In Collaboration with Aga Khan Museum, His Highness the Aga Khan Council for the Southwestern United States, and the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston
Tue 15 Nov 2016 – 6:00pm – 8:15pm – Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Blvd, Houston, TX 77004
News of Syria has splashed headlines with stories of violent clashes between ideological-driven belligerents and the mass exodus of its citizens to refugee camps across the globe. However, this land has a long history with strong ties to antiquity as a crossroads of civilizations. Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, became a nexus for Arab, Armenian, Christian, Kurdish, and Turkish communities, earning a reputation for cultural integration and understanding. Aleppo flourished in trade from its strategic location for merchants from Asia, Europe, and North Africa and six centuries ago, it opened the Al-Madina Souk, once the largest covered historic market in the world. The northern Syrian city is also considered a significant site for traditional music in the Arab world and was named the Capital of Islamic Culture in 2006.
Tragically, many of its monuments have been severely damaged by the ongoing Syrian Civil War. The millennium-old minaret aside the Great Mosque of Aleppo was an early casualty, in addition to the staggering loss of human life since combat began over five years ago. Embattled Syrians have struggled to preserve both their own lives and the iconic edifices which tell the rich history of their country. Preservation efforts by NGOs and private archaeologists have been hampered by the fighting and geopolitics, thus the reality is that Aleppo may lose its cultural treasures forever. Dr. Ross Burns, former Ambassador from Australia to Syria and Lebanon, joins Asia Society to discuss Aleppo’s storied background and how the war has affected the city’s historic landscape.
Ambassador Ross Burns worked in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs for 37 years until his retirement in 2003, with roles including Ambassador to Syria and Lebanon (based in Damascus) from 1984 to 1987, Minister in Paris (and Ambassador to UNESCO), and Ambassador in South Africa (1992–95), Athens (1998–2001), and Tel Aviv (2001–2003). After his retirement, he completed a Ph.D. at Macquarie University in Sydney on “The Origins of the Colonnaded Axes of the Cities of the Near East Under Rome,” which is to be published by Oxford University Press in 2017. He is also the author of Damascus, A History (Routledge, 2004) and Monuments of Syria (3rd edition, 2009). Burns maintains a website to provide a visual coverage of Syria’s archaeological treasures and which also tracks the sites that have faced destruction in the current conflict. The website can be found at http://www.monumentsofsyria.com