Since July 2008, Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca are inscribed on the famous and prestigious World Heritage List of UNESCO for Malaysia, joining the Gunung Mulu National Park and the Kinabalu Park, located in Borneo.
What does it mean? What is the significance of being on the list?
What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites (so far 878 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage) belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located. Yes! Places as extraordinary as the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, the Pyramids, The Great Barrier Reef of Australia, Venice, Paris and the banks of the Seine… belong to me… and you. (it gives a great feeling, no?)
More seriously, UNESCO’s World Heritage missions are “to encourage States Parties to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their sites, to help safeguard them and to encourage participation of the local population in their preservation.” But in practical terms, it is also a fantastic promotion for a country. One of my dreams will be to be able to visit all these amazing sites around the world. A real lifetime achievement, n’est-ce pas?
Melaka and George Town are living testimony to the multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, and European colonial influences. I recall the wonderful feelings of looking at a Chinese mansion, next to an old Portuguese church and a typical English colonial hotel.
The great variety of religious buildings of different faiths, ethnic quarters, the many languages, art and food (mmmm the Nyonya food!) are all the elements that give to these two places the recognition to be listed. The properties have retained their authenticity; listed monuments and sites have been restored in accordance with conservation guidelines and principles.
I would greatly encourage you travelers, especially my fellow frogs, to discover Malaysia, a country that I truly adore, not only for collapsing on the beach after a nice rojak, but to frolic in the charming streets and discover the rich history of the cities of the straits of Malacca.