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Erbil Citadel Set for Major Renovation

By Kamaran Najm
  • The interior of this abandoned palace shows the colorful decoration and intricate artwork that adorned the wealthier homes in the citadel, which is believed to date back 8,000 years.
    The interior of this abandoned palace shows the colorful decoration and intricate artwork that adorned the wealthier homes in the citadel, which is believed to date back 8,000 years.
  • Some of the better-preserved homes in citadel retain touches of craftmanship such as patterned ceilings and wood finishing.
    Some of the better-preserved homes in citadel retain touches of craftmanship such as patterned ceilings and wood finishing.
  • The citadel still dominates the visual landscape of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, even as modern development proceeds at its base.
    The citadel still dominates the visual landscape of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, even as modern development proceeds at its base.
  • The citadel’s outer wall displays a wide range of conditions. Here a recently renovated sections meets a portion in a state of decay.
    The citadel’s outer wall displays a wide range of conditions. Here a recently renovated sections meets a portion in a state of decay.
  • An inner chamber shows the blue markings of surveyers working on a renovation project sponsored by UNESCO and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
    An inner chamber shows the blue markings of surveyers working on a renovation project sponsored by UNESCO and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
  • Citadel caretakers Mohammed Qader and his wife Khadija make pomegranate sauce, a regional delicacy.
    Citadel caretakers Mohammed Qader and his wife Khadija make pomegranate sauce, a regional delicacy.
  • Intricate wooden columns are a common feature on outer areas of homes in the citadel.
    Intricate wooden columns are a common feature on outer areas of homes in the citadel.
  • A view of the citadel from the top of Almas Plaza Hotel in Erbil shows how the roads in the surrounding area extend outward from the citadel.
    A view of the citadel from the top of Almas Plaza Hotel in Erbil shows how the roads in the surrounding area extend outward from the citadel.
  • A shopkeeper stands outside his shop in the market that rests at the base of the citadel.
    A shopkeeper stands outside his shop in the market that rests at the base of the citadel.
  • Striking woodwork and vibrant colors were common decorative touches inside the fortress.
    Striking woodwork and vibrant colors were common decorative touches inside the fortress.

Sitting atop a hill in the centre of Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil’s 8,000-year-old citadel serves as a symbol of the city’s ancient history. Today, the Kurdistan Regional Government, KRG, and UNESCO are planning to preserve the crumbling fortress, which is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited human settlements in the world.

A master plan envisages a visitor-friendly area complete with hotels, restaurants, museums and galleries. Kurdish officials believe that the preservation will drive archaeological tourism in Erbil, which is keen to attract investors. (See story: Erbil Eyes Archaeological Tourism)

To help preserve the site, the KRG gave 840 families living in the citadel land and money to relocate. The families, many of whom were squatters, agreed to move in 2007 but complain that their new neighbourhood lacks jobs, services and medical care. (See story: Ex-Erbil Citadel Residents Bemoan Relocation)

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