Djibouti considers nominating Abourma Rock Art site to the UNESCO World Heritage List

Mr. Ibrahim Hassan, a guardian of the Abourma Rock Art site in Djibouti ©UNESCO/Terry Little

UNESCO sent an expert mission to visit Abourma Rock Art site in Djibouti and meet with site management and local communities in order to advise the Ministry of Muslim Affairs, Culture and Waqf Assets on the conservation and management needs of the site in view of a potential World Heritage nomination.

On Monday, October 7, 2019, a delegation led by the Director of Culture, Mr. Hassan Ahmed Doualeh visited the Abourma rock art site in northern Djibouti, which is on Djibouti’s Tentative List of potential World Heritage sites. Organized in partnership with UNESCO, the study mission was carried out under the supervision of the Department of Culture of the Ministry of Muslim Affairs, Culture and Waqf Assets by Mr. Terry Little, an international UNESCO expert in rock art, with the participation of the Head of the Department of Cultural Heritage, Mr. Abdallah Sultan Dileita.

The mission took place in the framework of the World Heritage Convention, which Djibouti ratified in 2007, with the principle aim of advising the national authorities on the development of a management and conservation plan to protect the potential outstanding universal values of the archaeological heritage site.

The Abourma rock art site is located north of the Republic of Djibouti, on the Makarassou Massif of Tadjoura Region. It is the largest known rock art site in the country and one of the most extensive in all of East Africa. It includes rock art from prehistory with nearly three kilometers of rock engravings representing a variety of themes that reflect the behaviors, social stratification and organization of a vanished pastoral life.

The UNESCO mission found that most of the images are in good condition, although some have disappeared following geomorphic effects and climate change.

Djibouti elaborated its Tentative List of potential World Heritage sites in 2015, which includes the following ten natural and cultural properties:

• Djalélo protected natural area

• Assamo protected terrestrial natural area

• Lake Abbeh: cultural landscape, natural monuments and ecosystem

• Lake Assal

• Day Forest National Park

• Historical urban landscape of the city of Djibouti and its specific buildings

• Abourma Rock Art Carvings

• Moucha and Maskali Islands

• The natural landscapes of the Obock region

• Tumulus (Awellos)

The national authorities in Djibouti have been examining potential sites to nominate for World Heritage inscription, including Abourma Rock art site as well as Lake Abbeh. Following the expert mission to Abourma Rock Art site, the UNESCO expert, Mr. Terry Little, is supporting the Direction of Culture with the development of an International Assistance request to the World Heritage Fund to support the development of Djibouti’s first World Heritage nomination dossier.