News ID: 233496
Published: 0351 GMT October 28, 2018

Syria's national museum reopens doors in war-scarred Damascus

Syria's national museum reopens doors in war-scarred Damascus

Syria's National Museum of Damascus opened its rich trove of antiquities to visitors again on Sunday, seven years after terrorism forced them to close and months after the government recaptured all areas near the capital.

Only part of the museum, and its collection drawn from the civilizations that have ruled Syria over the millennia, will be reopened immediately, said Ahmad Deeb, its deputy director.

"We will exhibit a group of artifacts from all periods from prehistory, the ancient east and the classical and Islamic eras in this section," he said.

According to Reuters, the reopening is a sign of the government's attempts to restore normalcy in the capital after a succession of Russia-backed army victories since 2015 that have ended the threat to President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

The fate of Syria's ancient heritage has hung in the balance for much of the conflict, as fighting erupted in major sites such as the Old City of Aleppo and others.

As terrorism began to spread in 2011, the government evacuated the museum's collection, one of the most important in the Middle East, along with those of provincial museums, hiding their artifacts far from the battlefield.

In Aleppo, where the museum lay near the front line, the huge ancient statues outside were too large to transport, and were boarded up in giant crates filled with cement against shrapnel damage.

"The masterpieces were hidden straight away," said Deeb.

Army trucks carried antiquities from sites across the country to stash in safety, he said. The collection of Deir ez-Zor museum, isolated by fighting, was airlifted to Damascus.

In the capital, the empty museum continued to be used by the General Directorate of Antiquities as an office, and was hit by mortar fire, but not badly damaged.

As the terrorist presence around Damascus weakened in recent years, some statues were put on display to the public in the museum garden, including the 'Lion of Elat' — a massive piece from Palmyra that was damaged by Daesh and later restored.

Other objects, recovered by the government after they were seized by terrorists or smuggled overseas, were put on display this month in the Damascus Opera House — a testament to the looting of heritage that has characterized much of the war.


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