03.07.2018 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

The Union of the Comoros begins preparations to nominate the Historical Sultanates of Comoros on the UNESCO World Heritage List

Participants in the site visit to some of the Sultanates Palaces in Comoros on 30 June 2018 ©UNESCO/Karalyn Monteil

With technical support from UNESCO and financial support from the World Heritage Fund, the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Employment, Crafts, Professional Integration, Arts, and Culture has formed a steering committee to work on the preparation of a nomination file of the Historical Sultanates of Comoros for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

UNESCO is assisting Comoros in the first phase of preparations for their nomination file of the Historical Sultanates of Comoros on the UNESCO World Heritage List. A stakeholder meeting was held on 30 June 2018 in Moroni with the participation of the National Focal Point for the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, the Heritage Officer at the Directorate General of Culture, the Director General of the National Center for research and scientific documentation (CNDRS), the representatives of the Comoros Heritage Collective and the University of Comoros, the managers of the historical sites of the Sultanates in Grande Comore, the Eco-tourism House, and a representative of the Comoros Youth Heritage Group.

Participants in the stakeholders’ meeting visited 3 components of the serial site that are currently on the Comoros Tentative List of potential World Heritage site nominations: Iconi Medina, Moroni Medina, and Itsandra Medina. After the visits, the Culture Programme Specialist from the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, Ms. Karalyn Monteil, made a presentation on the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972, as well as on the nomination process. She also made a short presentation on the work plan for the activities of Phase I of the International Assistance project, which includes: elaboration of legislation for the protection of cultural and natural heritage in Comoros ; revision of the inventory of the components of the proposed serial site for inscription ; development of management plans for each site as well as an overall management plan for the series of sites of the Historical Sultanates of Comoros.

The archaeological data of the 5 components of the site on the Tentative List of UNESCO date back to the 8th century during the settlement of the Comoros by explorers from the east coast of Africa. However, the history of the sites remain vague until the 13th century, when Shirazi (probably from Kilwa in Tanzania) allied themselves with the natives by marriage and founded clans of Sultanates that dominated the traditional chiefdoms.

The Comorian cultural heritage sites consists mainly of archaeological sites from the 13th and 16th centuries. They include royal palaces, religious buildings, fortifications and public places. Although similar structures also exist in Anjouan, they differ in their architectural design from those of Ngazidja, whose access is through two monumental masonry gates, decorated with symbols. Iconi and Itsandra Mdjini are the cities that hold the most public squares and monumental gates. The five components to be included in the UNESCO's nomination file, albeit of appreciably different sizes, present the same interior and exterior architectural ensemble in their built space, with narrow streets, carved doors, mosques, palaces and defense walls, mausoleums and public spaces. During the time of the Sultanates in Comoros history, the Sultanates were connected by social and family ties but also separated by small internal power wars.

"We are pleased begin work on the nomination file of the Historic Sultanates of Comoros for the UNESCO World Heritage List. I am optimistic that this inscription will only be a beginning because Comoros has a rich natural and cultural heritage that deserves international recognition to ensure their preservation for future generations," said Ms. Wahidat Hassani, Director-General of Arts and Culture at the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Employment, Crafts, Professional Insertion, Arts, and Culture.

More information:

UNESCO World Heritage Center

Historical Sultanates of Comoros (In French only)

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