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The Art and Heritage of Courtyard Homes in Syria

Syria is the soul of the Arab world & is nicknamed paradise on earth. One of the oldest civilizations in the world, it is a region rich in history & culture. A famous feature of Syria is the traditional architecture of its courtyard homes.

In the old city of Damascus, Syria, lies centuries old houses that are a staple of Syrian historical architecture. Damascus is a city of rich history and beautiful and unique architecture. In Damascus houses that are centuries old still remain.

Many examples of Damascene houses still serve their original purpose: to be an Earthly paradise for their inhabitants. From outside, a typical Damascene house presents only walls and a door, but once inside a rich and beautiful interior welcomes the guest.

The emphasis of the courtyard in Islamic architecture gave it the name of the "architecture of the veil", because it focuses on the inner spaces (courtyards and rooms) which are not visible from the outside.

Syrian houses were designed to be deceptive – an example of the “architecture of the veil.”. What was beautiful was kept hidden. Homes were made to look unappealing and plain on the outside to ward off the interest of potential thieves.

As you enter a traditional Syrian house, it’s like you’ve travelled back in time. You are met immediately with a calming scene, the steady stream of water from a central fountain, lavish gardens made up of citrus trees, lemon & orange, roses bushes & delicate jasmine flowers

The entrance of a Syrian house opens up to a central courtyard with a fountain, which masks outside noises and in summer helps cool the air. Its aquatic sounds also serve as the notes of a natural musical instrument found across the Islamic world.

The air perfumed with rich and sweet scents, the courtyard in the Syrian home was a semblance of the outside world without being outside, a piece of nature growing in the middle of a house.

Besides, the mimicry of nature, the courtyard in Syrian homes was adorned with beautiful designs that add to the overall aesthetic appeal, the floors were woven with intricate geometric patterns and shapes. The famous black and white stripes decorate the walls.

Courtyards in Syrian homes are traditionally decorated with hanging plants and tiled walls.

The courtyard house in Syria traditionally on the ground floor comprising the main living areas is called Al Salamlek, and the first floor comprising “the private areas” are called Al Haramlek.

The feature of the Syrian home that is the standpoint of the historic house is the “central open courtyard.” The courtyard was designed to be an inside and outdoor space, here guests can cool off and entertain while having privacy.

The courtyard in Syrian homes is appropriate to hot dry climates because it maximises shading & allows for the creation of a pleasant microclimate. The availability of plants and a water feature within the courtyard helps in cooling and humidifying the internal atmosphere.

In the Syrian home the iwan is a covered open space from which the aesthetic qualities of the courtyard can be enjoyed. It provides a raised platform, used as a comfortable open air reception & seating area & a venue for evening events such as the playing of traditional music.

A house could have one, two or even three courtyards, depending on the status of the owner. Very few Syrian houses would have baths; instead, residents would visit the local hammam, which were abundant.

Syria’s architecture has adapted to its change in culture, and the old courtyard style though in decline, is still seen as a proud historical facet of Syrian history.

Homes with an internal courtyard have become a rarity as Syria’s architecture has adapted to its change in culture. With modernity comes the dramatic change in tradition and culture.

The courtyard is still a key feature in Syrian architecture more generally, with some courtyards being exquisitely ornate and luxurious.

As well as homes, courtyards are included in many aspects of Syrian architecture including restaurants and hotels. These also present similar aesthetics and design.

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