Thousands of tourists lined up for hours to climb Australia's sacred Uluru rock before it is permanently closed after years of disrespect from tourists
- One of Australia's most famous landmarks has closed after decades of protest.
- Uluru, also called Ayers Rock, a massive rock formation in Australia's Northern Territory, is considered to be a sacred site by the Anangu people who have lived there for over 30,000 years.
- But that hasn't stopped scores of tourists from climbing the site over the past few decades.
- Thousands of people flocked to the sandstone formation before it closed on Friday afternoon.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Uluru, a massive rock formation in Australia's Northern Territory, has been shut down to tourists after decades of protest from aboriginal groups who consider the site to be sacred.
Thousands of tourists flocked to the location in recent weeks in order to climb the formation while they were still permitted. Hundreds waited in line at the base of Uluru on Friday local time, the last day tourists were allowed to climb the site, despite warnings about the site being too dangerous and signs urging tourists not to climb, according to the Australian Broadcasting Network (ABC).
Video posted to social media shows a massive line of people waiting for to embark on the climb, which was initially closed by park rangers on Friday morning due to high winds.
The climb was permanently closed at 4 PM. local time on Friday. Poles, handrails, and signs are set to be dismantled, returning the formation to its natural state.
The giant sandstone formation has become a source of controversy ever since it was developed as a tourist site by the Australian government in the 1950s. Aboriginal people, particularly the Anangu people who have lived there for at least 30,000 years, believe the site is crucial to preserving their heritage and provides Tjukuritja - physical evidence of the activities of the nation's ancestral beings which has been passed down for generations.
Uluru, also called Ayers Rock after a former Australian official, was declared a national park in 1950, paving the way for tourists to begin visiting the area. In 1964, an iron climbing handrail was bolted into the sandstone, which encouraged tourists to climb the sacred site.
Aboriginal groups lobbied the government for decades for ownership over the land and called for the site to be closed to tourists as a sign of respect to their heritage. In 1985, the Australian government returned the title deeds of the national park to the Anangu people, though the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park continued to be managed by both the Anangu and Australia's parks authority, which allowed for the continuation of tourism to the important rock formation.
The park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987 and was lauded for its natural value and living cultural landscape.
Many indigenous people took to social media to celebrate the site's closure to tourists.
"[Uluru is] a very sacred place, [it's] like our church," one Anangu man told the BBC on Friday local time.
"People right around the world ... they just come and climb it. They've got no respect," he added.
Pamela Taylor, one of the traditional owners of Uluru, told the BBC last year that the public has been disrespecting the site for years.
"Tourists are like ants up and down every day, climbing up and down," she said. In the past, the site has been littered with an "influx of waste" by tourists who camp illegally, light fires, and dump garbage around the sacred site.
Visitors, however, defended their decision to climb the rock, despite the fact that over 30 people have died during the trek since record keeping began.
"It's difficult to see what that significance is," a man who climbed Uluru this week told the BBC. "It's a rock. It's supposed to be climbed."
"Maybe if I was born into their culture I'd be more understanding … But we've all got our beliefs and I think I should be able to climb that rock," a Sydney man named Trent told SBS.
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