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Syria's National Museum of Damascus reopens after six years of closure

After several key victories against rebel forces, the government has decided to reopen the national museum in the capital city.

The National Museum of Damascus has reopened for the first time since the raging Syrian civil war forced its closure in 2012.

Restoration specialists and foreign archaeologists were among those to attend a ceremony marking its restoration, which was hailed as a return to normal life for locals robbed of the beloved attraction by the looming threat of conflict.

After several key victories against rebel forces, relative calm has been brought back to the capital and provided the government with enough confidence to reopen the museum.

Culture minister Mohamed al-Ahmad told reporters and visitors: "The opening of the museum is a genuine message that Syria is still here and her heritage would not be affected by terrorism.

"I could say that this is a political, cultural and economic victory for us. Today, Damascus has recovered."

Among the antiquities on display are murals from the second century Dura-Europos in eastern Syria, historical statues of the Greek goddess of victory from the south, and textiles from central Palmyra - all of which had been removed from the building following its closure.

Mahmoud Hammoud, head of the government branch responsible for antiquities and museums, said four of the five sections of the museum would be open to the public, showcasing findings that date back to the prehistoric, historical, classical and Islamic eras.

But he added that more funding was required to further renovate the museum, with many important artefacts and sculptures having been smuggled abroad or irreparably damaged during the crisis.

Bartosz Markowski, a Polish specialist in conservation of stone sculpture and architectural detail, said at the opening he had been working in Palmyra before the war broke out.

"I am saving heritage, mostly in Palmyra, where I have been working before the crisis," he said.

"I came right after liberation and helped with urgent conservation and protection of destroyed objects in Palmyra, but there is still a lot of damage in Palmyra."

Mr Hammoud's predecessor, Maamoun Abdul-Karim, was in the role between 2012 and 2017 - when the decision was made to close the museum and hide its valuables.

He said Syria would need years to reopen all museums nationwide

"We hope that today's inauguration will be a good start for Syria," he said.

"After saving around 300,000 antiquities, we are waiting for these antiquities to be settled in their original museums and hope things will go back to normal in all the Syrian territories."

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