Each year, hundreds of people visit the city of Ur, which lies to the west of Nasiriya City. After it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, officials in charge of the city were provided an opportunity to implement a plan to run and protect the ancient city. Iraqi civil society actors believe that the success of any plan to run and protect the archaeological site is only complete with the participation of two main actors: local communities and civil society. These two sets of actors complement each other and in turn the efforts of executive authorities and relevant ministries to achieve the goal of proper and sustainable city administration, which ensures preservation of its heritage contents and protects it from any kind of harm or damage.
“A Sustainable Preservation Plan for the Ur Archaeological Site” is the title of the seminar that was organized by the Urim Initiative in the Chamber of Commerce hall in Nasiriya City on 20 July. Several local officials from Dhi Qar City attended the seminar, as well as many others interested in Iraqi archaeology and heritage. Several discussions centred around the most prominent ways of protecting the immense cultural heritage that the city of Ur has to offer.
The seminar opened with a welcoming and an introductory speech on the Ur initiative. This was followed by the archaeologist and professor Abd Al Amir Al Hamdani speaking about the national effort and achievement of getting the ancient city of Ur listed as a World Heritage site, which enabled it to be further sustained and cared for, and protected from the dangers the city currently faces.
Dr. Ismael Dawood, of the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, displayed the proposed plan for protecting the archeological site of Ur, which was designed by the office of the Italian architect Carlo Leopardy and in collaboration with the University of Laspiansa in Italy. Dawood explained that this plan would be sent to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture for review and implementation with hopes that the ministry would take advantage of the great possibilities and opportunities within the plan.
Professor Franco de Agostino, an Italian archaeologist, provided an extensive presentation on the Italian role in this initiative. This was followed by comments from the Chairman of the Committee of Tourism and Antiquities within the Dhi Qar Provincial Council, Ajyal Karim, who praised these types of initiatives and activities related to archaeological preservation, and announced the readiness of her committee to provide full support and cooperation for the success and achievement of the goals of the initiative. The director of the archaeological site of Ur, Ali Kadhim, also shared her opinion and announced the readiness of the Antiquities Directorate in Dhi Qar and the management of the site of Ur to provide full support and cooperation to ensure the success of the Urim Initiative.
One of the most important presentations was from the President of the University of Dhi Qar, Dr. Riad Shenta Jabr, who emphasized the full cooperation between the Faculty of Archeology at the University and the Urim Initiative. This was followed by a discussion about the vital role of the central Iraqi government in supporting, assisting and facilitating the procedures that would contribute to the protection of archeological sites and ancient cities. Speakers also cited the need for allocating financial support within the federal budget for sustaining and protecting the archaeological site of Ur and the marshes of Iraq.
The Urim seminar is part of a set of events being held alongside the UNESCO meeting, which will take place in Manama, Bahrain at the end of this month. For example, Mashufna Cultural Center organized a trip to the ancient city of Ur, and to the city of Chabaish, where the Marsh Festival was held. The festival emphasized the need to keep the Iraqi marshes on the World Heritage List, and pressed the Iraqi government to implement UNESCO requirements for the site, and to protect the marshes from drought through the development of an appropriate water management plan under the slogan: “Let’s Keep it Global.”
The Urim Initiative is an effort launched by local and international organizations aimed at: assisting the local government to develop a sustainable conservation plan for the archaeological site of Ur, highlighting UNESCO’s requirements that must be met in order to keep the city of Ur on the World Heritage List, and emphasizing the great cultural heritage of Ur.