The Hill Forts of Rajasthan make it to the list
Japan’s Mount Fuji, a series of ancient rice terraces in China, and the desert city of Agardaz in Niger were among the cultural jewels granted World Heritage status by UNESCO at its annual meeting recently.
Fujisan, the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776m (12,460 ft), is one of the country’s most recognisable sights. The snow-capped peak “has inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries”, UNESCO said. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization committee, currently holding its 37th annual session in Phnom Penh, classified the site as a “cultural” heritage site, rather than a “natural” heritage site.
“The awe that Fujisan’s majestic form and intermittent volcanic activity has inspired was transformed into religious practices that linked Shintoism and Buddhism, people and nature,” documents said. Mount Fuji “inspired artists in the early 19th Century to produce images that transcended cultures, allowed the mountain to be known around the world, and had a profound influence on the development of Western art.” Fujisan, which is located some 100 km southwest of the capital Tokyo, last erupted around 300 years ago. Images of its peak adorn tourism literature published at home and abroad.
UNESCO documents singled out a series of wood block prints by Katsushika Hokusai, the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, saying they “had a profound impact on Western art in the 19th Century and allowed the form of Fujisan to become widely known as the symbol of ‘Oriental’ Japan”. Mount Fuji is the seventeenth Japanese site to be inscribed by UNESCO.
The committee also granted the historic town of Agadez in Niger, seen as “a gateway to the desert”, World Heritage status. From the 15th Century, Agadez “became an exceptional crossroads for the caravan trade. It bears witness to an early historic town, forming a major centre for trans-Saharan cultural interchanges.”
The historic city, which includes a mosque with an imposing minaret — the tallest ever built in mudbrick — and the Sultan’s Palace, dates back to the 15th and 16th Century. Agadez is characterised by adobe architecture, unfired clay brick obtained by sun drying, and “bears witness to an exceptional architectural tradition, based on sophisticated use of mudbrick,” UNESCO said.
It also inscribed the landscapes of the terraced rice fields of Honghe Hani, south of the Chinese province of Yunnan. They reflect “in an exceptional way a specific interaction with the environment mediated by integrated farming and water management systems. Carved out of dense forest over the past 1,300 years by Hani people... the irrigated terraces support paddy fields overlooking narrow valleys,” UNESCO said. In some places, you can see up to 3,000 suspended terraces on the slopes.
Italy’s Mount Etna, the Hill Forts of Rajasthan in India and the Namib Sand Sea were among the natural wonders and cultural jewels also given World Heritage status.