Conferences : World Congress of KURDISH STUDIES : Birgit AMMANN


Section PRESSE
World Congress of

Irbil, 6-9 September 2006

Organized by the Kurdish Institute of Paris in partnership with
Salahadin University (Irbil) and with the support of the
Kurdistan Regional Government and of the
French Ministry for Foreign Affairs

The town of Amadiya in the light of European Sources

Par Birgit AMMANN (*)

The town of Amadiya - not much more than 100 kilometres north from where we are now - has been the capital of the Kurdish emirate of Bahdinan; until its downfall in the middle of the 19th century it was one of the most powerful Kurdish emirates. Amadiya - or Amêdi as it is lately being called - is certainly well-known to the distinguished Iraqi and Iraqi-Kurdish audience; the place is more or less unknown territory however as it comes to Kurds from other states let alone to the “outside world”.

Due to its pleasant climate, its affluence in water and its beautiful natural surroundings it has a potential to grow into a professionally run touristic center in the Kurdish Region of Iraq, a comparatively safe and economically promising region. If appropriate measures would be taken in the region, it could even attract tourists from outside the Middle East. Educational tourism is one of the magic words, but a lot of work would have to be done in order to reach a sophisticated Western target audience and provide people with reputable information.

This paper aims at providing a scholarly basis for such a possibility. It deals with the towns specific history, its population as well as the local tribes, facts about the ruling Bahdinan family, the few existing historical sites as well as some cultural and economic aspects.

I mainly draw on the reports of European travellers from different countries, but also on some Middle Eastern historical works; combined with some on the spot research my paper will put possible future multidisciplinary research on solid grounds.

One of the town’s extraordinary features is the multireligious coexistence of its population for hundreds of years: in town as well in its surrounding Muslim Kurds, Jews and Christians of different denominations used to live together - not always without conflict but on the basis of arrangements. At times the Sheikhanregion, the most important Yezidi territory was part of the emirate. Turkish, Arab, British and US-American presence appeared in the form of  administration, sieges and battles, occupation and protection in the course of its younger history.

For the ones among you who have not seen the town let me begin with a picture:

Photograph Ammann 1991
Photograph taken from:

Only about ten kilometres away from the Turkish border, Amadiya is placed on the two-square-kilometres-surface of a rock or rather mesa with steep cliffs dropping down to the mountain that it  is situated on. The settlement arises about 400m out of the Subnavalley between the mountainranges of Gare and Metin, whose peaks mount up to 3000 meters   in height. It has a population of  around 10.000 Muslims as well as Christians, of whom about 4.000 live right on the mesa and about 6.000 at it’s foot.

The most important Kurdish tribes in and around town are the Misuri, the Zibari, Rekani, Berwari, Oramari and Nirvei. The first four of these correspond with the tribes that were already mentioned in the Sherefname, the famous historical work published at the end of the 16th century by the Kurdish ruler of Bitlis. Belonging to a tribe does not play an over important role for Amadiyans though; loyalty is with the town rather than with a tribe. If the vis-à-vis on the other hand is familiar enough with the region they might plunge into explaining their clan (mal) and its importance, sometimes being able to recite genealogies by heart. For the Christian population usually their religious identity combined with the local identity comes first.

Let us do a historical tour and highlight certain times and spots:

At a time way before the emirate of Bahdinan had been established, a water reservoir had been built on top of the rock that is today known as Amadiya. Its creators might have been Sassanids or Parthians, but we do not know. Its leftovers are the oldest building structure in town that we know of and is called Kûre Serîce. In a mixture of Kurdish and Arabic this basically means what it had once been, a water reservoir. To my knowlegde the place has first been mentioned in European literature by the English missionary and archeologist William Ainsworth in  1842. The age of the ancient reservoir is not clear. It would certainly be nice to have an expert examine and date it as well as relate it to possibly existing similar sites.

In 1911 the German scholar Walter Bachmann took photographs and produced a fine drawing.

Photograph Bachmann 1911

On this photgraph you can also see very well see that about 60 percent of the city used to be a cemetery, that probably stems form the middle of the 19th century.

