SAHARA Highlights: Syria

by Jacqueline Spafford and Jeffrey Klee, SAHARA Co-Editors | Apr 11, 2017

It seems appropriate to acknowledge the tragic damage and destruction caused by the civil war to so many of Syria’s significant buildings, including all six of its UNESCO heritage sites. Thanks to the research, travel, and photography of our members and their contributions, there are valuable images in SAHARA of these monuments taken before these assaults. Below is a small selection from the large collection of images of the architecture of Syria. We encourage members who have visited other affected sites in Syria, and beyond, to contribute to this important archive.

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Aleppo, Citadel (13th-16th C). In 2012 the external gate of the Citadel was damaged by shelling and in 2015 an explosion in a tunnel damaged an outer wall; in addition the Syrian Army has used the Citadel as a military base. Photo by Nasser Rabbat, 1993.

Aleppo, Great Mosque (al-Jam’I al-Kabir), Minaret (built 715, destroyed 1260, rebuilt 1261). The mosque has sustained severe damage through fighting since 2012, and the minaret was destroyed in 2013. Photo by Elisabeth Braun, 2008.

Palmyra, the Temple of Bel (1st-2nd C, sanctuary dedicated 32 CE). During a long campaign of combat and looting beginning in 2013 onward, the Temple of Bel was one of several structures in Palmyra which sustained damage from mortar fire. Photo by Dell Upton, 2010.

Palmyra, Roman Arch (220 CE). This monumental arch was blown up by Islamic State extremists in 2015. Photo by Lisa D. Schrenk, 2010.

Palmyra, Theater (100-150 CE). View of Scaenae frons and seating. The theater has been the site of several public executions, including that of Palmyra’s retired antiquities chief Khaled al-Asaad. Photo by Lisa D. Schrenk, 2010.

Palmyra, Tower Tomb of Elahbel (103 CE). This tomb was destroyed by IS in 2015.  Photo by Dell Upton, 2010.

Damascus, Old City, The City Gate in Bab Tuma (1st C BCE-4th C CE, some rebuilding 1227). This area has been recognized by the World Monument Fund as one of the most endangered sites in the world, and a large number of structures have been affected. Photo by Nasser Rabbat, c. 1993.

Damascus, Takiyya al-Sulaimaniyya (Tekkiye Mosque), Sinan (1544-1566). This Ottoman structure was damaged by mortar shelling in 2015. Photo by Lisa D. Schrenk, 2010.


Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.
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