Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Wednesday, 16 January 2019 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Museums, Exhibitions, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  6 minutes

Buddhist monks in front of the Angkor Wat © flickr.com - sam garza/cc-by-2.0

Buddhist monks in front of the Angkor Wat © flickr.com – sam garza/cc-by-2.0

Angkor was the capital city of the Khmer Empire, which also recognized as Yasodharapura and flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. Angkor was a megacity supporting at least 0.1% of the global population during 1010–1220. The city houses the magnificent Angkor Wat, one of Cambodia‘s popular tourist attractions. The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit nagara, meaning “city”. The Angkorian period began in AD 802, when the Khmer Hindu monarch Jayavarman II declared himself a “universal monarch” and “god-king”, and lasted until the late 14th century, first falling under Ayutthayan suzerainty in 1351. A Khmer rebellion against Siamese authority resulted in the 1431 sacking of Angkor by Ayutthaya, causing its population to migrate south to Longvek.

The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland north of the Great Lake (Tonlé Sap) and south of the Kulen Hills, near modern-day Siem Reap city, in Siem Reap Province. The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the Angkor Wat, said to be the world’s largest single religious monument. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together, they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture. Visitors approach two million annually, and the entire expanse, including Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom is collectively protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The popularity of the site among tourists presents multiple challenges to the preservation of the ruins.

© flickr.com - Mark Fischer/cc-by-sa-2.0 © Charles J Sharp/cc-by-2.5 © Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/cc-by-sa-4.0 © flickr.com - Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/cc-by-2.0 Northern library © Stefan Fussan/cc-by-sa-3.0 West wall of the outer enclosure © Michael Gunther/cc-by-sa-4.0 Buddhist monks in front of the Angkor Wat © flickr.com - sam garza/cc-by-2.0 Map of Angkor Archaeological Park - Stefan Fussan/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Buddhist monks in front of the Angkor Wat © flickr.com - sam garza/cc-by-2.0
In 2007, an international team of researchers using satellite photographs and other modern techniques concluded that Angkor had been the largest pre-industrial city in the world, with an elaborate infrastructure system connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) to the well-known temples at its core. Angkor is considered to be a “hydraulic city” because it had a complicated water management network, which was used for systematically stabilizing, storing, and dispersing water throughout the area. This network is believed to have been used for irrigation in order to offset the unpredictable monsoon season and to also support the increasing population. Although the size of its population remains a topic of research and debate, newly identified agricultural systems in the Angkor area may have supported up to one million people.

The increasing number of tourists, around two million per year, exerts pressure on the archaeological sites at Angkor by walking and climbing on the (mostly) sandstone monuments at Angkor. This direct pressure created by unchecked tourism is expected to cause significant damage to the monuments in the future. In sites such as Angkor, tourism is inevitable. Therefore, the site management team cannot exclusively manage the site. The team has to manage the flow of people. Millions of people visit Angkor each year, making the management of this flow vital to the quickly decaying structures. Western tourism to Angkor began in the 1970s. The sandstone monuments and Angkor are not made for this type of heightened tourism. Moving forward, UNESCO and local authorities at the site are in the process of creating a sustainable plan for the future of the site. Since 1992, UNESCO has moved towards conserving Angkor. Thousands of new archaeological sites have been discovered by UNESCO, and the organization has moved towards protected cultural zones. Two decades later, over 1000 people are employed full-time at the site for cultural sensitivity reasons. Part of this movement to limit the impacts of tourism has been to only open certain areas of the site. However, much of the 1992 precautionary measures and calls for future enforcement have fallen through. Both globally and locally the policy-making has been successful, but the implementation has failed for several reasons. First, there are conflicts of interest in Cambodia. While the site is culturally important to them, Cambodia is a poor country. Its GDP is marginally larger than Afghanistan’s. Tourism is a vital part to the Cambodian economy, and shutting down parts of Angkor, the largest tourist destination in the country, is not an option. A second reason stems from the government’s inability to organize around the site. The Cambodian government has failed in organizing a robust team of cultural specialists and archaeologists to service the site.

Read more on TourismCambodia.com – Angkor Wat, UNESCO.org – Angkor, AngkorTourGuides.com, CNN.com – Angkor Wat travel tips: Expert advice on visiting Cambodia’s ancient ruins, Wikitravel Angkor Wat, Wikivoyage Angkor Wat and Wikipedia Angkor Wat (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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