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    2013-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Destruction as well as ascertained and potential threats consequent to the armed conflict in Syria started in March 2011

Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Adopted; see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/7685

Corrective measures identified

Adopted; see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/7685

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Adopted; see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/7685

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

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1981-2020)
Total amount approved: USD 186,050
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/20/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted to the property: USD 10,000 from the Italian Funds-in-Trust.
Total amount provided to the six Syrian World Heritage properties: 200,000 euros by the Italian Government; for movable and intangible heritage: 2.46 million euros by the European Union, USD 170,000 by the Flemish Government, 63,000 euros by the Austrian Government, USD 200,000 by the German Government; for cultural heritage under conflict: USD 200,000 by the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage in Bahrain

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. April 2016: World Heritage Centre Rapid Assessment mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Before the conflict:

Since March 2011:

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 3 January 2022 and 24 January 2023, the State Party submitted state of conservation reports for the six Syrian World Heritage properties, which are available at https://whc.unesco.org/​en/list/20/​documents/, and include updated information on progress in a number of conservation issues at the property, as follows:

On 19 February 2023, it was reported by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) that the Technical Institute for Applied Arts and the Intermediate Institute of Antiquities and Museums in the Citadel of Damascus incurred damage from shelling.

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

See General Decision 45 COM 7A.46 of this Document on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic.

The State Party has completed restoration works at the ancient wall between Bab Touma and Bab al-Salam and proceeded to the monitoring of structures, and has substantially progressed in the mitigation of risks of leakage in the vicinity of the ancient wall in al-Joura neighborhood, notably through the implementation of new sewage infrastructure. It has also continued to reduce the risk of fires caused by the electric network, by starting the work of grounding electric networks, implementing dry lines, providing firefighter equipment and training, in addition to identifying areas most at risk. The Committee may wish to request submission of further information about the adaptation of Khan Suleiman Pasha to become a five-star hotel, including the introduction of new glass domes, and remind the State Party of its obligations under paragraphs 118bis and 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

The opening of the educational centre for traditional building materials, first mentioned in 2019, is very welcome, as are the workshops that are being carried out on building construction techniques, and the use of traditional material in all restoration work undertaken by the Directorate of the Old City and the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), which will contribute to countering the gradual diminution of the authenticity of the property. The microfinance loans system being established for the restoration of residential housing within the property is welcomed.

The DGAM has provided information that a coordination mechanism, led by the Directorate of the Old City under the responsibility of the Governorate of Damascus, is operating with efficiency at the site, and management and protection activities are undertaken under the guidance of a Master Plan which is operational, though still under the process of being approved. The development of partnerships with the local communities, NGOs and universities is very welcomed, as is the elaboration of the ‘digital transformation’ of the ancient city project, including a development plan, employing modern technologies to improve the various services in the ancient city. Nevertheless, it is recommended that the Committee request further information on how the digital transformation project and comprehensive development plan are linked with the overall Master Plan to ensure the long term sustainable development of the City. It is also recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to also seek international support for continuing the work towards the elaboration of the Management Plan for the property and its conservation, as previously requested in Decision 44 COM 7A.20. The Management Plan remains crucial to inform restoration decisions and ensure coordination among stakeholders. The Committee should also encourage the State Party to continue implementing all of the recommendations of the 2016 UNESCO First Aid Support Meeting and the 2016 UNESCO Technical Assistance Workshop, including the Ottoman Bank, for which no updated information has been provided.

Reports of further damage arising from conflict, including reported damage to the Technical Institute for Applied Arts and the Intermediate Institute of Antiquities and Museums in the Citadel of Damascus, are an ongoing cause for concern and threat to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) a of the property and it would be appropriate for the Committee to call on all parties to refrain from any further action that would cause damage to the attributes which support and convey the OUV of the property, and to fulfil their obligations under international law.

Progress has been achieved towards the implementation of the corrective measures in view of achieving the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR). The State Party should be encouraged to continue implementing the corrective measures in accordance with the established timeframe and to submit reports and evidence to the World Heritage Centre as the corrective measures are progressively implemented.

Notwithstanding the progress achieved in a number of conservation and management matters at the property, it remains crucial that the invited joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission take place as soon as the situation allows, to enable a comprehensive assessment of the state of conservation of the property.

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 7A.42

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 44 COM 7A.20 and 44 COM 7A.24 adopted at its extended 44th session (Fuzhou/online, 2021),
  3. Taking into account Decision 45 COM 7A.46 on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic,
  4. Takes note of the restoration works carried out at the property, including major repair to the ancient city wall between Bab Touma and Bab al-Salam supported by the World Heritage Fund, and the adaptation of the Khan Suleiman Pasha to become a five-star hotel, and requests the State Party to submit further information about this project for review by the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies, and reminds the State Party to submit information on any proposal that may have an impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property to the World Heritage Centre for examination by the Advisory Bodies before making any decision that would be difficult to reverse and before any further works commence, along with Heritage Impact Assessments, in conformity with paragraphs 118bis and 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  5. Welcomes the work undertaken on infrastructure improvement, the provision of equipment and the response mechanisms in place to ensure efficiency in mitigating risks linked to electricity and sewage infrastructure in priority areas, and encourages the State Party to continue implementing the risk mitigation strategy;
  6. Also welcomes the opening of the educational centre for traditional crafts, the organization of training workshops on traditional building construction techniques, and the provision of traditional materials for all restoration works undertaken by the Directorate of the Old City;
  7. Notes that a micro-finance loans system is being established for residential housing, and that restoration licenses have also been issued for buildings in residential areas;
  8. Further welcomes the enhanced cooperation of the national institutions in charge of the management of the property with local communities, NGOs and the University of Damascus;
  9. Also encourages the State Party to continue to implement fully all of the recommendations of the 2016 UNESCO First Aid Support Meeting and the 2016 UNESCO Technical Assistance Workshop, and to submit an updated report on works related to the Ottoman Bank to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  10. Also takes note that a coordination mechanism, led by the Directorate of the Old City under the responsibility of the Governorate of Damascus, is operating efficiently at the site, and that management and protection activities are undertaken under the guidance of a Master Plan which is operational, though still under the process of being approved, requests the State Party to provide further information on how the digital transformation project and comprehensive development plan are linked with the overall Master Plan to ensure the long terms sustainable development of the City, and to inform the World Heritage Centre once the Master Plan is approved;
  11. Encourages again the State Party to seek funding support for the elaboration of the Management Plan, which remains a crucial tool for the adequate long-term management of the property;
  12. Urges all parties to refrain from any further action that would cause damage to the attributes which support and convey the OUV of the property, and to fulfil their obligations under international law, in particular the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict;
  13. Calls upon the international community to support the conservation of the property;
  14. Commends the progress made by the State Party in the implementation of the corrective measures, aimed at achieving the Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR), and further encourages it to continue implementing the corrective measures in accordance with the established timeframe, and to submit reports and evidence to the World Heritage Centre as the corrective measures are progressively being implemented;
  15. Reiterates its request that the invited World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission be carried out as soon as the situation allows, in order to enable a comprehensive assessment of the state of conservation of the property;
  16. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2024, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 46th session;
  17. Decides to retain Ancient City of Damascus (Syrian Arab Republic) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC/23/45.COM/7A, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.3, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.4),
  2. Having examined the recommendations of the Advisory Bodies, decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
3.    Recalls that the following properties were inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 18th extraordinary session (UNESCO, 2023):