27.03.2012 - UNESCO Office in Kabul

The Gawhar Shad Mausoleum in Herat stabilized for the future

@UNESCO/Reza Sharifi; Herat Minarets built in the 15th century

The construction of the Musallah Complex in Herat was sponsored by Queen Gawhar Shad in the early to middle 15th Century and carried out by the architect Qiyamudin of Herat who also built similar structures in Herat and Torbat-Jam under the auspices of the royal couple. The Gawhar Shad Mausoleum is rare in Islamic architecture, not only because of its delicate exterior decoration and ornamentation which is now almost gone, but also because of the very rare three-domed inner construction technique, based on an arched system hidden within the cube base of the dome.

Over many years, UNESCO has continued its support for the preservation of Afghanistan’s tangible cultural heritage for future generations through both policy development / advice and through practical conservation projects. Since 2007 the UNESCO Kabul Office and the Department of Historical monuments – with the financial support of the Government of Norway- have embarked on a conservation programme for the Gawhar Shad Mausoleum in the Musalla Complex in Herat.

The project activities included emergency conservation of the monument to prevent water infiltration, repair to the damaged façade and the replacement of the visible carpentry on the building such as the doors and windows which had all fallen into disrepair. Information panels in Dari have also been installed at the site, and the building can now be illuminated at night through the addition of an electrical and lighting system.

“Over the past few years we have tried to address the immediate issues for the mausoleum which included the total replacement of the roof of the cube and securing the remaining tile mosaics in place around the drum of the cupola” explained Eng. Abdul Ahad Abassi, the Director of the Historical Monuments Department.  “This monument and the nearby minarets remain a highly visible and symbolic representation of the glorious past of Herat and we have a great responsibility to protect them and other places such Gazargah and Qala Iktiarrudin, to name but a few of Herat’s many architectural wonders.”

Another important activity within UNESCO’s programme for the heritage of Herat, supported by the Italian Government, was the closure of rocket holes and damaged bricks in the so-called “Fifth Minaret” which is an original part of the Gawhar Shad mausoleum complex, as well archaeological and geological investigations to determine the reasons for the Minaret’s inclination and to explore possible solutions for the Afghan authorities on how they might be able to ensure itslong-term stability.

“We are pleased with the achievement to stabilize the Gawhar Shad Mausoleum in its present condition over the past few years,” said Mr. Brendan Cassar, Chief of the Culture Unit in UNESCO Kabul. According to Mr. Cassar, the local authorities have worked very hard on carrying out conservation activities on the monument and for finding solutions to control heavy traffic in the vicinity of the endangered minarets in the Musalla Complex.

“Following the conclusion of this project we have also made a clear set of recommendations to the Afghan authorities including further measures for the protection of the dome of the building, conservationand documentation of the remaining minarets in the Musalla Complex -especially the highly endangered and inclined Fifth Minaret- as well as the Hussein Biaqqra Madrassa which remains subject to illegal excavations.” Mr. Cassar explained.

UNESCO continues its advocacy and awareness-raising efforts  to support the Afghan Government in its endeavours to safeguard the heritage of Afghanistan and especially for the city of Herat which preserves an architectural record of one of the most important and dynamic periods in the history of Afghanistan and of the region. The Old City and Monuments of Herat remain on Afghanistan’s list of sites for potential nomination to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. “We hope that this fact will further encourage the international community to provide ongoing financial and technical support to the Afghan authorities to realize the dream of many Herati’s and Afghans in general, which is to see their famous city get this international recognition” said Mr. Edgar Sharuk, the Head of the UNESCO Kabul Office.

The process for nomination of sites to the World Heritage List has many steps which naturally includes the conservation and stabilization of all the monuments and areas to be nominated, but also requires the articulation of clear plans for how these monuments will be managed and developed to maintain the historical authenticity of the inscribed sites and their surrounding protective zones, as we all as a range of other issues concerned with their overall protection<a name="_GoBack"></a>.

UNESCO will continue its technical support and advice to the Afghan authorities on the nomination process and in the endeavours of the Department of Historical Monuments in both Kabul and Herat to preserve this important Afghan cultural heritage.

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