photo of Berat's old town by Kimberly Hakkenberg)

The Balkanforum Blog describes Berat, quoting the UNESCO report:

Berat was added as “a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town”, UNESCO said.
“Berat bears witness to the coexistence of various religious and cultural communities down the centuries,” it added.

The town of 64,000 inhabitants features a castle locally known as the Kala most of which was built in the 13th century, although its origins date back some 2,400 years.

The area includes many Byzantine churches, mainly from the 13th century, several of which contain valuable wall paintings and icons.

The town also has several mosques built under Turkish occupation which started in 1417 and several houses for religious communities, notably some used by Sufi brotherhoods in the 18th century.

(Photo of a Byzantine church in Berat by JasonRogers)

Tafik Jamjoun in his Balkans travelogue described Berat as follows:

This was a completely different style of architecture and town planning than we had seen before. The homes were built of field stones or some kind of white material with wooden roves and trimmings, much different from the Roman and Austrian influenced old cities we had seen to date. What also struck us about this site was the lack of any toursim whatsoever. This was a completely living city with not even a small stand selling drinks and postcards. Instead there were turkey and chickens and sheep roaming around… and of course, it had its fair share of Mercedes!!

(Berat from the top by the MaGe)

Note for those interested in viewing more photos of Berat: Flickr user MrSco has a very good recent photoset of the town.

As for the World Heritage List, blogger Hrag Vartanian has made an interesting observation:

I did some wiki-ing and discovered that the distribution of World Heritage Sites is a little lopsided:
* 49% are in Europe & North America
* 21% are in Asia & the Pacific
* 14% are in Latin America and the Caribbean
* 9% are in Africa
* 7% are in Arab States (why these are even separated out is beyond me since there is no such thing as an “Arab” state but a state with a majority Arab population)

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