Saroujah

Key facts

► Saroujah is an historical district of the city of Damascus threatened by the current development of the city that could results in the destruction of the historical heritage.

► Souq Sarouja with its’ surroundings has previously formed an important urban integration within the historical and contextual development of Damascus.

► Because of the french planning in Syria The district was cut by a street and thus separated from the other parts. After that, the district were considered to be demolished and replaced with large offices buildings. The land were sold to investors but then the project froze.

Text from: Text from: Sarouja Research, IWLAB, Wesam Asali, Iyas Shahin.

Sarouja is a municipality of Damascus north of the Old City. It was the first part of Damascus to be built outside the city walls in the 13th century. The beginnings of Souq Sarouja started on the XII century, when the eastern side of Sarouja called Al Ouienah or Ouienat al Hema, and in which the extension of the districts out of Damascus wall emerged from the side of Oqaibah, many buildings were built in the Ayyubid era represented by tombs and graves like the Najmiah tomb and Moiniah tomb and the great school of Set Al Sham (al Madrasah al Shamyah). Jozet Al Hadba also evolved with the Mosque Al Wazeer and a Hammam Hasan which refers that the area held a residential aspect. In Mamluk era, Saouq Sarouja had flourished , concretely in the reign of Saif Al Din Tinkez in the XIV century. And since then, The Souq was Named Souiqet Sarouja after the name of one leaders of Tenkez who is Sarem Al Din Sarouja Al Mothaffari. However, Sarouja has suffered some destructions while the reign of the belated Mamluks. During the Ottoman reign, the features of Sarouja has changed
to contain luxurious houses, Hammams and Mosques and was called The Small Istanbul.

Souq Sarouja nowadays hold a tremendous history and more tremendous fabrics with many buildings with deferent references gather by its’ importance and the love it have of the place it belong to. Souq Sarouja with its’ surroundings has previously formed an important urban integration within the historical and contextual development of Damascus. Furthermore, all boundaries of each district were almost impossible to recognize in terms of physical distinction
and were only divided administratively. The connecting core that links old Damascus to the out-wall districts started from Bab Al Amraá to Oqaibah and Souq Sarouja until ends to Salhiyeh in the versant of Qasyon, and was the most important cores of Damascus development as it was the main hub of all city Souqs, Monuments, Schools and great mosques of each district. However, this core was cut out when the new modern urban planning of Damascus suggested a main street, Al Thawra St , to run between Al Oqaibah and Sarouja and to tear both sites apart of their content. The comparison between old
and new plans shows that the core itself were drifted somewhere from its original roots that used to be along the elevation of Al Shamyah School. Now the district is outside the walled city but it is an old fabric. Because of the french planning in Syria The district was cut by a street and thus separated from the other parts. After that, the district were considered to be demolished and replaced with large offices buildings. The land were sold to investors but then the project froze. Now, people still live in it, it is sold, but they cannot demolished it (many people opposes this) nor they can restore and maintain their houses. All this complexity makes it an interesting case of capitals vs heritage.

83000
Inhabitants of
Sarouja in 2004

Text from: Text from: Stefano Bianca, Urban Form in the Arab World, Thames & Hudson, 2000.

An issue that needs to be considered is the upgrading of the historical quarters to levels not identical with, but comparable to modern districts. This
implies that governmental investments in infrastructure, social facilities and enhancement of public open spaces, which so far tended to favor new quarters, have to be redirected towards the old city, in order to ensure a more equitable treatment of both urban entities and to release catalytic effects with regard to private sector rehabilitation efforts. Yet in order to avoid counter-productive investments, careful adaption of such new facilities will be required to match the specific physical constraints of the historic fabric.
The massive rural immigration towards the old cities and their fringe areas, a phenomenon which started building up after political independence in the fifties and recalls similar demographic shifts in late 19th century Europe, is often seen as a threat to the survival of the architectural heritage. It would, however, be erroneous to completely identify the social processes that occurred a century ago in Europe with those taking place in the Islamic world
today. First of all, historic muslim cities have always retained much closer ties with their rural hinterland and the respective tribal societies. In fact most cities perpetuated semi-rural patterns of living and production inside the walls, and there is a long tradition of rural people settling on the periphery and gradually building up new suburbs in continuity with the urban structure “intra muros”.
Moreover it would be unrealistic to expect that recently urbanized rural societies can successfully integrate Western industrialization models within a few
years. Leaving aside the question of whether this would be at all desirable, it is simply not feasible, as demonstrated by many Third World problems resulting from inappropriate and ill-digested “progress”. Therefore alternative and intermediate ways of development have to be sought, which enable the specific resources and capacities of this societies to grow and bear fruit in their own way.