The Sulaymaniyah hospice in Damascus.. Will the hotbed of Levantine Iraq dislodge its guards? | culture

While the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Male saw in a dream that he was in a garden in the center of the capital Damascus, the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) appeared to him and instructed him to to build a mosque in that country, so the Ottoman Sultan awoke from his sleep, pleased with what he saw and heard, and immediately ordered that a portion of it be cut down. The garden, the building of a large hospice in the middle of it, and the building of a mosque, which he recommended that its mihrab should be in the same place where the Messenger (may God bless him and grant him peace) stood and indicated in a dream.

This is the story passed down by a number of writers and historians, the most recent of which was Sheikh Najm al-Din al-Ghazi in his book “The Walking Planets in the Eyes of the Tenth Hundred”, about the legal decision of the Sultan to build the Sulaymaniyah Hospice (west of Damascus) in the 16th century, and it is one of the most prominent and modern Ottoman hospices and the most beautiful building, according to specialists.

Historically, the Sulaymaniyah Hospice was a place for the performance of religious duties, a resting place for pilgrims, and a refuge for the dispossessed and the poor among the people of Damascus, Muslims and others, and it remained so until the French colonizers entered the country. 1920; Where General Gouraud and his forces took up residence in Tekia.

With the end of colonialism and the advent of 1948, the Sharia school in the Takiyeh returned to hold educational seminars and seminars for the memorization of the Qur’an, and since the mid-seventies of the last century, the Takiyeh began to embrace dozens of ancient . Damascene craft shops, and this part expanded to later become known as the Handcraft Market.

Recently, this complex cultural and religious identity of the heritage landmark came under threat, after the Ministry of Tourism (in the government of the Syrian regime) notified the owners of the professions to vacate their shops before the end of the year, on ground of recovery.

Al-Takiyeh Sulaymaniyah Mosque in Damascus (Al-Jazeera)

From the Al-Ablaq Palace to the Sulaymaniyah Takiyeh

The site of the Sulaymaniyah Hospice, west of Damascus, witnessed the construction of a number of royal residences, the last of which was the Ablaq Palace of its owner, the Mamluk Sultan al-Zahir in Bairas (1228-1277 AD), which was named after the colors of its black and yellow building bricks brought from Aleppo and Daraa.

However, large parts of the palace were subjected to burning during the Mongol leader Tamerlane’s invasion of Damascus in the year 803 AH (1402 AD), and the Ablaq Palace was not restored and rehabilitated except with the accession of the Ottoman sultan Selim I to Damascus in the year 923 AH (1517 AD).

By the year 959 AH (1502 AD), Sultan Selim the Magnificent commissioned the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan to draw up a modern architectural plan for a hospice on the grounds of the Ablaq Palace, and in the year 960 AH (1553 AD) a large number of workers began to build the hospice under the supervision of the Damascene engineer Shihab al-Din ibn al-Attar, while other sources indicate that the supervising engineer was the Iranian Mulla Agha, and the construction took 6 years.

Afterwards, you will rest on the banks of the Barada River, “a luxurious urban complex that captivates the heart with its regular domes like knots around a large main dome, flanked by two tall minarets, and interspersed with tall gardens and trees whose splendor combines with the virtues of architecture, making this place in Damascus one of the most beautiful and beautiful places,” which is the Sulaymaniyah hospice, As described by Abd al-Qadir al-Rihawi in his book “Architecture in the Arab-Islamic Civilization”. “.

Sham Mustafa_Syria_Damascus_The Western Entrance of Al-Takia Al-Sulaymaniyah The Correspondent Lens
The western entrance of the Sulaymaniyah Hospice (the island)

Ottoman architecture and damask motifs

The building of the Sulaymaniyah Hospice consists of two similar, connected architectural blocks, one of which is large and includes the mosque and the hospice, and the other is smaller and includes the school. Between these two blocks is a market dedicated to caravans of pilgrims decorating the walls and rooms of the place.

