By Wassim Bassem for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
The Karbala Provincial Council announced March 3 the formation of a committee to follow up on the issue of adding the city — which is home to about 300 archaeological sites — to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.
The Fortress of al-Ukhaidir (built in 778) was included on the UNESCO agenda during a July 2016 meeting. The site, however, did not meet all the conditions and was not considered for the list.
The council also hopes to include Caesar's Church, which is located 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Karbala, to the list of World Heritage sites since it is the oldest eastern church in history.
It was built in the fifth century, more than 120 years before the emergence of Islam. Today, the church is considered of exceptional importance as it represents a Christian landmark, and promotes shared living and cultural coexistence in an Islamic milieu.
The council also seeks to add to the list al-Tar Caves, located 45 kilometers (27 miles) southwest of Karbala. These rocky formations date back to 1300 B.C. and are believed to have served as a passage for people who used to roam the Iraqi desert heading toward neighboring countries.
Khan al-Utaishi is also nominated for the list of World Heritage sites. It is one of the many archaeological khans, such as Khan al-Nakheel and Khan al-Rabeh. It was established during the Ottoman rule in Iraq (1532-1918) and served as a rest house for travelers from Baghdad and Karbala all the way to Najaf, 160 kilometers (99 miles) south of Baghdad.