Nov 5, 2008

Revitalising Historic Sites in Syria

The fortified entrance of the Citadel of Aleppo. Involvement in Syria began in 1999 in response to a request to the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (AKHCP) from the Syrian Directorate of Antiquities and Museums to provide technical assistance for the conservation and reuse of a number of historic citadel sites in the country. The Citadels of Aleppo and Masyaf and the Castle of Salah ad-Din were selected.
Each site presented a different set of challenges. The Citadel of Aleppo rises majestically above the ancient city of Aleppo and is one of the foremost monuments of the Islamic world. Inside the walls, a long history of bombardments, pillage and earthquakes had taken its toll. Conservation focused on a number of key areas that had a spatial or historic coherence: the Ayyubid Palace complex, the western section of the Citadel crown and the main surrounding walls.
The Castle of Salah ad-Din stands high on a mountain ridge.By contrast, the Castle of Salah ad-Din is located on a mountain ridge surrounded by forest. It has been described as “the greatest Crusader building enterprise of the twelfth century.” The armies of Salah ad‑Din took the castle in 1188 and conservation projects have focused on the palace complex built by its Ayyubid conquerors.
The Citadel of Masyaf, viewed from the city, after conservation.Masyaf Citadel is smaller in scale than Aleppo or Salah ad-Din and situated on the edge of a provincial town. A fighting castle rather than a royal seat, and more rugged in character, the Citadel is one of the most complete mediaeval fortresses surviving in Syria. Most of what remains standing dates from the period of Ismaili occupation in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The project included conservation of the entire structure. Just as at the other Citadel sites, the physical conservation work conserved the ruined character of the monument whilst adding support and strength where required.
In all cases, the objective was to create exemplars of historic monument conservation, thereby setting a benchmark of good practice, and to develop skills of local crafts people and professionals through training. Sustainability is a key aspect of AKHCP’s projects; the programme at the Citadels included investment in facilities such as visitors’ centres, pathways and guidebooks, and development of site management procedures. Conservation work at the Citadels will be completed in 2007.

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