Sham Mustafa_Syria_Damascus_The courtyard of the Sulaymaniyah school in the hospice, and the restoration operations are clear (2) Correspondent lens
The courtyard of the Sulaymaniyah school in the hospice, and the repair work is evident in it (Al-Jazeera)

The two architectural blocks are surrounded by relatively low walls, while in the middle are two rectangular ponds fed by water and vertical fountains used for ablution. They are interspersed with chimneys in the form of small minarets and preceded by shaded arcades with ornate vaults.

Sham Mustafa_Syria_Damascus_The shady arcades along the courtyards in the Sulaymaniyah hospice_Correspondent Lens
The shady arcades bordering the courtyards in the Sulaymaniyah Hospice (Al-Jazeera)

The Al-Takia Sulaymaniyah market stretches from its far east to its far west, and dozens of shops that used to be commercial shops stand along its sides, and since the seventies of the last century have turned into handicraft shops.

In addition to its traditional role as a place for benefactors, the poor and the needy, the Sulaymaniyah Hospice was designed to be a resting place for pilgrims on the pilgrimage to Makkah Al-Mukarramah. The place was equipped with spacious kitchens, bakeries, rest rooms, several chapels, a bath for ablution and other necessary services for pilgrims.

And when the hospice turned into a home for teachers in 1923, it stopped hosting guests and accommodating arrivals for the first time since its foundation 4 centuries ago, but the hospice soon regained its identity as a welcoming place when it reclaimed a number of Palestinian families displaced to Damascus after the Nakba of 1948.

While the Sulaymaniyah school was famous for receiving students of Sharia sciences from all parts of the world, before it was transformed with the opening of the Syrian University in Damascus in 1934 into a place for teaching dentistry, then into an archaeological landmark that includes a military museum with the continuation of religious activities in the chapels and the mosque to this day.

Sham Mustafa_Syria_Damascus_Sulaymaniyah School Courtyard Correspondent lens
Sulaymaniyah Schoolyard (Al-Jazeera)

From an incubator of nobility to a repeller of the guardians of the legacy

In mid-October, the Ministry of Tourism in the regime’s government warned the sheikhs of the Kar craftsmen in the craft market about the need to vacate their shops before the new year 2023 for the purpose of restoration.

Sham Mustafa_Syria_Damascus_The entrance to the handicraft market in Al-Takia Al-Sulaymaniyah, the correspondent lens
Entrance to the craft market in the Sulaymaniyah hospice (Al-Jazeera)

Despite the craftsmen’s appeal to the relevant authorities through local newspapers and media, and the intervention of the Damascus Chamber of Tourism administration to promise the craftsmen their return after the completion of the restoration operations, Nidal Mashafej – Assistant Minister of Tourism – confirmed that there is no legal clause obliging the ministry to renew the tradesmen’s contracts after their expiry every year, and that according to the law the minister has the right to vacate shops invested by professionals for public interest purposes before the end of the contract period, without the shop owners having the right to claim any breakdown, damage, unfairness or the like, as the official told the official newspaper, Tishreen.

While a member of the Damascus Chamber of Tourism, Arafat Awda Bashi, points out that most of what the shop owners in the Sulaymaniyah hospice hope for is to return to their shops after the completion of the restoration, to continue their work and the intangible heritage that is threatened with extinction.

“Years ago they vacated the glass market belonging to the hospice under the pretext of restoring it, and to this day it is still in ruins and it is not clear whether it will return to a market for glass, and I do not exclude. that our shops will have a similar fate,” said Haj Abu Muhammad (57 years old), a shop owner in the Takiyeh.

He continues, “It is as if the market stagnation of the last 10 years and the absence of wealthy tourists and visitors from our shops were not enough for them, from which the common citizen cannot buy goods because of their high cost. , and all the losses we suffered in continuing to revive this craft during the war.”

The Sulaymaniyah hospice has been undergoing restoration operations since 2019, and the first phase was aimed at restoring part of the hospice and what is known as the glass market, while the second phase will restore the handicraft market and some of the interior parts of the hospice is dedicated. “to preserve the archaeological site against collapses and structural cracks,” according to Nidal Mashfej.

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