Situated in the Momandha quarter of the old city of Herat, the structure that is now used as the Hariva primary school was originally built as a synagogue in the late 19th century. One of four principal synagogues in the old city, the Shamawel (or Samuel) synagogue was built by the sizeable Jewish community that lived in Herat at that time. Probably built on the foundations of an earlier building, the present structure follows the established form, with nine brick‐domed bays forming the main prayer space, at the centre of which stands a raised platform bounded by four supporting piers. Along the west wall of this space are a series of small rooms that were used for religious rituals, and where the Torah was kept. The east elevation, which faces a large courtyard, makes use of both classical and vernacular elements, including traditional glazed tilework. In the courtyard lies a brick‐domed undergroundchamber (mikveh) that was used for ritual cleansing. Additional buildings along the west side of the complex were in ruins at the time of surveys in 2006.
After protracted negotiation with the Departments of Education and Historic Monuments in Herat, it was agreed that the historic part of the synagogue be restored and that new classrooms be constructed to the east, on the site of the ruined outbuildings. Work began on site in April 2009 with the propping of unstable parts of the structure and dismantling of those parts of the structure that were to be replaced. This was followed by the construction of the new classrooms, which follow the footprint of the original building and have been designed to respect the roofline of surrounding buildings in the old city. Toilets and washing facilities have also been incorporated into the new building.
During the later stages of this construction, restoration work was initiated on the historic synagogue, which was re‐roofed and internal plasterwork repaired, along with damaged parts of the east elevation. The completed building was handed back for use as a primary school in March 2010.