06.09.2017 - Culture Sector

Egypt is the 58th country to have ratified UNESCO’s 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage

© Rougerie/UNESCO, The Alexandria Underwater Museum Project

The ratification of the 2001 Convention by Egypt- a new step for underwater cultural heritage protection

On July 8th, Egypt ratified the UNESCO’s 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, bringing the total number of signatories to 58.

Underwater cultural heritage and its protection are of great importance for Egypt.  The seas of Alexandria have borne witness to many major historical events. The bay of Alexandria still contains vestiges of the Lighthouse of Alexandia, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, as well as the ruins of the Palace of Ptolemy. The neighboring bay of Aboukir contains the ancient cities of Canopus and Heraklion, which were sunken in the sea.  More recently, during the era of Napoleon, three naval battles left many wrecks on the bottom of the surrounding waters.

The working relationship between Egypt and UNESCO in the field of underwater archeology is already very strong.  The University of Alexandria in Egypt is one of the founding members of the UNESCO UNITWIN Network for underwater archeology.  Established in 2012, this network has organized educational programs and some of the most prestigious research in field, as well as increased the research capacity of participating countries by international cooperation.

Underwater cultural heritage is extremely threatened and requires the best legal protection across the world.

The UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage is the international community’s response to the destruction of submerged archaeological sites by pillage, commercial exploitation, unsustainable development, or unethical practices. The Convention also reflects the growing recognition of the need to ensure the same protection to underwater cultural heritage as that already accorded to land-based heritage. It is designed to strengthen legal protection, international cooperation, awareness-raising and capacity-building for underwater cultural heritage worldwide.

With this new ratification, 58 States are party to the 2001 Convention, while many others are preparing to join as the acknowledgement and concern about the safeguarding of submerged archaeological sites grows among UNESCO Member States.

UNESCO continues to support Egyptian authorities in their project to create an center of excellence and an underwater museum close to the Qayet Bay Citadel, which is dedicated to the presenting the ancient site of the Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria to visitors from around world.


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