Drawing Bachmann 1911

Comparing the photograph and the drawing you may recognize the pylons once holding the roof.

All we know is that way after it’s use as a water reservoir probably in the 5th or 6th century a Christian  burial chamber has been carved into the wall of the cistern. At the lower edge at the letter B, you can see where the chamber is located; on the photographs please note  the chamber in the ruined wall looking like a black hole

The chamber has been examined by the German archeologist Boehmer in the 70ies of the last century; there are similar chambers in neighbouring Bamerni and in Maltai near Dohuk. This kind of burial sites is called arcosol-tomb among experts; they were prevalent  in the early Byzantine period. The first Christians are believed to have settled in the region during the 4th century, there are indications that the settlement had the Aramaic name Kalaat Bibâka at the time. Aramaic is the language of the Christians in the region up to this day.

The site of Kûre Serîce with the ancient tomb has been badly neglected and has been looking like a waste disposal site at times. This is what it looks like today.

Photograph Ammann 1993

Let’s go on with the town’s history: we know that the Hakkari Kurds, had been living in the area at least since the end of the 10th century. That means way south of  the Kurdish town in Turkey that is called Hakkari today. One of their most important castles called Djelab has been situated on the rock of what today we know as Amadiya. It belonged to the land of Ashib reigned by a certain Abu l’Haydja who at the time has also been the ruler of Erbil and was most probably a member of the Hakkari tribe. In 1142 Imad-ad Din Zengi, founder of the Seljuk Zengid dynasty which under the suzerainty of the Ayyubid dynasty ruled parts of Northern Iraq and Syria during the 12th and 13th centuries , founded the town on the grounds of the old Hakkari castle and named it al-Amadiya.

Photograph National Museum Bagdad

One of the earliest documents concerning the town is a kufic inscription on an Islamic pulpit, a  minbar, dating from 1153,  in other words only about ten years after the takeover by the Zengids. Even though the minbar has obviously been transferred to from the Amadiya mosque, it does not become clear, wether it has been produced for that very location. The wooden  door of the Amadiya mosque dates the building of the mosque itself up to a hundred years later. The minbar as well as the wooden door have for a long time been in the National Museum of Bagdad. I do not know wether they have survived the looting  in 2003. No trace of the mosque is left today.

In the early 13th century the basis for the emirate has been established.

It was probably the Zengids who installed the dynasty that later became known unter the name of Bahdinan: the founder Baha ad-Din came from a family ruling in the Shamdinan area that belonged to Hakkari at the time – probably the Shembo dynasty itself .  In many of the reports as well as oral tradition it has been stated that the princes of Bahdinan as well as the princes of Hakkari descent from the Abbassids. Oral transmission refers to the Hakkari princes as “cousins” of the Bahdinan princes.  It is not quite clear wether the Abbassi-Arab descent is a myth or can be backed historically. In any case the well known Ottoman traveler Evliya Celebi states that the name is definitely related to Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle. His son Abdallah, the first Abbassi Khalif had been made ruler of the region during his reign between 656 and 661.

An additional myth has developed around the dynasty since the Barzanis claim to descend from  the Bahdinan princes.

There are different opinions and quite some discussions on the genalogy of the Bahdinan princes, their biographies and their reigns. This is not the time and place to get into detail and I will mainly concentrate on facts that are more or less indisputable.

With the words of  Christiane Bird, a modern American author one of the problems the dynasty had, like many other dynasties:  “whenever a Kurdish prince rebelled against the Ottoman authorities, he inevitably had a brother, son or nephew who was happy to obey the sultan and literally stab the prince in the back”.

In any case successor of the Zengid dynasty has been Badr ad-Din Lulu. Originally regent of a Zengid child heir to the throne, he became sovereign ruler of  Mossul in 1222. Before that he saw years of stressful competition over the succession to the throne. As a part of this fighting the town went back and forth between Lulu and the claimant Imad ad-Din Zengi son of Nur ad-Din (Arslan Shah). During his reign a lot of important buildings have been built.

Among them has been a synagogue for the Jews among the Amadiyans.

