Al Azem Palace, Syria


An exceptional example of Damascene architecture

Expedition Overview
The Al Azem Palace was documented as part of Project Anqa, a collaboration between the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), CyArk and Yale University, funded by the Arcadia Foundation in the UK. The project began in 2015 in response to the catastrophic loss of heritage in the Middle East and aimed to protect monuments by providing training on digital preservation techniques for local heritage professionals in the region. CyArk provided several training and workshops in Lebanon to Syrian heritage professionals in 2016 and 2017 in partnership with the UNESCO Office for the Preservation of Syrian Cultural Heritage. The Al Azem Palace in Damascus was documented by the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in 2017, using photogrammetry and LiDAR.

Project Anqa is a collaboration between ICOMOS, CyArk and Carleton University.

Introducing the Al Azem Palace
The Al Azem Palace was built in 1752 by the Ottoman governor of Damascus As'ad al-Azem. As’ad Pasha came from a Syrian family who had governed Damascus for two generations. Displaying the power and prestige of the Azem family, As’ad Pasha built the palace using family funds. Part of the palace was purchased by the French government in 1922, only to be largely destroyed after the French attack on the Old City in 1925. As’ad Pasha himself had commissioned the reuse of older columns, masonry and even timber from local buildings, incorporating different aspects of Damascus’ past into his palace. The palace has two main wings: the haremlik and the selamlik. The family wing, or haremlik, was a private space which contained the sleeping quarters, the kitchen, the hamam, the servant’s quarters as well as an impressive courtyard with a variety of plants. The selamlik was where guests were received, with its formal halls, reception area and exclusive courtyard.

View of interior courtyard of Selamlik, a portion of the household reserved for the guests. Image captured with NCTech iSTAR.

A masterpiece of Damascene architecture
The palace was built with alternating dark and light ablaq masonry, a typical feature of monumental Damascene architecture. One of the most lavish examples of a traditional Damascene home, the windows are adorned with ornate stone lattice work, decorated arches and columns line the courtyards and the courtyards surround central fountains from which paved marble and stone tiled designs emanate towards the built structures. The interior rooms of the palace are covered with more delicate tiles, displaying complex geometric designs. The central ceilings are covered in carved and painted intricate woodwork depicting floral and geometric designs. 

Summary of Data Captured

This project resulted in the following data which is now freely available for non-commercial use.

Areas with LiDAR documentation are indicated in grey. Areas with photogrammetry are indicated in yellow.

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Credits: Story

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This project was made possible through the following partners:

DGAM Syria


Yale University

Arcadia Fund

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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