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Abyaneh Recognized for Being Inscribed by UNESCO

Following the visit of UNESCO experts from the historical village of Abyaneh, located between Qom and Isfahan, this village has been recognized appropriate for being inscribed in World Heritage List.

Tehran, 17 June 2007 (CHN)-According to the report released following the visit of UNESCO representatives and experts of world heritage from Abyaneh village, this historical village has been recognized appropriate for being registered in list of UNESCO's World Heritage sites. Enjoying more than 4 conditions for being registered, Abyaneh historical village has the potential for being inscribed as world heritage site.

UNESCO was invited by Ms. Azimeh Riyahee Dehkordi, director of Abyaneh director of Cultural Heritage and Tourism Base of Abyaneh, to undertake a mission to Abyaneh village. The mission traveled to Abyaneh, Isfahan province on 29 January 2007, to visit the Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) Abyaneh base, examine their activities and provide advice on the possible nomination of Abyaneh for inscription on the World Heritage list.

"The historical village of Abyaneh was visited by Junko Taniguchi, programme specialist for culture, in UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office and Dr. Farzin Fardanesh, UNESCO's Consultant, and they have submitted a report in this regard. In this report it has been announced that this village has the special characteristics for being registered in UNESCO World Heritage List," said Azimeh Riyahee to CHN.

The UNESCO mission expressed its gratitude for the warm hospitality and cooperation extended to the mission by Khaneh Mardom-e Abyaneh, the steering committee of Abyaneh traditional ceremony hall, and the staff of Abyaneh Base in particular the director of this base.

"According to this report the intact historical texture of Abyaneh along with its live tradition and language, as well as its cultural and historical landscape are among the factors listed by the central office of UNESCO World Heritage for being inscribed," Riyahee added.

The mission undertook visits and meetings with the staff of ICHHTO Abyaneh Base, the planner who has prepared a comprehensive master plan for Abyaneh, and the Steering Committee of Abyaneh traditional ceremony hall (Hosseinieh). The mission visited a number of historic areas within the village. It also reviewed the works undertaken by ICHHTO Base in Abyaneh in the recent years.

According to Riyahee, registration of historical village of Abyaneh has been bring into light by director of Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Isfahan province and this organization has asked for providing necessary documents in order to inscribe this historic village. UNESCO mission made a visit to the mourning ceremony on the occasion of Tasoua (the day preceding the martyrdom of Imam Hossein, the third Imam of Shiite Muslim), the jeq-jeqeh ceremony in which participants express their mourning by chanting and clapping short wooden clubs which was held in the mausoleum within the village. The nakhl tradition which was practiced in the afternoon was the other ceremony visited by UNESCO mission. In this ceremony a large decorated timber structure is carried manually through the narrow village alleys. This is thereafter followed by a mourning procession. The structure is called nakhl (literally means palm tree) for its associated values of growth and prosperity.

Referring to the activities which have been undertaken by Abyaneh Cultural Heritage Base over the past years, Riyahee explained: "since Abyaneh Cultural Heritage Base has been established and started is activity in this village, it has been tried to prevent any physical damage and destruction on buildings of this historic village and prevent irregular constructions in Abyaneh and preserving the old context of the city are included in this plan."

Among other activities accomplished by Abyaneh Cultural Heritage and Tourism Base is the installation of wooden windows and doors which have the same old architecture. This measure has made those who have used metal door and windows to change their materials they use.

Regarding the mutual cooperation between Abyaneh Research Center and the inhabitants of this historical village, Riyahee said: "A good mutual cooperation has been formed during last years. Archeological researches have revealed parts of the thousand years old history of this village and the foundation of its culture has remained almost intact in this course of history."

Abyaneh Cultural Heritage Base is also determined to start its researches in 6 other nearby villages in the district of this village in an attempt to complete its studies.

Construction of a hotel near Abyaneh has intruded the historical texture of the region and its cultural landscape. This is while another hotel is to be built by the request of an applicant despite the disapproval of Abyaneh Cultural Heritage Base.

