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Revitalisation of the Souq al Saghir, Syria


The revitalisation of the Souq al Saghir was completed in June 2003. Introduction
The revitalisation of the Souq al Saghir, or Small Souq, in Masyaf, was completed in June 2003. The project, a collaboration between the Governorate of Hama, the Municipality of Masyaf, the Souq al Saghir Committee, and the The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), is one of several cultural projects completed or underway that employ the built heritage as a catalyst for economic and social development.

Projects are implemented under a Framework Development Agreement signed in November 2001 between the Government of Syria and His Highness the Aga Khan.

The overall objective of the project is to use built heritage as a catalyst for economic and social development. Specifically, the revitalization of the Souq al Saghir aims to enhance the commercial function of the market without undermining its historical fabric. The project also seeks to enhance the physical appearance of the historic market and encourage visitors and citizens of the town to enter the Souq and support local businesses.

The restoration of the Souq al Saghir, or Small Souq, in Masyaf, featured the rehabilitation of 76 traditional shop facades and the replacement of the roof covering the Souq. The Trust believes that cultural restoration leads to economic and social revitalization. The partnership between the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the people of Masyaf features the rehabilitation of 76 traditional shop facades including the restoration of public areas and the installation of new street roofing. The project has capitalized on the resourcefulness of local people to repair buildings, clean and replace stone facades, and install new amenities. The project includes traffic engineering measures, street resurfacing and lighting, and the rehabilitation of the Masjid al Noori and the mausoleum of Norrudin Ahmed. The restoration is part of an area revitalisation plan that includes the restoration of the Masyaf Citadel, the creation of a pedestrian street running from the Citadel to the Souq, and the provision of tourist facilities, including parking for cars and buses. The plan also includes a conservation scheme for the former serai building and is intended to create spaces for the revitalisation of cultural events such as the annual harvest festival.

Background
The town of Masyaf sits at the foot of the western wall of the Citadel of Masyaf. Until the mid-20th century, the town remained comfortably contained within its roughly built city walls. During the latter part of the 20 th century Masyaf expanded rapidly, its population growing to 30,000. Development has now spread far beyond the old city walls, dramatically altering the historical core and almost all of the historical fabric of the town dating before 1920. A few fragments remain: the Ottoman serai, two Khans - one possibly dating from Mamluk times - the 12th century Friday Mosque and the Souq al Saghir. Together these elements form an historic spine through the heart of the old town of Masyaf, with the Citadel at the head and the serai at the foot. This historic spine is the focus of the town planning proposals developed by the Trust.

The restoration of the Souq al Saghir, or Small Souq, in Masyaf, featured the rehabilitation of 76 traditional shop facades and the replacement of the roof covering the Souq.The first aspect of the spine to be considered for development was the Souq al Saghir. There has probably been a market at the site since the town’s beginnings, but much of what remains today dates from the Ottoman period, although it is now much altered. The Souq and its surrounding commercial streets serve a large hinterland of smaller villages and towns in the plains to the East and mountains to the West. There is a thriving trade in agricultural and other commodities. The Souq’s commercial importance and its growth have also brought pressure to implement improvements. During 2001, for example, two adjacent buildings were demolished to make way for new developments.

Project Description
Adapting and responding to these pressures was a central aim of the work. During 2001, the Souq al Saghir was documented in detail, and a plan for its rehabilitation was developed. The project included the following aspects:

Description of the Work
The general goal of the project for developing the Souq al Saghir was to give a unified architectural style to a construction that was composed of many elements and varied styles. The Trust replaced some of the materials and shapes used in the facades with others that integrated more harmoniously into the general environment. The project aimed to create a unified style for the facades, using materials such as stone and plaster, and architectural elements such as wooden shades and other decorative elements.

The infrastructure underlying the Souq was completely re-developed to accommodate the services required from the Souq after rehabilitation. These infrastructure developments included the electricity, telephone, sewage and water networks. New floor tiling, which takes into consideration the current levels of the shops and exposes the important historical characteristics of the construction, was installed. The project also included the installation of a new roof covering for most parts of the Souq. The covering is designed to maintain ventilation and lighting and protect against the elements in such a way as to form a link between the opposing facades. This cover, which was manufactured from weather resistant materials, is fixed to a light metal frame.

In addition, the project removed elements that had been randomly added to facades, including telephone and electricity poles and cables, descending rainwater pipes, sewerage pipes, all forms of sun shades, advertising signs and sliding shop doors.

The works in the Souq were divided into three components:

Funding
The City Council of Masyaf funded part of the infrastructure works. The owners/ occupants in the Souq contributed, with an average participation at 25 percent of the total cost, to the work on the facades. The Souq Committee, which will oversee the maintenance of the Souq, was also an important partner in the development. The Trust funded the remaining part of the works, including the revitalization of the infrastructure and facades.

An Integrated Plan for Masyaf
In Masyaf, the Trust is working with local communities by undertaking complementary initiatives to reinforce social and economic impact. In addition to the Souq al Saghir, the

AKTC is rehabilitating the Masyaf citadel in partnership with the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities. Site works include structural reinforcement and repair, excavation of Ayyubid rain-water harvesting systems, the replacement of cement with traditional lime mortar, enhancing the durability of the citadel, and the creation of a visitors’ centre.

The Trust has also developed a master plan to conserve the Old City of Masyaf and AKDN has instituted microfinance programmes to enhance incomes and improve the quality of housing in the surrounding community. The integration of these projects combined with the participation and commitment of local communities is an example of how culture can act as a catalyst for social development and economic regeneration.

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