In Damascus, you can celebrate your wedding on a historic site

At the beginning of 2022, the Khan Assad Pasha, the largest caravanserai in Damascus, experienced an unusual problem. During a party, a faulty electric heater caused a fire to start in one of the rooms. Although the fire was quickly brought under control, the incident was knowingly concealed by the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums, and the State “continued to grant permits to hold parties in the khan and other archaeological sites,” recount Raseef22.

“The transformation of historic sites into village halls for social events organized by wealthy families is not new. The phenomenon, which has existed since 2010, has become problematic due to the violation of the rules governing the organization of these parties and the soaring prices.

As the Pan-Arab site explains, those who wish to rent these historical places, such as the Khan Assad Pasha or the nearby Azem Palace, “have only to submit an application to the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums, pay the specified fee to the Ministry of Finance and then sign a paper committing them to preserve the integrity of the place”.

“A threat to heritage”

For some, it’s a way to give a second life to these places. For Tala, a 33-year-old Syrian, these holidays are an opportunity to “showing another face of Damascus, more positive, after the long years of war” who have ravaged the country since 2011, she explains to Raseef22.

Joëlle Chami, organizer of wedding parties, points out that it is the General Directorate of Antiquities that “encourages” the holding on archaeological sites of such events, “whose images are shared on social networks, that everyone is watching”.

A source within the General Directorate of Antiquities, quoted by the newspaper, explains on condition of anonymity that the organization of festivals helps to highlight these historic places, but also to bail out the coffers of the State.

Others, notably archaeologists and researchers, see “a risk and a threat to heritage”. “But the worst thing is that this tradition perpetuates the [lutte des] classes […] and the idea that these vestiges are a property of the State and not of society”, deplore Raseef 22.

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