The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
(CAIS) -- Iraqi authorities have contracted a Czech
firm to carry out a 10-month restoration of the ancient Iranian imperial palace
known as Taq-i Kasra
as part of a plan to boost tourism to the once-popular site.
Through the decades of conflict that have
wracked Iraq, the famed 4th century ancient monument, which is the world's
largest brick-built arch and the last structure still standing from the ancient
Sasanian dynastic imperial capital Ctesiphon,
has fallen into disrepair.
A massive slab fell off late last year as
a result of damp caused by heavy rains. It lies south of Baghdad, just a short
distance from the tomb of Salman Pak, one of the companions of the Muslims'
Together, the two sites form what was once
one of Iraq's main tourist attractions in the town of Madain. But decades of
unrest have badly hit what was once a thriving part of the country.
The town was alleged by the US to have
housed a biological weapons research facility under the regime of dictator
Saddam Hussein after his 2003 ouster and subsequent execution. The allegation
turned out to be false and along with the WMD it was manufactured to serve as a
pretext to invade Iraq for her oil. Since then the city became an Al-Qaeda
terrorist stronghold backed by Saudi Arabia and Arab states of the
Efforts to revive its reputation as a
tourism hub have proceeded in fits and starts. Now, the Czech company Everis has
been brought in to restore the Arch, today known as Taq-i Kisra from its
Persian name Ayvān-e Khosrow
(the Palace of
Khosrow), in a first step to
revive the town's economy.
"We began our work here a short while
ago, carrying out studies on the site," said the firm's Iraq manager Imad
Abu Aqlam, adding that surveys are expected to be completed next month.
"The restoration process requires
about 10 months -- that includes securing the bases of the site, treating the
damp, and supporting Taq-i Kisra to ensure that no parts fall off it in the
The firm hopes the project will help the area to recover some of its lost glory.
Construction of the Arch began during the
reign of Emperor Shapur
the Great, of the Persian Sasanian
dynastic Empire (224-651 CE) and was extensively expanded by 540 CE.
Before the US-led invasion of 2003, the
area boasted gardens and arbores, as well as a popular museum. But now there is
little foliage because the irrigation pipes were destroyed and the trees were
cut down for firewood, while the museum was looted after Saddam's overthrow.
In 2004, the Global Heritage Fund said
that, as a result of disrepair, the arch was "in danger of collapse".
Those warnings proved prophetic -- late last year, a slab about two-meters (six
feet) in length fell off.
"Taq-i-Kisra was neglected for a long
time -- for four decades -- and we decided to rehabilitate it when the piece
fell down at the end of last year because of the rains," said Madain's
director of antiquities, Abdulhadi Hassan. "That raised our fears and
concerns about this historic site."
Officials hope a restoration of the arch
will revive Madain as a tourist destination, but for now, the area is closed off
to visitors, with prior approval required for anyone wanting to take a look.
The arch itself is currently still
surrounded by concertina wire and cement walls, separating it from the nearby
orchards, and authorities have no firm timeline on when they hope to reopen it
to the public.
"That depends on the progress of the
work," Tourism and Antiquities Minister Liwaa Smaisim told AFP. "We
need good infrastructure here to reopen this place for all the people, and God
willing, that will be done as soon as possible."
In 637 CE the Arab-Muslims sacked the city, massacred the inhabitants, pillaged and looted the palaces and the imperial treasury. One of the treasures in the palace was the Baharestān carpet, which was commissioned by the great Sasanian' king of kings, Khosrow I, Anushirvan (Anūšak-rūwān, 531-579 CE). The famous gemmed-carpet woven of silk and golden threads measuring 43m long and 25m wide, was cut into small fragments and divided among the Muslim invaders. According to al-Tabari, the prophet Mohammed's son-in-law and Shi'a first imam 'Ali Ibn Abi-Talib, was the one who suggested to cut the carpet into pieces, which he sold his share for 20,000 Dirham. After the mass migration of Arabs from Arabian deserts to Iranian provinces in Mesopotamia, the Arabization of the region began and the historic site was abandoned and replaced by Baghdad built by Abbasid caliphs over a Persian village. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi's introduction to his history of Baghdad, describes al-Mansur's demolition of the Taq-e Kasra and the reuse of its bricks for his own palace. The facade and arched hall or throne-room of a palace are among the ruins left.
Become a fan of CAIS-SOAS
Copyright © 1998-2015 The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS)