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UNESCO: Yemen War Threatens History

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Local Editor

The nearly 3-year-old Yemen war has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people, displaced 2 million and helped spawn a devastating cholera epidemic in the Arab world's poorest country. Amid its humanitarian crises, Yemen's culture and historical sites have also been affected.

Yemen

The Awwam Temple links a region now on the front lines of the Saudi-led war against Arabia's pre-Islamic past.

Experts fear the temple, as well as other historic and cultural wonders across Yemen, beyond those acknowledged by international authorities, remains at risk as the country's stalemated war rages on.

"All the villages are historic in a way," said Anna Paolini, the director of UNESCO's regional office in Qatar that oversees Yemen and Gulf Arab nations. "They're still heritage of the country. It's sad to see what's happening."

Saudi-led air attacks have destroyed historic mud homes in Saada. Air attacks have also hit the over 2,500-year-old Old City in Yemen's capital of Sanaa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its intricately decorated, burnt-brick towers. Shelling and air attacks have struck museums and other sites in the country. In 2015, air attacks damaged part of the Great Marib Dam, near the Awwam Temple and built by the same civilization, according to UNESCO.

Just the shockwaves of an explosion in the distance can be enough to damage delicate structures. UNESCO has shared coordinates of some 50 historical sites with militaries involved in the fighting, to try to protect the sites, Paolini said, though many remain unguarded now in the chaos of the war.

Foreign historians and archaeologists also fled the country over the fighting, halting work at sites like the Awwam Temple, also known as the Mahram Bilqis.

The nearby city of Marib was the capital of the Saba dynasty, which ruled the area for centuries before the birth of Christ. The kingdom built the Great Marib Dam and controlled spice and incense trade routes. The legendary Queen of Sheba, said in the Bible and the Quran to have visited King Solomon in the 10th century BC, has been linked to Saba, though Ethiopians claim her as their own.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

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