Militias Threaten 5 Libyan Heritage Sites

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)


On Thursday five of Libya’s World Heritage sites were added to the list of World Heritage in Danger by the World Heritage Committee. The heritage sites have been damaged by the ongoing clashes in Libya, and further damage is thought to be imminent.

The five sites in danger are: Archaeological Site of Cyrene, Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna, Archaeological Site of Sabratha, Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus and the Old Town of Ghadamès. See below for more information about each of the sites.

The World Heritage Committee is concerned by the growing instability in Libya, especially by the way armed militias have been on the sites and at times position themselves within close proximity of the site.

The armed militias are said to have caused the existing damage to the sites and their lawlessness behaviour poses as a threat to cause further damage.  

The decision to place the five Libyan heritage sites on the World Heritage in Danger list came during the committee’s examination of the state of conservation for sites on the World Heritage List.

The significance of the World heritage in Danger list is to raise awareness to the international community of the threat posed to the sites on the list. The hope is to gather voices and efforts to ensure the protection of these sites.

The World Heritage Committee’s 40th session is taking place between July 10th until the 20th in Istanbul, Turkey.


Archaeological Site of Cyrene is located in the District of Ghebel Akhdar in eastern Libya. It has been a famous historical site since the 18th century capturing a 1000 years of history in its walls.


Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna is located in Khoms, a coastal city on the western side of Libya. Leptis Magna was the birthplace and home Septimius Severus who is famous for building on the existing architecture of Leptis Magna in his time to make it into one of the most beautiful cities in the Roman Empire.


Archaeological Site of Sabratha is located in the city of Zawiya, 47 kilometers west of Tripoli. The Sabratha site was a Phoenician trading post.

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Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus is located in Fezzan, which is in southwest region of Libya. This site has cave paintings from as far away as 12,000 B.C.


Old Town of Ghadamès is located in the southwest region of Libya close to the borders with Tunisia and Algeria. The Old Town is known as “the pearl of the desert”. It’s built next to an oasis and was a town that was known for the divisions of domestic functions in its buildings. “The ground floor used to store supplies; then another floor for the family, overhanging covered alleys that create what is almost an underground network of passageways; and, at the top, open-air terraces reserved for the women (UNESCO).”

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