Ugarit in the eye of an archeologist

Ugarit, Ras Shamra, is the most important and world-wide famous capital of the  ancient world . It lies hidden among a hill of orange trees overlooking the sea at a distance  of 10 kilometers from the city of lattakia. Its world reputation stems  from the fact of being an everlasting source of myths, a theatre  for the Canaanites Gods and a home for the alphabet  which is  the greatest historical event in humanity.

Promoted by the greatness  of the site and its contents, Professor Charles Virolleaud- a scientist of ancient writings- who managed to solve the symbols of the Ugaritian writings in cooperation with scientists Hans Baur and Edward Dhome said : " the invention  of the alphabet has proved to be  the most exiting human innovation and the greatest historical event, because it emerged from the simplified writing which could be learnt easily by a child. Therefore, many peoples of those who never dreamt of getting rid off illiteracy were helped to become educated.''

Archeologist George Peru said in the same  context, commemorating  the significance of Ugarit 's alphabet  that : the invention of the alphabet was a very important vent that could not be compared with any other event in the history of mankind."

Several American dailies, magazines and art supplements conducted studies and several surveys about the world 's ten important innovators whose discoveries are  of benefit to humanity as a whole since the beginning  of written history. Number one on the list came the man who invented the Alphabet of Ugarit because he helped in conveying  and disseminating  thinking and knowledge which have been transferred through times and beyond boundaries.

The site " Ras Shamra" was discovered by a Syrian farmer and digging works were done under the supervision of the French archeologist  Claude Shiver.

Ever since 1929, excavations  were made annually every spring for one month.

Upon gaining independence in 1946, the government has set up the general department for archaeology and museums, which permitted the French mission to resume excavations at the site as from 1948.

It was found out that the site contains the ruins  of five successive civilizations : the  fifth layer belongs to the Neolithic stone age 7,000-6,000 B.C, the fourth layer dates 4500-4000 B .C, the third went back to 3500- 2100 B.C, the second to  2100, 1600 B.C and the first layer to 1600- 1200 B.C.

The kingdom of  Ugarit  was discovered in the first layer. Among the most important of  the findings was the royal palace which occupies an area of 10,000 square meters. It contains several rooms for the accommodation of the king, his offices, advisors, guards, servant carriages and horses. The palace has seven gate-ways with doors and columns, a big reception hall of stones seats and a special section for written documents " diwan".

The whole palace was built of carved stone and the ground was covered  with floorboards. The sewage system worked in a fine order under the ground.

From the artistic  and architectural point of view the palace is regarded as one of the biggest and most magnificent among palaces of the ancient Near East, with its unmatched " ambassadors " hall.

The clay tablet whose length does not exceed that of a finger was found in the secretariat hall of the palace in the excavations of 1948 's season.

Many other tablets  concerning  the state of Ugarit foreign relation including  letters exchanged by the kings of Ugarit and their counterparts were also found at the palace " Diwan". Also among the discovered were a legal office to keep contracts undersigned by citizens, a secretariat for account books; a department for goods and a warehouse which  files diplomatic documents.

An oven for baking clay tablets  and the statue of God Baal and the Ivory  Head were also found. Added to these was the grave  of Priest "Rapanou", north to the royal palace. It was built of seven pieces of intersected stones to protect the statute from earthquakes and other natural resources.

 

Tomader Fateh

Old Damascus Visitors Routes Project

The Municipal Administration Modernization MAM program in Syria aimed  at improving the quality and efficiency of local governance in many walks of life.

The program addressed three main objectives: good local governance;  improvement of local services and capacity building and support of urban growth in Syria.

These include among others, the implementation of these three objectives through 17 action plans, various from legal institutions to technical improvement for the local administration system in the country,  regulation of some  expansion areas, introducing the concept of regional planning in the country, support the local Syrian authorities to implement the national solid waste master plan ; known as  " normal master plan"; Twinning and networking between Syrian and European cities; and Traffic and transport planning .

 

Through each plan the program adopted the concept of learning by doing.

Moreover, the program adopted a pilot project to train the national work group through the implementation of these pilot projects. One example to be cited  is  highlighting administrative reforms at the local level and the good governance, where the program supported the  cities of  Homs, Tartous and the old city of Damascus in order simplify the municipal procedure establishing the " one stop shop" in all these areas. Another  example is the urban development in each city , the municipal program worked on two areas: informal settlement area and the new expansion area. In Damascus, the upgrading strategy for Qassyoun mountain informal settlement area and the development of the west 30 street in al-Qadam area were finalized.

 

One of the local competence plans of the project is the integrated conservation of the old city of Damascus. The project of 'Visitor's routes in Old Damascus' is one of the major projects undertaken by the MAM program, held in collaboration with the Ministries of Local Administration and Environment Affairs. Several options were offered  in these routes , starting from an inclusive route that focuses on the city 's ancient civilization richness to the route  of traditional souqs , to the renowned crafts routes of old Damascus; the classical route that represents the Hellenistic era in the city. However, the short visit route includes several important buildings and ancient locations in the city, while the spiritual route embraces the religious landmarks of the old city.

 

As one of the most significant world heritage sites listed in 1979, not to mention the fact that Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited capital in the world, the proposed routes aim at highlighting the city 's  cultural and civilized richness. In this regard, the program considers all development areas of the world heritage site and the preservation measures applied for such area.  Therefore, it includes architectural improvement and restoration, environmental improvement, traffic and transport improvement and tourism development strategy of the old city of Damascus. The program also includes several initiatives like the publication of some tourism and  cultural promotion material.  The first documentation book  is about  the Umayyad   Mosque , and the second is about visitors route in old city of Damascus. So, the program tries to classify and regroup historically the visiting sites in  the old city of Damascus. So, you find the classical period visiting route, the spiritual route. And in order to facilitate the visit, special road signs were installed now in the streets of the old city.

 

Works also covered  additional routes like traditional  food routes. The project was expanded to encompass the cultural areas outside  the walls of Damascus, including al-Qanawat, Saarouja and al-Meedan areas. For instance, in al-Meedan area, the food restaurants are important but with no promotion for tourists. It is limited to national clients who know the importance of this kind of tourism. Therefore, efforts were made, in an attempt  to develop this experience and very soon tourists will be able to download the maps and the Brochures from the Internet.

 

Tomader Fateh