The Syrian Directorate of Archaeological Scientific and Reconstructive Laboratories at the DGAM in cooperation with the Ministry of Endowments and the administration of Umayyad Mosque is working on the restoration of the damaged part of the mosaic decorating the external main façade of the mosque in an attempt to restore its former shape without violating its authentic artistic, historical and archaeological essence.
The mortar shell that fell on the mosque resulted in the loss of part of the mosaic with a diameter of 1 square meter and separation in its frame due to the pressure resulting from the shell. In addition, the shell led to the destruction of the main bearer of ''al-Khabur'' mosaic.
Dr. Kumait Abdullah, director of the Laboratories and expert in the study of the art of old mosaic, has asserted that the mosaic under renovation is the largest mural mosaic decorating the walls of the corridors surrounding the courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, which is considered the most important and oldest archaeological mosque in the world following the Two Holy Mosques and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The mosaic is 37 meters wide and 5 meters high; moreover, it depicts a natural landscape consisting mainly of extremely tall trees, residential buildings and palaces.
Furthermore, Dr. Abdullah has pointed out that the theme of the mosaic may represent Paradise and the lands under the authority of the caliph. Its significance, in addition, is embodied in the fact that it is one of the key ornamental components accompanying the construction of the mosque during the reign of the Umayyad caliph, al-Walid bin Abdul Malik, 705-717 AD, as well as being the beginning of the art of ornamentation in the Islamic era since it portrays no humans nor animals. Besides, there is technical and artistic resemblance between the mosaic under restoration in the Umayyad Mosque and mosaics unearthed in Ravenna, Italy, and Istanbul of the Byzantine era.
In addition, Dr Mahmud al-Said, deputy director of the Laboratories and expert in ancient inscriptions reading at the DGAM, has indicated that he has used tiles made of colored glass and marble against a background made of gilded glass tiles in the restoration of the mosaic. Al-said has affirmed that the restoration work is being carried out by internationally experienced national restoration cadres. It is worth mentioning, as well, that the mosaic has formerly been subject to damage and restoration work. Soon after, full maintenance and preservation of all of the mosaics in the Umayyad Mosque will be conducted, and the full details of the restoration work, maintenance, preservation and study will be published in order to introduce, preserve and document the international Syrian archaeological cultural heritage.
The restoration process has gone through several phases summarized by the two restoration experts of the Syrian Directorate of Archaeological Scientific and Reconstructive Laboratories, Burhan al-Zaraa and Muhammad al-Kayed, by removing the metal grid located within the old cement and cleaning the edges of the damaged part so as to have good and reliable edges for the restoration process.
Moreover, the restoration process has included the strengthening of the parts detached from the wall by means of installing metal dowels to connect the mosaic with the wall.
The two experts has added that the missing shape in the mosaic contains the remains of the columns of a palace in addition to its main entrance and the remains of the projection of a gabled roof and some plant themes and elements. Tiling work and forming the missing drawings in the damaged place started after drawing the missing part on calck paper and identifying the wanted colors.