Saladin (Salahadin in Arabic), much feared in the West, is seen as a hero in Damascus and throughout the entire Muslim world. Saladin was a Kurdish Muslim who founded the Ayyubid dynasty and reigned over Syria and Egypt, taking Damascus in the 1170s. His capture of Jerusalem sparked the Third Crusade, but he was also known amongst the Crusaders for his chivalrous ways and in the Arab World for his uniting of Egypt, Syria and the various centres of commerce and culture in the Levant and Iraq. His mausoleum is today adjoining the complex of the Umayyad Mosque, and is marked with a large sign identifying it as the “true” resting place of Saladin. The Mausoleum does not attract quite as many visitors as the Mosque, but it is still an important sight to take in amongst the many that are scattered throughout old Damascus. The tomb is richly embellished like that of a modern head of state, and flowers are laid to mark respect for a long-dead champion of the Islamic world. It was constructed in pattered white and black marble, with a red dome that provides a much more harmonious aesthetic view than the various parts of the next-door Umayyad Mosque.
Just to the north of the Omayyad Mosque, by the tourist entrance of the mosque, lies a small park with numerous Roman Columns and other ruins. Within the park is also the Mausoleum of Saladdin, one of the greatest historical Moslem leaders and liberator of the Holy Land from the Crusaders. The domed shrine was built at the end of the 12th century and is open to visitors for free. The site was restored in the 19th century under the Ottoman Empire, but funded by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany who had visited the region (including Baalbek in Lebanon) and funded numerous works. Note that a monumental statue of Saladdin is located elsewhere, just outside the Citadel on the busy Sa'ad Zaghloul Street (see photo). When I visited in March 2008 and in December 2009, the small park was undergoing some work - the entire beautiful marble floors were removed and the area was being remodelled... it was unclear why.
Although Saladin was a Kurd, born in Tikrit , northern Iraq, for many years Damascus was his home. He died here in 1193, a year after signing the peace treaty with Richard I and King Philip, which followed his conquest of nearly every Crusader city. His shrine lies next to the Umayyad Mosque.
There are actually two tombs inside the shrine. Saladin's body is in the original, wooden one, on the right as you enter, while the white marble one, on the left, is empty. The reason for the second one is that when Kaiser Wilhelm II visted the mausoleum, he was sorry to see that Saladin was in a modest, wooden tomb, so he donated a more lavish marble one. But, of course, nobody wanted to disturb Saladin's body and, at the same time, nobody wanted to refuse Wilhelm's generous offer.
Just outside Umayyad Mosque in Damascus lies the mausoleum of Saladin, one of the greatest Muslim rulers of the Crusades. Saladin’s army won a decisive battle against the Crusaders in 1187, leading to the removal of European forces from Jerusalem. Confusingly, there are two coffins for the beloved sultan. On an official visit in 1898, German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II could not believe that Saladin was buried in a simple wooden coffin. Wilhelm then paid for a marble coffin on par with Saladin’s status, but the body of the humble ruler was never moved.
The Mausoleum of Salah ad-Din is located in the archeological garden at the north wall of Umayyad Mosque. Inside there are two cenotaphs; the wooden one on the right contains the body of the great hero. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany donated the marbled one. Admission is included in the ticket for Umayyad Mosque. Open daily 10am-5pm.
A very small domed building for a man fame is larger than life: this is the final resting place of Salah ad-Din, who was feared by all the crusaders. Born in 1138 in Tikrit (Iraq), from a simple soldier he became a general - some say a Sultan or an Emperor. In his life he took over Egypt, Syria, parts of Mesopotamia and - here comes the fact for which he's famous - defeated the Crusaders in Jerusalem - much to Richard II annoyment. This defeat gave rise to the third and last Christian crusade. Because of his successes and his courage, he's not a very much revered figure in Syria, and probably all over the Muslim world - as a freedom fighter.
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