On Friday, villagers from the area surrounding Phnom Chisor in Takeo province gathered to learn more about the hilltop Angkorian-era temple that overlooks their communities. Archaeology Professor Pick Keo lectured on the temple’s history, while a local Bassac theater troupe gave a nightlong performance based on the legend behind the temple.
The events were part of a joint campaign by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and UN Volunteers to raise awareness about the site among the local population.
The education project is part of a pilot Unesco project designed to involve local communities in the protection and management of historical sites.
“We want to help villagers create a proper cultural tourism package at Phnom Chisor, and help them to sell it to local and international tour agencies,” said Tamara Teneishvili of Unesco’s World Heritage Unit.
Due to its proximity to the capital—just 60 km south of Phnom Penh and National Route 2—more and more tourists, both foreign and Cambodian, are visiting Phnom Chisor, Teneishvili said.
These growing numbers call for a more coordinated approach to tourism, she explained.
Unesco is encouraging the villagers to combine “tangible” and “nontangible” tourism experiences with a visit after the temple tour to nearby villages renowned for producing traditional silks.
By the end of this year, the project aims to have assisted villagers in the production of a leaflet about the history of the temples for guides to give out, Teneishvili said.
The temples at Phnom Chisor were built by Kings Suryavarman I and II in the 11th century, and provide stunning views across the flood plains of Takeo—after an exhausting climb up 412 steps.
The weekend’s educational events were a resounding success, Teneishvili said. “It was great to see secondary school students and villagers being so interested in the history of their area,” she said.
At the end of the lecture, she said the audience asked if Unesco could arrange for them to visit the National Museum in Phnom Penh, where an important statue from nearby Neang Khmao temple is housed.