context of its wider conservation and training program in Afghanistan and the
expansion of project activities to Badakhahan province, in May 2011 the Aga
Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) commence critical conservation works on the
historic shrine of Nasir Khusraw located in remote Badakhshsan province. In
2011, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between AKDN and the Ministry of
Information and Culture outlining the scope of works envisaged for the comprehensive
structural stabilization of the site and the full restoration of the Shrine and
rehabilitation of its landscape.
stands today, the shrine (or ziyarat) of Nasir Khusraw is both the funerary
structure marking the grave of a great Persian writer and philosopher, and a
fine example of vernacular building.
project visits by AKTC in both 2010 and early 2011 prepared the way for
implementation of the project in August 2011. At the onset of the project
additional investments were made in the training local project personnel in carpentry
and masonry works through the implementation of a pilot restoration project for
the Mullah Barat Mosque, located in the Hazrat‐e Sayyed village, which
contributed to building local capacity ahead of the full restoration works on
of Nasir Khusraw was constructed on the final resting place of the 11th century
Ismaili scholar, philosopher and poet Nasir Khusraw, who came to Yamgan by way
of Balkh and Faizabad in 1060AD. The
shrine is a registered historic monument and protected under laws on the
preservation and safeguarding of Afghanistan’s heritage. The village of Hazrat‐e
Sayyed is located in a narrow valley on the eastern bank of the Kokcha River in
southern Badakhshan. A highly remote area, the village is about a 7‐hour drive
(125 Km) on unpaved roads from Faizabad with major settlement along the route
being the town of Baharak and Jurm. The precarious route south from Jurm winds through
precipitous valleys and is often inaccessible in winter.
building is situated on top of a 15m high exposed conglomerate outcrop some 50m
above the village of Hazrat‐e Sayyed (coordinates N 36º27.934, E 70º46.969) at
an elevation of 2100m above sea level. The site is accessed from the south,
across a terrace paved with pebbles that extends some 10 by 40
meters, beside which is a stone lined pool, used for ablutions, fed by a
channel from a stream that runs through the village. To the southeast are the
ruins of a small mosque, said to have been built in the 1920’s, and to the
north is a ruined langarkhana, where food was cooked for religious festivals.
Since 2003, a small garden has been laid out to the north‐east, with four
terraces divided by stone retaining walls, where visitors to the ziyarat
gather. This garden is reasonably well maintained and, on certain days, the
terraces are said to be set aside for women.
timber inscriptions found in the ‘mazar’ indicate that the building was
transformed in 1109H / 1697 CE.
Limited repairs were later again made during the reign of King Abdul Rahman
Khan in the late 19th century, when a small mosque was built on an adjacent terrace slightly
higher than level of the mausoleum. While the site has continuously been used
by Ismaili and Sunni Muslims throughout the 20th century and has been in a general state
of disrepair, it suffered significant damage when a bomb was dropped on the
site of the mosque built next to the shrine during an aerial bombardment of the
area during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
In light of
reports on the on‐going deterioration of the site, which included extensive
structural weaknesses in the condition of the conglomerate mound upon which the
shrine is built and the damage caused to the architecture of the building
through seepage of water, it was decided to commence a full‐scale conservation
project in 2012.
intervention aimed primarily to achieve the following objectives:
Safeguard a key
historic monument with inter/national, cultural and religious significance;
access and enhance safe to the site and enable the use of its green space by the
local community, including women and children.
Raise awareness amongst
the local community and governmental institutions about the importance of their
historic and architectural heritage and appropriate forms of physical intervention
on these sites;
Contribute to the development
of Afghan capacity in planning and managing conservation activities in
skills for local craftsmen required to undertake the restoration of the Shrine and
towards future maintenance of the site;
Contribute to the improvement
of livelihoods in the area of the restoration project; and
AKTC also adhered
to a number of overarching principles in its approach to the conservation work,
including; (i) the involvement and support of the local community for the
project through regular coordination meetings with exiting governance
structures, (ii) initiating training initiatives focused on building local
capacity in carpentry and masonry, and (iii) the integration and coordination
of AKTC project activities with other agencies of AKDN. Laborers for the
projects were sourced locally and training in masonry, plastering and carpentry
were provided by experienced AKTC craftsmen seconded to the project from Kabul.
A rotational employment system for daily laborers was implemented in
coordination with the Aga Khan Foundation and community development councils,
extending the benefits of employment and training to a wider segment of the
completion of project activities in 2013, the Shrine was returned to the
custodianship of the local community and a permanent plaque, documenting the
site as a registered historic monument was installed in coordination with local
authorities and the Department of Historic Monuments. This report provides a
background on the Shrine and the conservation activities undertaken by AKTC
during the implementation period.