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Babylon besieged!

Well, okay, actually just damaged.  But it is (mostly) because of war.

American troops and contractors in Iraq inflicted serious damage on the archaeological site of Babylon in Iraq, driving heavy machinery over once-sacred paths, bulldozing hilltops and digging trenches through the terrain, Unesco experts said Thursday. “The use of Babylon as a military base was a grave encroachment on this internationally known archaeological site,” said a report that the United Nations cultural agency presented in Paris.

This is what the Hanging Gardens of Babylon looked like before the American occupation 2500 years ago.  It's a shame that one of the original Seven Wonders of the World still isn't able to be recognized as a World Heritage site.  Saddam carving his name into some of the buildings also didn't help.

(image from flickr user Carla216 under a Creative Commons license)

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Day One – UN Foundation At Work

Spring break travel to Cancun usually conjures up visions of hordes of American college students, partying at one of the many bars along the strip. But the UN Foundation has been working for the last four years to try and change that by promoting sustainable tourism along the Mayan Riviera. So, Erika Harms, Director of the UN Foundation-led World Heritage Alliance, and I have travelled down here to take a look at several community projects in the area, meet with our travel industry partners and tour two of the area's five World Heritage sites. We are also travelling with the crew from Designing Spaces, a show on The Learning Channel. Designing Spaces will air a segment in June on sustainable tourism. Today we started filming the show and as part of the experience, we've really gotten to know two members of the World Heritage Alliance really well. Both Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya and Fairmont Mayacoba have established powerful relationships with the local Mayan communities and are working to better educate travellers about what is available to them to experience aside from bar-side pools, karaoke contests and hamburgers.
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Notes from the World Savers Congress

by Katherine Miller, executive director of communications, UN Foundation Speaking today at the World Savers Congress, professional poverty fighter Jeffrey Sachs challenged the travel industry to help make billion people who travel each year global ambassadors. The Congress, sponsored by Conde Nast Traveller, is an invitation-only gathering of leaders in the travel industry. Once a year they come together to look at new strategies on environmental and cultural preservation, wildlife preservation, health education, and poverty alleviation. Sachs kicked things off by first thanking the people in the room for keeping him fed, safe, and comfortable as he travels more than a million miles each year. Once the laughs subsided, he got down to business and asked the audience to recognize that travel is one of the keys to understanding diverse cultures in diverse circumstances. "No one can understand extreme poverty until they have seen it," Sachs said. "But travelers shouldn't be scared of what they might experience. It is up to you to help them try new things that may enrich and change their lives."