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16 Aug, 2018 17:15

Battle-scarred Palmyra will be ready for tourists next summer – Syrian officials

Battle-scarred Palmyra will be ready for tourists next summer – Syrian officials

The ancient Syrian city of Palmyra will be expecting tourists next summer, according to local officials. However, much of its historic beauty and significance has been reduced to rubble by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

Governor of Homs Province Talal al-Barazi believes that “by the summer of 2019 Palmyra will be completely ready for tourists,” as quoted by RIA Novosti.

Palmyra, often referred to as the Bride of the Syrian Desert, was a center of commerce and culture, as well as home to a crossing of trade routes. It reached its peak of grandeur in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.

But the city, once the capital of the Palmyrene Empire and one of the richest cities of the Roman Empire, is a shell of what it once was. It lost several important artifacts in the first IS offensive in 2015, including the Temple of Bel, Temple of Baalshamin, the Arch of Triumph, and columns in the Valley of the Tombs, which had stood for almost 2,000 years.

Palmyra changed hands four times during Syria’s civil war, and was subjected to more damage each time IS regained control. However, Barazi says the government is looking forward, telling reporters on Wednesday that it is planning to restore the World Heritage Site so it can be enjoyed by visitors.

The Syrian government has also received offers of help from other countries, including Russia, Poland, and Italy, as well as from UNESCO and European NGOs. In November, Russian researchers unveiled a model of the city at the St. Petersburg cultural forum, which was given to Syria to help restore and preserve the city. 

“This is world history and it belongs not only to Syria,” Barazi said.

Earlier, the Syrian government launched a program to restore some of the ancient artifacts on its own. Several local experts are currently working on rebuilding Palmyra’s sculptures.

READ MORE: ‘Call it Palmyra’: Kadyrov says new missile should be named in honor of Russian heroism in Syria

However, militants left Palmyra extensively rigged with mines. Russian professionals are having to defuse more than 6,600 explosive devices before any reconstruction could begin.

IS militants initially captured Palmyra in 2015, deliberately demolishing and damaging some of its world-famous historic sites. In March 2016, it was recaptured by the Syrian Army, supported by Russian airstrikes. IS managed to win Palmyra back in December and to hold it until March 2017, when it was finally liberated by Damascus.

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