Beit Nizam, Damascus
Beit Nizam is an 18th century merchant's house, which later served as the French consulate. It is built around two large courtyards, where there are fountains, trees and flowers.
Open: Sun-Thurs 8am-2pm
A splendid 18th century mansion, Beit Nizam served as the residence of the British ambassador in the 19th century and later as the French consulate. It was designed in the typical Damascene architectural style, with some European influences in its décor. It has two large courtyards, and a smaller third reserved for the private quarters, but all three are richly decorated and shaded with citrus trees, and contain a central fountain and at least one iwan (portico). Visitors might have to ask the caretaker to show them the third courtyard, which requires special access (prepare a tip, of course). The mansion was restored in the 1990s by the Syrian government, hence the framed photo of the late president Hafez al-Asad, and it has since hosted banquets and weddings. The house is usually open for visitors during the day at no charge, but you may need to ring the bell for the caretaker to open the door. Hurry to visit, though, as the house is about to undergo yet another restoration project (as of Jan 2010), this time funded by the Aga Khan Foundation. Rumour has it, the mansion will be converted into a luxury hotel. Beit Nizam is located around the corner from Beit Siba'i, a short distance south of Via Recta (Midhat Pasha Street).
For more photos of this architectural masterpiece, check out the travelogue: "Beit Nizam".