George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site (4 February, 2009)
On 7 July 2008, Melaka and George Town were fêted as Malaysia's newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is the first time that cultural sites in Malaysia have been inscribed into Unesco's prestigious World Heritage Listing. But what is the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site, what is its history, where is it? In this feature article, I am providing background information on the inscribed site in George Town (as relevant to Penang Travel Tips) and will handle Melaka separately. By the way, the official title for the inscription should read "Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca". "George Town Unesco World Heritage Site" is just an inofficial definition for one of the two component sites inscribed in the list.
George Town Unesco World Heritage Site Location Map
Here is the Nomination Dossier submitted to UNESCO. "Melaka and George Town, Cities of the Straits of Malacca" was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site during the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee which met in Quebec City, Canada, on 2-10 July, 2008.
World Heritage Site Inscription Details
Inscription Year: 2008
Type of Site: Cultural
Inscription Criteria: II, III, IV
The properties were celebrated for the following outstanding universal value:
Melaka and George Town represent exceptional examples of multi-cultural tradting towns in East and Southeast Asia. They were established by trading activities that result in the blending of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures with three successive European colonial powers, over a period of 500 years. This creates a lasting imprint on their architecture and urban form.
Melaka and George Town are a living testimony to the multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, and of the European colonial influences. The tangible as well as intangible heritage of the two cities are expressed in its religious buildings of different faiths, ethnic enclaves, spoken dialects, festivities, dances, attire, artform, cuisine and lifestyle.
Melaka and George Town reflect the blend of influences that result in a unique form of architecture, culture and cityscape incomparable elsewhere in East and South Asia. The cities showcase an exceptional range of shophouses and townhouses from differing eras, providing snapshots of building styles and types.
Lim Kongsi Clan Temple, one of the sites in the core zone, George Town World Heritage Site (13 February 2005)
It is my opinion that the inscription of the Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca is incomplete without the inclusion of Singapore, an integral part of the Straits Settlement, and whose form of architecture and culture complements what is seen in Melaka and George Town. Contrary to popular misconception, not all in Singapore is lost; a broad section of the old town is still intact, and effort should be taken to demarcate a core zone within Singapore as part of the heritage site of the Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca.
George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site on Google Maps Street View
George Town WHS: Where is it?
The Historic City of George Town, as nominated by the Malaysian Government for World Heritage Listing, covers a 109.38 hectare site on the north-east of Penang Island. This is what is regarded as the core zone. Surrounding the core zone is a 150.04-hectare band called the buffer zone. Only land area is counted - the sea is excluded.
Now, the important question: where is the core zone of the Historic City of George Town? Refer to the expandable Google Map on the right. The orange line shows the boundary of the core zone while the green line shows the buffer zone. In most places, the boundary follows existing roads. One side of the road will be within the zone while the other without.
Logan Memorial, another site in the core zone, George Town World Heritage Site (8 January 2008)
Now the boundary line runs along Carnavon Street. It turn in at Carnavon Lane (Lorong Carnavon). It goes to about 30 feet from the end of Carnavon Lane, then crosses over to Malay Street (Lebuh Melayu). It follows Malay Street in a southeast direction. Toh Aka Lane (Lorong Toh Aka) is in the core zone. Fish Lane (Lorong Ikan) is in the buffer zone. The boundary line goes all the way and out into the sea, bisecting Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai) and Victoria Street (Lebuh Victoria) into core and buffer zones. The clan jetties north of Malay Street Ghaut (Gat Lebuh Melayu) is in the core zone, south of it, in the buffer zone.
Acheen Street Mosque, in the core zone of the George Town World Heritage Site (4 July 2004)
The Buffer Zone
The buffer zone boundary line roughly follows the historic waterway that marked the limits of 19th century George Town, namely the Transfer Road Ditch and the Prangin Canal. I say "roughly", because the Transfer Road Ditch no longer exists, while the Prangin Canal is all but covered. Anyway, this is how it goes.
From North Beach, draw a line to join with Transfer Road (Jalan Transfer). Sri Bahari Road (Jalan Sri Bahari) is in the buffer zone. Argyll Road (Jalan Argyll) is bisected into two halves. Keramat Dato Koyah is within the buffer zone.
At the junction of Transfer Road and Burmah Road (Jalan Burma), the boundary line turns southeast. It follows Burmah Road to Penang Road (Jalan Penang), then cross into Prangin Road (Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong). Masjid Titi Papan and Loke Thye Kee are in the buffer zone. Komtar and Prangin Mall are outside the buffer zone. The boundary line continues along Prangin Road, separating Beach Street from Bridge Street (Jalan CY Choy), down Prangin Road Ghaut (Gat Jalan Prangin) and straight out into the sea.
So that's the area that constitute the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site. I'm not making up the information according to my own whim and fancy. You can also download it directly from the Unesco site. I just make the information easier to digest.
Sights within the Core Zone of the George Town World Heritage Site
Who's in, who's out? Here's a Who's Who of those within the core zone. I am not saying that all the sights listed below are "heritage sites". I am saying that they are within the core zone of the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site. I know, to some, being in the zone is a great privilege, to others, a great tragedy. I'll leave it to you to decide.
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