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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Iraq to restore the ancient Iranian palace of Khosrow to woo back tourists


05 June 2013




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Remains of the Ctesiphon Palace in 1864


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Remains of the Ctesiphon Palace in 1932

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LONDON, (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' Prophet Mohammed.


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 Persian Gulf.


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 future."


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. The building was part of a palace complex and the actual arch was part of a great banqueting hall and it is the widest single-span vault in the world. The arch survived the disastrous flooding of the Tigris in 1887, which destroyed much of the rest of the building.  


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.



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Original news bulletin published by AFP rectified and edited by CAIS [*]





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