National Museum of Damascus opens again after seven years | News | DW | 28.10.2018
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National Museum of Damascus opens again after seven years

Visitors to the antiquities museum will be the first in seven years to view classical and Islamic treasures. The building was closed and the artefacts removed when Syria's civil war came close to the capital.

The Syrian capital's antiquities museum opened its doors on Sunday, almost seven years after it was closed in order to protect the collection from rebel rocket fire and shelling amid the civil war. Much of Syria's rich cultural heritage was destroyed during the conflict.

Only one of the National Museum of Damascus' five sections opened to visitors, but it was still hailed as a partial return to normal life.

"The opening of the museum is a genuine message that Syria is still here and her heritage would not be affected by terrorism," Syrian Minister of Culture Mohamed al-Ahmad told reporters and visitors. "Today, Damascus has recovered."

The reopened wing showcases hundreds of archaeological findings that date back to the prehistoric, historical, classical and Islamic eras, according to the head of the directorate for antiquities, Mahmoud Hammoud.

More than 9,000 works of art have been restored and reclaimed since the fighting began, Hammoud said, pointing out that that hundreds of thousands of other important artifacts and sculptures were smuggled out of the country during the conflict.

Palmyra restorations

Visitors to the Damascus museum will be able to watch specialists restore artifacts reclaimed from Palmyra, one of Syria's architectural landmarks, which Islamic State militants seized for months. The jihadist group destroyed many of the world's most famous monuments. 

Read more:  Syria's cultural casualties

As the conflict in Syria began to spread in 2011, the government evacuated the museum's collection, considered one of the most important in the Middle East, along with artifacts from other museums, to the Syrian Central Bank for safe storage.

Hammoud said Syria needs years and millions of dollars to fund the reopening of all its museums. "When all museums reopen nationwide, then we can say that the crisis in Syria ended."

The National Museum of Damascus' other wings are expected to open soon. 

kw/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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