Located in central western Syria, the town of Masyaf nestles on the eastern slope of the coastal mountains. The Citadel of Masyaf, which is built on a rocky promontory, is the result of several phases and is marked by considerable changes and destruction. The record of these changes is still recognizable in a few structures. The monument represents a unique cultural heritage for the quality of the architecture, the variety and quality of the materials and for the complexity of the historical stratifications. The Citadel rises at the eastern side of the Old City and is a landmark for the whole city. The site is one of the most famous monuments of the Islamic architecture of the coastal region. Furthermore, the Citadel can be the object of important archaeological investigations in the future.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria (DGAM) on 1 December 1999 to present support in the restoration of three citadels in Syria (Aleppo, Masyaf and Salah al-Din). Since that time a considerable amount of work has been completed in the Citadel of Masyaf through cooperation with the Antiquities department.
Most of the areas within the site were selected to become the focus of conservation efforts, with the intention that the DGAM would continue work elsewhere using methodologies and skills acquired during the joint project implementation. The work has been developed following international standards and methodology of conservation, restoration and rehabilitation. The choices made were the result of in-depth analyses of the monument’s history, of its present physical and figurative state, and of its conservation status. Surveys were carried out with the analysis of materials and systems of decay.
The Citadel of Masyaf is a very dense complex containing a series of buildings and monuments with different historic elements and features, which called for a diversified approach and different forms of conservation and maintenance targeted to the specific requirements of each structure or category of structures.
The main structures are the barbican, the hammam, the stair and the main gateway; the ring wall and the towers; the south-western compound of the outer citadel; the tunnel, the cisterns and the store rooms; the eastern and western terraces; the donjon or inner castle; and the palace complex containing the Byzantine castle.