Development Cooperation Handbook/Stories/Preservation and Development - Citadel

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MDG8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development


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Preservation and Development 

Project implemented by the Government of Syria

Damascus, Syria

November 2010

Project co-financed by the Ministry for External Affairs, Government of Italy



The Citadel in the city of Damascus and the National Museum is being restored with the support of the Italian Government as part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic in 2008. Within this agreement, the Syrian Government would receive, for a period of two years, a grant of 20 million Euros and soft loans of 60 million Euros primarily for new interventions in the framework of a coordinated planning process; for projects to be carried out in the north-eastern region of the Country and in sectors where the Italian Cooperation is more actively involved at present like water, health, environment, economic reforms, job creation and cultural heritage.

The Italian aid is channelled through bilateral and multi lateral agreements where implementing agencies include the UN (such as FAO, UNDP, and UNIDO) and through cooperation programs involving non-government organisations.


The Citadel of Damascus (Arabic: قلعة دمشق‎: Qala'at Dimashq) is a large medieval fortified palace and citadel. It is part of the Ancient City of Damascus, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

"The Citadel has been closed to public for many years and will now be open to public as a result of this cooperation. It will now become part of the tourist itinerary that joins the citadel with the old architecture and artefacts of the old city ", says the Italian Ambassador to Syria.


"The Galleries of the Citadel will be utilised for exhibiting mosaics and other artefacts from other monuments and palaces of Syria, including the ones which have been restored by Syrian experts that have been trained by the Italian experts," says a Syrian person working in the cooperation project   

The location of the current citadel was first fortified in 1076 by the Turkman warlord Atsiz bin Uvak. It is believed that a citadel stood on this place even during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. After the assassination of Atsiz bin Uvak, the project was finished by the Seljuq ruler Tutush I. The emirs of the subsequent Burid and Zengid dynasties carried out modifications and added new structures to it. During this period, the citadel and the city were besieged several times by Crusader and Muslim armies. In 1174, the citadel was captured by Saladin, the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, who made it his residence and had the defences and residential buildings modified.

Saladin's brother Al-Adil rebuilt the citadel completely between 1203 and 1216 in response to the development of the counterweight trebuchet. After his death, power struggles broke out between the other Ayyubid princes and although Damascus switched hands several times, the citadel was taken by force only once, in 1239. The citadel remained in Ayyubid hands until the Mongols under their general Kitbuqa captured Damascus in 1260, thereby ending Ayyubid rule in Syria. After an unsuccessful revolt broke out in the citadel, the Mongols had most of it dismantled. After the defeat of the Mongols in 1260 by the Mamluks, who had succeeded the Ayyubids as rulers of Egypt, Damascus came under Mamluk rule. Except for brief periods in 1300 and 1401, when the Mongols conquered Damascus, the Mamluks controlled the citadel until 1516. In that year, Syria fell into the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Damascus surrendered without a fight and from the 17th century onward the citadel functioned as barracks for the Jannisaries—Ottoman infantry units. The citadel started to fall into disrepair in the 19th century and its last military use was in 1925, when French soldiers shelled the old city from the citadel in response to the Great Syrian Revolt against the French Mandate of Syria. The citadel continued to serve as a barracks and prison until 1986, when excavations and restorations started. As of 2011, excavation and restoration efforts are ongoing.







Web sites with additional information about the project/action: www.mam-sy.org/

The Italian-Syrian Archaeological Mission

Italy preserving world Heritage

See also[edit]

Clannad After Story Episode Icon.pngPalmyra, Italian Archaeological Mission
Clannad After Story Episode Icon.pngHeritage and Community Film-Camera.pngplaylist
Clannad After Story Episode Icon.pngResponsible Development - Varanasi (8) - Film-Camera.pngplaylist
Clannad After Story Episode Icon.pngYouth & Heritage - Sweida (8) - Film-Camera.pngplaylist
Clannad After Story Episode Icon.pngPreservation and Development - MAM - Damascus (8) - Film-Camera.pngplaylist

600X WIKIPEDIA LOGO.svg On Wikipedia ⇒ Cultural heritage
600X WIKIPEDIA LOGO.svg On Wikipedia ⇒ List of heritage registers
600X WIKIPEDIA LOGO.svg On Wikipedia ⇒ World Heritage Site
600X WIKIPEDIA LOGO.svg On Wikipedia ⇒ Heritage tourism
Flag of Europe.svgCultural heritage policies in EU
Flag of Europe.svgCulture in EU development cooperation
Flag of Europe.svg ⇒ [Thttp://www.culture-dev.eu/pdf/fr/thematicbriefingnoteculturalheritageanddevelopment.pdf Thematic briefing note on the external cooperation projects in the field of cultural heritage]