It is now known that the Arab Culture Ministers have decided 2 years ago to declare Damascus to be the Capital of Arabic Culture for 2008, while Algeria was the Capital for 2007 and Jerusalem the Capital for 2009. On the basis of that agreement, Damascus city started the repairing works of its most important monuments such as the Umayyad Mosque, and prepare for a full year of cinematic, theatric, art fairs, musical and cultural activities in every public complex in Damascus city.
On January 18th, 2008, Damascus celebrated the official opening of festivities for "Damascus, Capital of Arab culture for 2008"
For the first time in Damascus fireworks were used in those celebrations. In the past, security concerns prevented organizers of similar events from using fireworks.
President Assad made a speech that included the expected expressions of pride in Damascus and its history, culture, and significance in the Arab world. But the speech also included hints to the strategic direction the President intends to take Syria in the future.
Damascus is the city where one can find that the routes on which Paul, the Messenger walked have been flowered with amity that he planted and Khaled is opening his arms at the eastern gate of Damascus embracing you... The Umayyads are looking to the horizon on the minarets of the Umayyad Mosque guarding John the Baptist... and Saladin is mocking those who have been harboring evil to Damascus.
Damascus holds between its monuments the tombs of renowned philosophers, poets and artists from all over the Arab homeland form the tomb of Farabi, the tomb of Ersouzi, the tomb of Ibn Arabi and the tomb of Nabulsi to the tomb of Nizar Kabbani.
The secretary-general, declared "Damascus, the capital of Arab culture means to be the capital of the Arab dignity... gives us the strong sense of human and national pride, so Damascus is the capital of the resistance culture as an inherent feature of our Arab culture features... it is the culture of freedom and defense of freedom... it is the culture of creativity because creativity and freedom cannot be separated... Damascus, the capital of the Arab culture is a great and deep lesson and indicates the dialog of cultures and their co-existence and is a symbol of the richness of life and an eloquent proof on the futility of idea of civilizations clash."
The Environmental Garden: It is the first of its kind in Syria, specifically in the heart of old Damascus. It gathers a collection of all kinds of plants and flowers that grow in Barada River basin. The idea of the garden was executed by the Syrian society of Environment and founded by Switzerland with the support of the Syrian government. The garden is located next to Damascus castle viewing its lofty walls. The ladies of the society have gathered to defend the idea of the garden after it was a dump area, created the design and established the garden by October 2005. The festival of Damascus, Capital of Arab Culture included the broadening of the environmental gardens around the country, where one can have a nice time in its café that offers soft drinks and healthy snacks on the view of the green garden. Of course the activities can be held in such gardens in the future as mentioned in the general-secretary statement.
Secretary-general confirms that the renovation will include all cities and major towns all over Syria, so that instead of attracting citizens to certain cultural places no matter how far it is from them, the cultural events would be closer to people in every part of Syria. This is the main purpose of the celebration.