Photograph Brauer 1940s

The town had a high share of Jewish population until 1948 when -  in a mixture of pulling from the side of Israel and pushing from the side of Iraq - almost all of them left for Israel. At times there were as many Jewish households as each Christian and Muslim ones. For this reason it does not surprise that the earliest European source, that reports on Amadiya comes from a Jewish traveller from Spain, Benjamin of Tudela, who visited the area in 1170.

According to Jewish transmission there has been Jewish settlement on the mesa beginning with the deportation to Babylon in the 6th century before common era. Since Amadiya has clearly been a center of Jewish culture and Jewish learning  and played a leading role among the Jewish communities in Kurdistan this seems quite plausible.

The Jews’ language has been  Aramaic with very slight differences from the version spoken by the Christian population. A lot of the Jews were farmers and herdsmen but also craftsmen and traders. Apart from religious rites and rules their material culture did not differ from the one of the Muslim Kurds and the Christian Assyrians.

Mixed marriages have not been exceptional; it was usually Jewish girls though and not young men marrying into the Muslim or Christian communities. Through the centuries coexistence has been undisturbed most of the time but certainly not on the basis of equal rights for all three communities. The descendants of the Kurdish Jews in Israel communicate a positive collective memory relating to the Kurdish areas.

As has been mentioned in 1248 during the reign of Lulu, the building of the Ezechiel synagoge is  documented. There has been another, even older synagogue, named after the prophet Ezra (Uzair)

but nothing is left of either one. Only the leftovers of the graves of the two brothers David and Josef formerly one of the most important place of pilgrimage for Jews in Kurdistan. Oral tradition has it that they founded the Jewsih community. The graves had been right next to the Ezechiel synagogue.

Photograph Hazane

Around the time the mosque and the synagogue have been built, the Western Gate also called Mossul-Gate or Gate of the water carriers (zakava) has been erected. It is one of the few monuments that can still be seen; not in his original design though. For hundreds of years it has probably been the only entrance to town and until today can only be reached on foot using a steep mule track. Until the late sixties of the last century the gate has been closed for the night.

Photograph Bachmann 1913
Painting Wigram 1922
A painting at the British Embassy in Bagdad showed the looks of the gate just before 1955. Unfortunately this painting seems to have been destroyed during the riots in 1958. From this painting and from some other detailed photograph and especially from the work of Joachim Gierlichs, an expert in medieval Islamic figurative art we know what the illustrations on the gate once looked like. Above the arch there was a characteristic circle ornament, that has largely been maintained; to the left and right of it there were two identical images each with a human figure fighting a dragon with a sword. The dragon’s tail is intertwined, it’s mouth wide open.

Photograph Ammann 2002
An inscription that has long been lost, proves  that the gateway has been build by Badr-ad Din Lulu. After the bombardment of town in the late sixties the gate has been almost completely destroyed. In the seventies it has been reconstructed, but due to the circumstances in a very inexpert way. Now it is only a very poor copy of what it used to be. For one thing it is much narrower than before: on old pictures you can see that right above the arch and the relief  it used to have six brackets, whereas today there are only four. After the destruction leftovers were patched together without context, missing pieces gone forever. Of the two men only the face of one and the body of the other are recognizable. A few minor details of the dragons can be spotted.

Let us move on to the next monument, the main mosque in town. It has probably been built during the reign of Lulus son about a hundred years after the pulpit it accomodated. In 1833 Henry James Ross, an English medical Doctor mentions that in front of the palace were the remains of a large mosque, ruined by war and neglect.

Photograph Lovat 1997

Whereas documents concerning the Bahdinani Mîrs after Bahadin seem to be rare until the beginning of the 15th century, we have quite a reliable description of the dynasty and some major historical facts written down for the following two centuries. That is the famous Sherfename.

Among the reigning Mîrs that it praises, Hussein Walî  should be mentioned as one of the most popular and outstanding rulers. He built a once very famous religious school, the medrese Qubad which today lies in ruins at the foot of the mesa.

Photograph Ammann 2005

Mîr Husseins  tomb can be find close to where the road enters into town. It is in poor condition.

