In a strategic move back in 2008, the renowned Kempinski Hotels slated its expansion into the Syrian hospitality market with a couple of groundbreaking projects. One of these was the UNESCO-listed property, Khan Suliman Pasha, poised for restoration within the historic contours of Old Damascus. However, geopolitical instability led Kempinski to discontinue the initiative, leaving its local partner, Wahoud Group, with the responsibility to safeguard this cultural asset.
Fast-forward a decade, and enter Dr. Muhamad Ali Wahoud, Chairman of Wahoud Group. Recognizing both the historical and potential economic value of this ancient architectural marvel, he green-lighted its renovation in 2018.
The Historical Significance of Khan Suliman Pasha
Built in 1736, Khan Sulayman Pasha al-Azem is not just any structure. It is one of the world’s last-standing caravanserais and a distinguished example of Ottoman architectural expertise in Syria. Positioned along the ancient Straight Street—also known as Souk Midhat Pasha—the Khan has played host to numerous historical epochs. From its Roman-built pathways to its pivotal role as a rest stop on the Silk Road and a pilgrimage gateway to Saudi Arabia, the Khan stands as a multi-layered relic of global history.
The structure was once part of a network of khans that laid the groundwork for what historians believe was the world’s first globalized overland network. These khans served as trading and social hubs for a broad spectrum of travelers, traders, and nomads, making them centers of multicultural exchange.
The building’s design focuses on functional architectural creativity, emphasizing a central courtyard designed to foster community activities rather than ostentatious decoration. In a nod to its original grandeur, two of the largest domes in Old Damascus crown the edifice. Though damaged by a late 19th-century earthquake, these domes are being replaced by high-tech glass structures, both to preserve historical integrity and to introduce a modern element to the building.
The Road Ahead: Khan Wahoud and the Resurgence of Syrian Hospitality
Under Dr. Wahoud’s stewardship, the Khan is soon to be rebranded as “Khan Wahoud”—a multi-purpose hub targeting social, cultural, and commercial exchange. The restoration, executed with scientific precision, employs traditional raw-earth local materials integrated with modern engineering techniques.
There is ample reason to anticipate that the rebirth of this UNESCO-registered property will reinvigorate not just the local hospitality industry but the broader Syrian cultural and economic landscape as well. A carefully curated team of architects, structural engineers, designers, and craftsmen are ensuring that the Khan will resurface as radiant as it was three centuries ago.
Syria’s Promising Horizon
While current circumstances in Syria may present challenges, there exists a glimmer of a brighter future led by forward-thinking entrepreneurs like Dr. Muhamad Wahoud. Through ventures like these, the seeds for Syria’s regeneration and economic stability are being sown.
In summary, the restoration of Khan Suliman Pasha exemplifies the untapped potential of Syria’s hospitality sector and serves as a promising indicator of the country’s capacity for renewal and growth.