While Roman and Greek art was highly developed in the realms of figurative sculpture and pottery, some of the best examples of the highly-developed artistic traditions of these two cultures can be seen in their architectural feats and in the design and decoration that accompanied temples and civic buildings. The garden at the National Museum in Damascus holds a fair number of examples of these highly-developed arts, and, if the day is a nice one, you can enjoy yourself outdoors by walking among marbles, plinths, pilasters and busts all carved by the same gifted artisans who made Rome and Athens so famous. That is, provided they haven’t been smashed to bits by mortars or bullets.
When your city has a history of something around 5000 years, it’s rather hard to have a civic museum that is lacking in interest, let along attraction, for the majority of tourists who visit. The National Museum in Damascus benefitted greatly from the ancient history of the surrounding urban core, and from the relatively well-developed field of archeology inside the country. Whether this is still the case remains to be seen, and I’m sure that the curators expect nothing short of an Iraq-style plunder should the civil war reach the centre of Damascus with all of its ferocity. The Museum does not have an Elgin Marbles-style main draw, but it does include a wealth of artefacts from the length of Syria’s long history. These are often well explained in the accompanying write-ups, although they can be dry and pedantic, or occasionally poorly translated. Guided tours were available and probably still are, although whether the same breathtaking number of languages is available as before is to be confirmed. Of course, the museum has a large number of Roman, Greek and Ugaritic items that help to place Syria in its proper place as a crossroads of empires, but the greatest shows are in the Islamic section. Damascus was long a centre of learning and art in the various Islamic empires that held it – Ummayad, Abbasid, Mameluk, Seljuk, Ottoman – and there are many, many examples on display at the museum that provide a glimpse into the richness of design, book arts, illumination and carving from the various periods.
This museum has 5000 years history. But is it builded at 1939.
Frýnt side is originally Umayyad castle Qasr al-Heir al Garbi's front side. It was in the desert before. At Ottoman period they carried some monuments to Istanbul.
The National Museum of Damascus is the largest museum in Syria. Many of the country's great archaelogical treasures are exhibited here, including the Hypogeum of Yarhai brought here from Palmyra.
Open: Apr-Sept 9am-6pm, Oct-Mar 9am-4pm. Closed Tuesday.
If you're into history then this is a must! Have a guided tour though so that you pick up all those lttle extras.
There's no photography.
Also, this museum is rather....mmm....'flat' ---nothing is interactive, no AV aides etc.
If you're visiting Palmyra later during your stay then do go down to the reassembled tomb here at the museum. You cannot take photos but.... if you're the last to leave the tomb chamber....
As far as collections are concerned, this one is extensive. So much so that the whole area outside the museum building is stuffed with pieces. The variety is quite extensive - though the only problem is the labeling. All is in Arabic, much is in French, and some is in English. There are more than one notable displays, so be sure to explore the museum in it's entirety.
We weren't allow to photograph the wonderful exhibit inside, which was a shame because the bookstore was so limited, but we did spend quite awhile in the garden area outside. The garden is full of eroded old statues that any average city in Europe or the USA would surely shelter in a museum exhibit with a special light overhead. The Museum inside is poorly presented horrible lighting and with labeling produce on an old typewriter (but labeling is in French, English, and Arabic), but the artifacts from all periods of history in Syria represent one of the world's great collections of priceless antiquity. The earliest alphabets are in a special protected vault here.
First of all a warning: if you decide to visit the museum, you better make sure you have several hours to spend there. As I'm not a museum freak i had decided beforehand the rooms I wanted to see: great plan, but mission impossible. I walked in the museum, decided to head for the Palmyra, Azem and Quran rooms, and ended up being taken through all the museum. It was great, but too much - however the museum security staff did not want to listen to my desires... they took me (in turns) to every room, showed me and explained everything! Argh! I left with my head full of details and dates I wasn't quite looking for. Entrance (january 2003) was 150 Syrian pounds.