Where now for Syrian tourism?

By | Category: Travel destinations
Tetrapylon

The tetrapylon in Palmyra before the destruction. © UNESCO and Ron Van Oers

In the latest copy of the UNESCO publication, World Heritage, there is a news story about Palmyra and the effect on Syrian heritage that has taken place due to the warfare in the country.

You could argue that why should when concern yourself with buildings when people matter more. But, when a semblance of peace returns, the heritage sites that drew tourists in the hundreds of thousands before the conflict won’t be there to attract the same number of visitors. Tourists mean money for the economy and jobs for those who have lost theirs due to the troubles. Tourism means a way to recover from the past years.

In January, UNESCO despatched a team to Aleppo, Syria’s second city and the location of much bombing, to assess the situation. The team says that 60% of the old city of Aleppo has been severely damaged, with 30% totally destroyed.

The images that UNESCO has, say more about the destruction of mankind’s heritage than words ever could. Compare the images before the conflict and after and you can’t help but wonder about an ideology that thinks destroying buildings is beneficial.

UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, is quoted as saying that the position and shape of the tetrapylon is unique in ancient architecture and testified to the specificity of Palmyrene identity, as a source of pride and dignity for all Syrians today. She also called it a “new war crime.”

At one stage, Palmyra was one of the most important cities in the world. The destruction that has gone on would be the equivalent of losing Stonehenge, the Acropolis or losing a pyramid in Luxor. The world won’t stop because of it but any hope of learning from our heritage by the advancement in new techniques by future generations won’t help because those boffins of the future won’t have the same to work on.

About a decade ago, I was listening to a couple of British Airways cabin crew talking about the places they preferred to fly to as part of their jobs. Aleppo was top of the list and I determined that I would go. Sadly I didn’t. Now, I am not sure that I would want to.

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