NABLUS, July 19, 2012 (WAFA) – The European Union and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) joined hands in restoring one of Nablus’ historical buildings, Khan al-Wakalah, to its former glory, according to a joint EU, UNESCO press release.
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, EU’s head of operations Sergio Piccolo and the representative of UNESCO office in Ramallah, Derek Elias, inaugurated on Tuesday the restored building, which was opened to the public, located in the heart of Nablus' old city that used to be a Mamluk-Ottoman caravanserai.
UNESCO - with €2.5 million funding from the EU - rehabilitated the compound to become a hub for commerce, tourism and cultural services, said the release.
The works focused on conserving the ancient architectural structures and reconstructing the missing parts of the compound and surrounding area. A business plan has been prepared on how to transform the site into a profit-generating center to ensure that the restoration work has a long-term impact.
“Nablus is a city with an immortal spirit, full of history and full of life,” said Piccolo at the inauguration ceremony.
“We started from the heart of its old city not just to restore a site, but also to revitalize the commercial and cultural life of Nablus. We are very proud of what we have accomplished together with our local and international partners, after years of hard work and perseverance,” he added.
“Looking at the quality of the renovation, this has been a worthwhile investment and one of huge potential in terms of job creation and economic growth for Nablus,” added Piccolo.
Once fully operational the compound will house a small nine-room inn, a tourist center and agencies to help visitors and several shops to sell traditional handicrafts such as the famous olive oil soap and traditional embroidery.
There will also be restaurant on two floors and the old courtyard, where mules and camels used to be tethered overnight for hundreds of years, is now a venue for public events.
“The inauguration is an event which goes beyond today’s celebration,” said Elias. “It embodies the achievement of a decade of commitment and determination of the key stakeholders who have patiently overcome a variety of obstacles to bring this project to completion. It is a tangible and vivid reaffirmation of the importance of culture and heritage to the identity of the Palestinian people.”
Through the cooperation with Al-Najah University, the restoration and adaptive re-use of the Khan al Wakalah was an excellent opportunity to transfer the traditional know-how to the young generation of workers in the field of conservation by organizing an onsite training activity called “yard-school,” said the press release.
The project also aimed at enhancing public awareness towards the protection and conservation of cultural heritage in Palestine by organizing several activities such as public lectures and site visits.