George Town UNESCO Heritage Day in Penang Date in the current year: July 7, 2024

George Town UNESCO Heritage Day in Penang George Town UNESCO Heritage Day is an official holiday in the Malaysian state of Penang. It is celebrated on July 7 because on this day in 2008 Melaka and George Town were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

George Town is the state capital of Penang and the third most populous city of Malaysia, after Kuala Lumpur and Seberang Perai. It was the first British settlement in Southeast Asia and, together with Malacca and Singapore, the core of the British colony of the Straits Settlements.

Penang Island located in the Strait of Malacca used to be part of the Sultanate of Kedah. In 1786, the Sultan of Kedah gave the island to the British in exchange for military protection. British explorer Francis Light was tasked with founding a trading post on the island. He named the settlement George Town in honor of King George III. Light declared George Town a free port to entice merchants from competing Dutch ports.

In 1826, George Town became the capital of the colony of Straits Settlements, which also included Malacca and Singapore. However, the capital was then moved to Singapore in 1832, as the latter had become a bigger port than George Town. Nevertheless, George Town remained one of the most prominent trading posts in the region.

During the 19th century, George Town developed rapidly. It became a major financial and cultural center, as well as a cosmopolitan city with a multinational population, comprising Europeans, Eurasians, Malays, Indians, Siamese, Chinese, and other ethnic groups.

Unfortunately, George Town began to decline following Malaysia’s independence. The federal government focused on the development of Kuala Lumpur and nearby Port Klang. In 1969, George Town lost its free port status, which resulted in massive unemployment and brain drain. The revival of George Town began in the early 2000s.

Due to its colonial past and the intermingling of various cultures, George Town is noted for its unique architecture that combines Asian and colonial architectural styles. In 2001, the historic urban centers of George Town and Malacca (Melaka) were added to the country’s Tentative List for World Heritage. In 2008, the World Heritage Committee officially designated them as a World Heritage Site.

Phuket and Singapore were also considered for inclusion, since they share the same geographic location (the Strait of Malacca) and have developed in similar historical, cultural and socioeconomic conditions due to their colonial past. However, their historic centers have underwent extensive changes, whereas George Town and Melaka have remained largely unchanged.

To celebrate the history and heritage of George Town, the government of Penang declared the anniversary of its inclusion in the World Heritage List a public holiday named George Town UNESCO Heritage Day. The holiday is marked by cultural festivals, concerts, fairs, special guided tours, workshops, street food tastings (George Town is considered the gastronomic capital of Malaysia), sports competitions, and other events celebrating the culture and history of George Town.

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George Town UNESCO Heritage Day in Penang, holidays in Penang, holidays in Malaysia, George Town, World Heritage Site