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Escalating violence in Syria since 2011 has had devastating effects on the country’s cultural heritage. From the ancient souk, or marketplace, in Aleppo, to the iconic Crac des Chevaliers—two castles that were built between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries as regional fortifications during the Crusades—to Qal’at al-Mudiq, an archaeological tell that forms part of the classical city of Apamea, the destruction of Syria’s most significant and symbolic sites is of urgent and primary concern, with irreversible implications for the country’s architectural legacy.

While the Watch underscores the risks to the entirety of Syria’s heritage, the three aforementioned sites poignantly illustrate the dire threats. Aleppo’s seventeenth-century souk, was engulfed by fire in September 2012, damaging over 150 shops and the livelihoods of their owners in the process. The Great Mosque of Aleppo was also damaged by the fire, and its minaret was destroyed in April 2013. In August 2012, the Ayyubid-era entrance to Aleppo’s historic citadel—one of the world’s oldest and largest castles, in use for at least 4,000 years—was partially destroyed by a missile attack. WMF had been working on the Aleppo Citadel with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture since 2002, on both conservation projects and site interpretation for visitors, but work was suspended in 2011, following the onset of civil conflict.

Inclusion on the Watch of these important sites in Syria is meant to raise awareness of the threats to our shared heritage in times of war and conflict, as well as to galvanize the technical skills and resources of the international community in anticipation of a time when it is safe to return. Watch-listing is also intended to foster capacity-building by catalyzing collaboration in-country between stakeholders, and enhancing the local stewardship of Syria’s rich architectural heritage.


A report on the condition of heritage places was released in January 2014 by Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums and is available online. On March 1, 2014, UNESCO launched the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Heritage project, funded by the European Union and in collaboration with other partners. After an expert meeting, held in Paris during May 26-28, 2014, UNESCO announced the creation of an observatory for the ongoing monitoring of the state of Syria’s cultural heritage, based in Beirut. The U.S. Department of State has also announced funding for a one-year research project on the condition of cultural heritage and cultural institutions in Syria. Meanwhile, Crac des Chevaliers was re-conquered by the Syrian army and TV footage showed extensive damage to the site. July 2014





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Cultural Heritage Sites of Syria
The Crac des Chevaliers from the southwest, 2004
Cultural Heritage Sites of Syria
The courtyard of the Great Mosque of Aleppo looking east, 2010 (minaret destroyed in 2013)
Cultural Heritage Sites of Syria
View of the site of Qal’at al-Mudiq from the east, 2006