Feature: Iraq struggles to preserve Baghdadi-style heritage buildings

(Xinhua) 13:27, October 29, 2022

BAGHDAD, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Walking in the narrow and crowded alleys on the east bank of the Tigris River in central Baghdad, one cannot miss the beautiful old Baghdadi-style heritage buildings in the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, rather than being preserved as memories of a beautiful past, many historic buildings are transformed into modern-style residences or are in a crumbling state after decades of political turmoil, neglect, and lack of funds.

In order to help the preservation of these buildings, Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Antiquities Hassan Nadhim has introduced a program to allocate these heritage buildings to cultural organizations, making many Iraqis much relieved.

One of the old buildings, which is part of the al-Qishla heritage site dating back to the Ottoman era, was allocated for the Lute House, a cultural organization run by famous Iraqi musician and lute player Naseer Shamma.

The building is a palace built more than 200 years ago in the Baghdadi architectural style and was the residence of Baghdad governors during the Ottoman era.

The spokesman of the ministry's State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, Hakim al-Shammary, told Xinhua that his foundation is taking great efforts to preserve heritage buildings despite the lack of funding.

The State Board of Antiquities and Heritage owns more than 250 heritage buildings in Baghdad, in addition to other buildings owned by the Baghdad Mayoralty, according to al-Shammary.

According to Iraqi law, a heritage house is any building that was constructed more than 100 years ago and has a Baghdadi design or has historical importance in terms of being occupied or owned by well-known personalities.

Sattar Muhsen Ali, 60, owner of Suttur Publishing House on al-Mutanabi Street, the historic center of Baghdad's bookselling industry, praised the ministry's move, stressing that it contributes to spreading culture and love in a city that has a tumultuous past.

The ministry's step to sponsor heritage homes "is a blessed step, and I hope that this experience will expand to include other cultural activities such as music, plastic arts, theaters, and cinemas. It reflects Baghdad's image which is rich in heritage sites," Ali told Xinhua. 

(Web editor: Xue Yanyan, Liang Jun)


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