The digital documentation of Bimaristan Nur al-Din was part of Project Anqa, a collaboration between CyArk, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and Carleton University with funding support from the UK based charity, Arcadia Foundation. Responding to the catastrophic loss of heritage in the Middle East, the project seeks to further protect monuments through training local heritage professionals in digital preservation techniques. In partnership with the UNESCO Office for Safeguarding Syrian Cultural Heritage, CyArk trained Syrian heritage professionals in Lebanon to carry out the digital documentation of six sites in Damascus, including Bimaristan Nur al-Din.
Introducing Bimaristan Nur al-Din
Over eight centuries old, the Bimaristan Nur al-Din, is the earliest surviving site for the development of Islamic medicine. Throughout the building’s lifetime, the site has functioned as a medical school as well as a place of healing in the heart of the old city of Damascus. Built in 1154, the building is characterized by its red brick muqarnas, elaborate entrance block, and finely carved wooden doors. The hospital was in use until the 20th century when it was converted into a Museum of Arabic Medicine and Science. The preservation of the building is a reminder of the major contributions of Islamic medicine to the world today.
The Lecture Hall
The bismaristan contains four iwans, or vaulted spaces set back from a wall, laid out in axial symmetry. The largest iwan was used as a lecture and meeting hall. Students could gather in the space to learn from renowned physicians and access medical texts to study from. Two storage spaces encased within the walls of the iwan were used as built-in bookcases for the many medical books donated by Nur al-Din to the bimaristan. The space features a marble dado rail, a type of moulding fixed to the wall around the perimeter of a room, decorated in passages from the Qur’an. The passages, quotes about medicine and healing, both reflected the building’s purpose and acted as a blessing for the bimaristan.
View from inside the courtyard at Bimaristan of Nur al-Din
Open Heritage 3D by CyArkCyArk
Data from this project is now freely available through Open Heritage 3D.
Download the data from this project.
About Open Heritage 3D
The mission of the Open Heritage 3D project is to:
● Provide open access to 3D cultural heritage datasets for education, research and other
● Minimize the technical, financial and legal barriers for publishers of 3D heritage data.
● Promote discovery and re-use of datasets through standardized metadata and data formats.
● Foster community collaboration and knowledge sharing in the 3D cultural heritage community.
● Share best practices and methodologies for the capture, processing and storage of 3D cultural heritage data
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This project was made possible through the generous support of the Arcadia Fund and the following partners:
Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums Syria
International Council on Monuments and Sites
UNESCO Office for Safeguarding Syrian Cultural Heritage