From its origins as an outpost of the Achaemenid Empire, the repeated strengthening of the Citadel of Qala Ikhtyaruddin, and the setting out of a walled settlement by the Ghaznavids, the city of Herat has had a turbulent history. Situated at the crossroads of regional trade, in the midst of rich irrigated agriculture, the area has been a prize for successive invaders. The city became a centre for Islamic culture and learning during the reign of Timur, whose successors commissioned several monumental buildings, but it then fell into decline under the Mughals. Considered part of Persia during the Safavid era in the eighteenth century, it was not until 1863 that Herat was incorporated into the emerging Afghan state.
The distinctive rectilinear layout of the city of Herat was delineated by massive earth walls that protected the bazaars and residential quarters that lay within. This was the extent of the city until the middle of the twentieth century, when administrative buildings were constructed outside of the walls to the northeast.
Between 1490 and 1494 (895-900 AH) Amir Alisher Nawai, who was then custodian of the Gazurgah site, created a garden adjoining the shrine of Khwaja Abdullah Ansari, which became one of several formal gardens established by members of the Timurid court north of the city of Herat. Nawai had two pavilions built, of which only the Namakdan-e Olya at the east end of what was known as Bagh-e Naw, survives.
The Namakdan pavilion, named after its resemblance to a traditional salt cellar, is a twelve-sided structure with a dome spanning over a central double-height octagonal space. Around this space on the first floor runs a gallery that gives access to a series of eleven iwan, niche-like rooms, that overlook the surrounding garden. During the 1950s, significant alterations were made to the pavilion which, while saving the building from collapse, radically changed its character.
In 2005, AKTC initiated restoration works on the Namakdan pavilion. After undertaking detailed surveys to assess the structural condition, earth from the roof and internal plaster were removed, so as to expose the original Timurid structural system. Work then continued on repairing the fragile brick central dome, after which a system of steel ring-beams and ties was introduced around and through the supporting brick masonry, which had seriously deformed in places. These ties were inserted into spaces left by the original timber reinforcement, which had been consumed by termites. Subsequently, the brick masonry footings were strengthened, using lime mortar as had been employed in the original structure. With these repairs completed, work began on removing the modern intermediate floor that divided the double-height space of the pavilion. During the course of this work, a pool was rediscovered, along with traces of a waterfall and channel, all of which were subsequently reconstructed, and new stone paving was laid that now surrounds the building. During the works, traces of karbandi ribbed plaster decoration were found, along with Timurid tilework on two of the elevations. This has been stabilized and, where possible, restored according to established conservation practice. he conservation of the Namakdan pavilion has enabled an important Timurid monument to be safeguarded for future generations.