Ancient Caliphate City of Medina Azahara in Spain Added to Unesco World Heritage List

Aerial view of the Caliphate City of Medina Azahara. The city has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. M. Pijuán/Madinat al-Zahra Archaeological Site

Two historic European cities have been added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) world heritage list.

The organization announced on Sunday that the ancient Caliphate City of Medina Azahara in Spain and Ivrea in Italy would become two of 18 new additions to the register. There are now 1,092 properties on the heritage list.

The 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee runs through July 4.

Medina Azahara

Now an archeological site, the city was built in the middle of the 10th century by the Umayyad dynasty, according to UNESCO. It served as the seat of the Caliphate of Cordoba. The city was left in ruins following a civil war that ended the Caliphate rule in 1009-10. But when it was rediscovered in the early 20th century a full infrastructure still remained, including bridges, roads, water systems and everyday objects.

Medina Azahara is the 47th Spanish property on the world heritage list. Some 41 sites are cultural, four are natural and two are mixed—Ibiza and Pyrénées. Spain now surpasses France as the third most-inscribed country, behind China and Italy.


The industrial Italian town of Ivrea is located in the Piedmont region near Turin. It is well known as the headquarters of Olivetti, an Italian manufacturer of typewriters, calculators and computers. The buildings were designed by leading Italian urban planners and architects between 1930 and 1960.

Ivrea is the 54th Italian property inscribed on the world heritage list. 49 sites are cultural and five are natural.

Corso Jervis, in the foreground, the Officine ICO and the Social Services Centre. Ivrea has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Maurizio Gjivovich/Guelpha Foundation

The United States has 23 properties inscribed on the world heritage list. These include sites such as Independence Hall, the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park. Everglades National Park in Florida is also on the United States list of 23 but is the only one to be considered in danger by UNESCO.

20 new inscriptions have been awarded in 2018, including 13 cultural sites, and more may still be coming. UNESCO also announced that it has removed the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve system from the list of sites that are in danger. Speaking to CNN, UNESCO World Heritage director Mechtild Rossler said it was a "pivotal moment" for the organization.

A UNESCO spokeperson told Newsweek that there was only one site left to consider—Roșia Montană Mining Landscape in Romania—which will be discussed later today.

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In total, there are 1092 properties inscribed. They comprise of:

  • 845 culturural
  • 209 natural
  • 38 mixed
  • 54 in danger
  • 37 transboundary

Only two places have ever been delisted from UNESCO's world heritage register. Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany was removed in 2009 just five years after being inscribed because a four-lane bridge was constructed right in the "heart of the cultural landscape."

Oman's Arabian Oryx Sanctuary has the dubious distinction of being the first site to be delisted in 2007, after having been inscribed in 1994, when Oman decided to reduce the size of the sanctuary by 90 percent.