1.         Ancient City of Damascus (Syrian Arab Republic) (C 20bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/20/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1981-2001)
Total amount approved: USD 156,050
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/20/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount allocated to the property: USD 10,000 from the Italian Funds-in-Trust.

Previous monitoring missions

March and December 2007: World Heritage Centre missions for the King Faisal Street project; April 2008: Joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Poor state of conservation;

b) Inappropriate restoration techniques;

c) Lack of a buffer zone;

d) Lack of a management plan.

e) Development projects threatening the significant historic fabric. 

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/20/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

On 19 January 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the Ancient City of Damascus was submitted by the State Party, providing information on the following issues:


a) Buffer zone

The World Heritage Committee, at its 34th session had expressed satisfaction with progress in establishing a buffer zone. The report of the State Party indicates that a new standard was developed for the buffer zone proposed in Ministerial decision N° 27 of 26 June 2010, and approved by several institutions. The State Party submitted a proposal for the creation of a buffer zone which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at this session.

b) Rehabilitation projects

Some detail is given on the four rehabilitation projects for which further information was sought by the World Heritage Committee. Along the southern path between the Citadel and the Souq Hammidyya, shops are being restored, soil removed, plaster surfaces rehabilitated, stonework repointed. In the old Gold Souq the excavations are being secured. The rehabilitation of the Naqacchat and Alyahoud quarters and Saida Roukayya is directed mainly towards the upgrading to modern stands of services such as sewerage, electricity, lighting, and telephone. In all projects flagstone paving is being installed, which may well be a matter of concern. Had a conservation and management Plan for the city been in place, issues such as street paving would no doubt have been addressed.

The report indicates that King Faisal Street project has been ‘stopped’, though it remains unclear whether permanently abandoned or not. The Medhat Pasha cultural centre project is reported to be proceeding upon a much improved basis, avoiding the mistakes of the first phase. However, no plans or designs were provided to the World Heritage Centre.

c) Conservation and Management Plan

At its 34th session, the World Heritage Committee had reiterated its request that the State Party develop a Management Plan for the property. The issue of a Conservation and Management Plan is addressed only indirectly in the report. It is noted that the Old City of Damascus is supervised by ‘the Committee for the Safeguarding of the Old City’ chaired by the Mayor of Damascus, which defines strategies and is responsible for the issue of permits. A Conservation and Management Plan should be prepared on a professional basis, reviewed by experts and the public, and then adopted officially. The issue of permits should be guided by the Plan, but should be a completely distinct process. Any compromise made to the requirements of the Plan, for commercial or other reasons, should be transparent. This might not be achieved under the administration as presently structured.

Despite these concerns, there is much to be commended in the plans for taking soundings and prioritising urgent excavations; the proposal to ban cement and concrete in restoration works and to require the use of traditional materials; the proposal to publish a code for traditional lime plaster; and the plan to improve the controlling of illegal works.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that there has been a serious attempt to meet some of the major concerns expressed in Decision 34 COM 7B.64, though most of the responses are proposals yet to be finalised and put into effect. The modifications made to current development projects are positive, though sufficient details are not supplied to assess these. The major remaining concern is the lack of an appropriate Conservation and Management Plan. 

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.58

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 34 COM 7B.64, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3. Takes note of the proposals by the State Party, including the establishment of a buffer zone, the modification or abandonment of deleterious developments, the improvement of conservation standards, the use of traditional materials, and the improved controlling of illegal developments;

4. Reiterates its request to the State Party to provide the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, detailed information on the four rehabilitation projects, and on the redesign of King Faisal Street area and Medhat Pasha Cultural Centre before further work is undertaken;

5. Also reiterates the urgent need for the preparation and adoption of a Conservation and Management Plan to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;

6. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February  2013, a state of conservation report and on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 8B.51

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-11/35.COM/8B.Add and WHC-11/35.COM/INF.8B1.Add,

2. Approves the proposed buffer zone for the Old City of Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic;

3. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following points:

a) Consider extending the buffer zone as currently defined so as to ensure a better connection between the historic quarters of the ancient city and the inscribed property,

b) Continue the regulation and control efforts, either currently under way or announced, for the various parts of the buffer zone, and to keep the World Heritage Committee up to date with progress in this matter.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 8D

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/8D,

2. Recalling Decision 34 COM 8D, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3. Recalls that the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies will not be able to examine proposals for minor or significant modifications to boundaries of World Heritage properties when the delimitation of such properties as inscribed is unclear;

4. Acknowledges the excellent work accomplished by States Parties in the clarification of the delimitation of their World Heritage properties and thanks them for their efforts to improve the credibility of the World Heritage List;

5. Takes note of the clarifications of property boundaries and areas provided by the following States Parties in response to the Retrospective Inventory, as presented in the Annex of Document WHC-11/35.COM/8D:

6. Requests the European, Arab and African States Parties, which have not yet answered the questions raised in the framework of the Retrospective Inventory, to provide all clarifications and documentation as soon as possible and by 1 December 2011 at the latest.