Located in the southernmost of the West Bank, some 20 km south of Hebron, the ancient city of As Samou’ (26,000 inhabitants) is richly endowed with cultural heritage.
Its origins can be traced back to the Roman and Byzantine times. In the Middle Ages, the city remained active, which is reflected in the vestiges from the Crusaders period. A Roman temple, remains of the city walls and of an ancient tower are among the most important heritage assets still to be seen, along with what is left of an ancient tower discovered in 1934 and mostly destroyed in an Israeli attack in 1966.
In addition to the above archaeological assets, As Samou’ also boasts an interesting vernacular heritage in the form of traditional built compunds (ahwash) that reflect a variety of architectural styles and a mix of historic construction materials, attesting to the intricacies of the city’s long history.
Like any other village, town or city situated in the West Bank, As Samou’s cultural heritage is threatened at two levels. At one level, it suffers from the consequences of the Israeli occupation, as the city never recovered from the consequences of the sizeable destruction perpetrated in 1966.
At the second level, an incremental deterioration is due to several local factors, including fragmentation in ownership, high costs of maintenance and restoration and, until recently, a general lack of awareness by local authorities of the need to address the situation and salvage this heritage.
The restoration and adaptive reuse of the city’s ahwash for social and community development purposes are considered a priority by large parts of the population and fit well with the national Strategy and Program of Regeneration of the Historical Centers which the Palestinian Ministry of Local Government is implementing with the assistance of international donors.
Scheduled for a duration of up to 30 months, the project will fully document this heritage, undertake much needed consolidation and restoration works, and facilitate the establishment of cultural centre for young people in one of the most important ahwash in the heart of the old city. The project is articulated in four components: building a shared vision, inventories, rehabilitation, community development.
Local residents will contribute to the project through volunteering work and participation in the project activities, including training and awareness raising.