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National Museum recovers priceless Syrian artefacts from British custody

13 Sep 2023 By OUR CORRESPONDENT

Muscat – In a collaborative effort, National Museum of Oman has successfully retrieved looted Syrian artefacts previously under the care of the British Museum.

This initiative was undertaken in collaboration with the Foreign Ministry, Royal Air Force of Oman’s Directorate General of Operations, Syria’s Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums, Russia’s Hermitage Museum and the British Museum. The retrieval aims to restore these treasures to the Syrian government.

The formal handover took place at the National Museum on Wednesday in the presence of H H Dr Mona bint Fahd al Said, Assistant Vice-Chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University for International Cooperation and Vice-Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum, Jamal bin Hassan al Moosawi, Secretary-General of National Museum, Sheikh Hamid bin Ali al Maani, Head of International Affairs Department at Foreign Ministry, H E Dr Idris Ahmed Mia, Ambassador of Syria to Oman, and other officials.

In a recorded speech, Dr Lubanah Mshaweh, Syrian Minister of Culture, expressed profound gratitude. “Today we celebrate the return of invaluable Syrian artefacts. This moment is a testament to years of dedication by various entities recognising the cultural significance of these relics.”

She conveyed Syria’s deep appreciation to Oman for its unwavering support and assistance in transporting the artefacts to Muscat.

Highlighting the collective effort, Moosawi emphasised, “Our commitment to Syrian heritage preservation, particularly during its challenging times, is both a human duty and shared responsibility. It bolsters national identity and fosters reconciliation, trust and stability.”

Highlighting the deep cultural ties between Syria and Oman, H E Mia said, “The sultanate’s effort in restoring these looted artefacts showcases its dedication to preserving global and particularly Syrian heritage.”

H E Dr Idris Ahmed Mia, Ambassador of Syria to Oman

The returned artefacts comprise a stone lintel and segments of a limestone archaeological structure from the 4th century CE (Byzantine Empire). Last documented in its complete form in 1988 in the Nawa site of the Hauran region, the artefact surfaced in the UK in 1999, having been illegally exported. Attempts to sell it failed, and the piece eventually landed in the hands of a London dealer. Following a tip-off to the Metropolitan Police Service, it was seized in 2016. The owner relinquished it in 2019 expressing wishes for its return to Syria.

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