Located about 40 kilometers on the North of Natanz Highway between Qom and Isfahan, Abyaneh is located at the end of a winding road after passing five mountainous villages. Abyaneh is situated on the foothill of Karkas Mountains and enjoying an altitude of 2100 meters above the sea level. The lush pastures around the village provide rich grazing area for cattle. Abyaneh has a long history which dates back to more than 2000 years ago. It has been registered on Iran's National Heritage List since 1975. Contrary to many villages, Abyaneh has witnessed a relatively equal wealth distribution throughout its history. The wealthy Abyaneh residents were landlords of surrounding villages. An intricate traditional resource management system evolved during the long history of Abyaneh.

Abyaneh is known as one of the highly educated regions in Iran with a large number of engineers, doctors, and other specialists who have migrated to different Iranian cities specially Kashan and Tehran and are working there. The permanent residents of Abyaneh have been declined over the past years and it is estimated the number of permanent residents of this historic village is less than 250. The population increases tenfold during special festivals and holidays such as Moharram mourning ceremonies and the Norouz holidays in March. As a result, Abyaneh is gradually becoming a resort village with tourist attractions. A number of hotels and lodgings have been constructed just outside the village to cater to the outside visitors during peak season. This influx of non-villagers is beginning to worry the citizens as inevitably traditional ways of life are often disrupted to meet the needs or the curiosity of the non-villagers.

There is a rich stock of historic houses in Abyaneh which are valuable as ensemble. There are three main typologies of residential buildings in Abyaneh including the apartment type, the courtyard house, and the plain type. However, since the local craftsmanship of window designing, carving, painting, etc are almost dying out; unfortunately the traditional built heritage is endangered.

There are numerous archeological sites around Abyaneh. Some of these archeological sites date back to the Achaemenid (550- 330 BC) and Sassanid (224-651 AD) periods. Due to development projects, especially tourism projects and construction of hotels, some of these archeological sites are in danger.

The exceptional traditional management of this historical village has make it unique in the world. Some of these characteristics are as follows: Contrary to many villages, Abyaneh has witnessed a relatively equal wealth distribution throughout its history. Owning to the same traditional management, the residents of Abyaneh jointly installed a power generator to enjoy electricity in their homes, long before all the citizens of the capital city of Tehran had access electricity in the 20th century. Abyaneh residents have a gender-balanced approach to development.

However, the traditional management system declined 25 years ago when the post-revolution government tried to establish a sectoral management for development in many rural areas in Iran. Today, House of Abyaneh People, a local NGO, with a membership of over 3,000 Abyaneh citizens tries to organize the villagers to revive the traditional management system, as a means to retain the cultural identity and quality of life in the Abyaneh village.

ICHHTO Abyaneh Base has made a lot of effort to promote the situation of this historic village. Since its establishment in Abyaneh, the ICHHTO base has made extensive efforts, both in the areas of research, conservation, restoration, as well as efforts for building trust and promoting community participation in the heritage conservation. A Museum of Anthropology has been opened in a restored traditional building. ICHHTO Base has also undertaken the restoration of numerous old buildings in Abyaneh village. It has undertaken numerous archeological studies in various archeological sites within the Abyaneh valley. Geological studies and a detailed mapping of the Abyaneh valley has been also commissioned by ICHHTO Base. The efforts of ICHHTO Base are not limited to the tangible cultural heritage. There have been anthropological and linguistic studies which have shed light on intangible cultural ways of life and expressing, which can not be separated from the tangible cultural heritage. ICCHTO Base has further developed sample promotional material such as attractive brochures, information CDs, books, and mouse pads. ICHHTO Base is now trying to prepare a comprehensive management plan which aims at reviving and sustaining the traditional cultural resource management.

As a whole, Abyaneh demonstrates the evolution of a traditional society and their respective settlement throughout a long history. The traditional water and land management in Abyaneh reflects traditional techniques of sustainable land-use. To formulate the nomination the representative elements in the village and its surrounding areas must be selected for inclusion in the core zone of the nomination, while the remaining elements should be protected through the national protection and conservation measures and within the World Heritage buffer zones.

... Payvand News - 6/25/07 ... --

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