The restoration work taking place in the Sulaymaniyah hospice in Damascus has occupied the attention of citizens on social media after the decision to evacuate it and complete the restoration work, which may continue for many years, amid fears of changing the identity of this archaeological site and granting it to the private sector.
The controversy began in October after the regime’s tourism ministry warned artisans and shopkeepers in the handicraft market in Hospice Sulaymaniyah to evacuate their shops before 2023 in order to restore them. The restoration work in the hospice began in 2019. The plan included several stages, the first of which was the restoration of the glass market, then the restoration of the handicraft market and some internal parts of the hospice.
The regime’s tourism minister, Rami Martini, said that the restoration of the hospice could take more than two years, perhaps four, for the region to be integrated. He added in remarks to the radio Sham FM, last Saturday that it was necessary to evacuate the manual professions market, which is located in the small hospice because the restoration work reached this part.
He continued: “What is happening in the hospice is a national project that is considered the largest of its kind in the restoration of this heritage place for the first time since its establishment.”
Under the eviction, 40 craftsmen were transferred from the hospice to the cultural incubator in the Dummar area of Damascus amid fears that they would not be allowed to return after the restoration was completed or the historical site was privatized.
News spread about the granting of the Sulaymaniyah hospice to the private sector, especially since the Ministry of Tourism is directly supervising the restoration work, despite the fact that the hospice is administratively subordinate to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.
Concerns were heightened by statements by Deputy Minister of Tourism Nidal Mashfej, in which he said that there is no legal clause obliging the ministry to renew the contracts of craftsmen after they expire every year.
He added to the official newspaper “Tishreen” that the ministry has the right to demand the evacuation of shops invested by professionals for the purposes of public interest before the end of the contract period and without the owners of shops having the right to claim any malfunction or damage.
Social media users reacted to the decision to evacuate the Professions Market in the hospice, demanding that the historical character of this place is preserved and that craftsmen be allowed to return after the completion of the restoration work.
The restoration may continue for many years, especially since the glass market in Tekiya, whose restoration began three years ago, is still in ruins, and it is not known whether it will return to a glass market or not. However, the regime’s news agency, SANA, quoted Damascus Governor Mohammed Tariq Kreishati on Wednesday that “after the rehabilitation of the Sulaymaniyah hospice, craftsmen will return to parts of it to be a cultural, heritage, historical and tourist destination.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.