Stories of Palmyra | European Heritage Stories

Stories of Palmyra | European Heritage Stories

Stories of Palmyra | European Heritage Stories


What happens to the stories and memories of the people, when they have to flee their city? How does this loss of memory effect future generations? The Syrian archaeologist Hasan Ali started to collect the stories of the former Palmyrenes in diaspora in the framework of the Stewards of Cultural Heritage Project. His project was now submitted to the European Heritage Days Stories.

Hasan Ali grew up in the Oasis of Palmyra and he knows about the deep roots of the local community, which almost entirely has left the city.  The archaeologist sees the continuation of the ancient civilizations of Palmyra in the local people of the area. This is why he thinks that without the (displaced) local population there is a significant interruption of the continued traditions and heritage in Palmyra. During the last years he has dedicated his time to fill up this “heritage gap”.

A Steward of Cultural Heritage

In 2017, Hasan Ali became one of the Stewards of Cultural Heritage, an initiative by the German Archaeological Institute – Istanbul Department as part of the „Stunde Null – A Future for the Time after the Crisis„-project. The project helps to safeguard Syrian cultural heritage through capacity building of Syrian heritage specialists who are residing in Turkey. SoCH was initiated under the umbrella of the Archaeological Heritage Network (ArcHerNet) with support by the German Federal Foreign Office, and the Gerda Henkel Foundation. In 2019, the Stewards of Cultural Heritage won the European Heritage Award/ Europa Nostra.

Remembering the stories about a place is keeping the memories of a place alive.

As a Steward of Cultural Heritage, Hasan Ali attempts to document an important aspect of Palmyrene heritage, which are the memories of the 20th and 21th century events. By documenting these stories and reconnecting them to the place where they come from – at least virtually – he wants to give the former inhabitants of Palmyra/ Tadmur a voice. In other words, remembering the stories about a place is keeping the memories of a place alive.

Archaeologis Hasan Ali conducting fieldwork in Syria.

The return of the ‘original’ population to the city to ensure the preservation of Palmyra/Tadmur’s heritage for future generations seems to be for the near future an unrealistic scenario. It is still the best and only way in Hasan’s opinion, to ensure a sound transfer of knowledge – in particular of intangible heritage – from elders to grandchildren. However, he is fully aware that this is a dream right now. Therefore, and to fill the gap created by the current displacement of the city’s population, he started to record and analyse the refugees’ memories of Palmyra/Tadmur, to be able to share their narratives with their children and the world until they may safely return to their home city – Palmyra.

European Heritage Days Stories

His story has now been submitted to the European Heritage Days Stories, which intends to identify the European Dimension of heritage sites and heritage work undertaken by the communities in Europe. It refers to past or existing „stories“ that communities would like to share and potentially develop into a project to further contribute to their communities.

Title image: Children in Palmyra | Foto: Hasan Ali.

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