Another outstanding but so far more or less unnoticed documentation on Amadiya is the report of the  well known Ottoman traveller Evliya Celebi who has spent some time in Amadiya in the year 1655. We have to thank Martin van Bruinessen for translating and that way making it accessible.  In Evliya’s  view Amadiya had been the most autonomous and powerful of the Kurdish emirates at that time. Evliya observed that, like any ordinary Ottoman province, it was divided into a number of districts but that all appointments to office were made by the Mîr of  Amadiya, not by the Sultan or the vali of Baghdad as elsewhere in Iraq. The districts –at the time: Aqra, Sheikhan, Zakho, Duhok, Mizuri and Zibari — were autonomous units under hereditary rulers, who upon accession were formally recognised and instated by the Mîr

There were also large tribal chieftains with formalised positions who needed recognition either by the Mîr or by one of the rulers of the districts (f.i. Sindi and Silvani form the ruler of Zakho). The Mîr –at this time Said - had his own standing army recognisable by its dress (unlike the tribal troops that were recruited in times of war. There were no Ottoman fiefs to maintain a sipahi army, nor were there any other Ottoman regiments or military officers in the province.  

Celebi describes the merchants who appear to have been of modest fortune and not to have engaged in long-distance trade like those of Diyarbakir, Mosul or Baghdad; they traded with Baghdad and the towns of Kurdistan. Then there were the artisans and shopkeepers, of whom Evliya has little to say (apart from the fact that they wore striped şal û şapik, the costume worn until today). The class that fascinated Evliya were the religious scholars (ulama), of whom there were many in town. They were all armed, carrying large daggers in their cummerbends, and had a reputation for being very martial and fierce in combat.

One of them was Evliya’s informant on local cultural life. Evliya was aware that ‘Amadiya was a major centre of Kurdish culture. After a long digression on the various Kurdish dialects, he comments that the dialects of Cizre and Shirwan count as more refined and eloquent than the others, but that the most literary Kurdish is that of the Kurds of ‘Amadiya. By the way the only in-depth and furthermore excellent study of Amadiya dialect that has ever been undertaken, is done by Joyce Blau in the 1970s.  As an example of ‘Amadiya Kurdish, Evliya cites a poem (qasida). His transcription is probably the oldest existant copy of a Kurdish poem —it was only one out of a rich body of Kurdish poetry that he encountered in Amadiya.

Around 150 years around 1700 later it is assumed that a a second gate has been build, probably by prince Osman. It has been known as the Eastern Gate also called Mîrs’ Gate or the Zîbari gate In 1898 it looked like this:

Photograph Warkworth 1889

Please note the window in the upper part it illustrates that the gate has been part of the ensemble with the palace.

Here you can see what was left of the gate in 1944:
Picture Warda 1944

Today there is no trace left of this gate. We just know where it once stood. I have so far not been able to find out wether it has been willfully destroyed and if so when and how. It is possible that after building the road in the 30s of the last century the place has just been neglected and fell down as a result of natural aging.

This gate has been part of a building complex of which the Mîrs’ palace has been one element. It lead to an - as Ross put it “elbow-shaped vault with guard rooms on either side” that lead to the palace itself on the right side and to the town straight ahead. The so called Snakes gate was the other end. 120 years ago the whole thing looked like this looking from inside the town.

Photograph Binder 1887

The palace, part of the ensemble has to my knowledge only been described by Dr. Ross. Lacking a picture of the inside, I would like to quote from his description:

The place …built on the line wall at the N.E. corner… was built in a hollow quadrangle cut up by a wall passing through the centre into two courtyards, the outer being Divan Khanah, or public apartments, the inner the harem for the women.…Curiously enough the hareem hung over the ravine at the point most exposed to an enemy’s fire; I suppose that the ladies might amuse themselves by gazing from their lattices upon the open country, and on the comers and goers a they entered or left the town. The ground floor was mostly occupied by roomy stables and lodging for servants; the apartment I was ushered into was large, and had been a fair specimen of Eastern internal decoration, [there were] carved and ornamented planking of the ceiling. The women’s quarters [had] gay-looking doors, shutters, and lattices painted in the Persian style with flowers in vivid colours.

A few years later Sir Henry Austen Layard the famous excavator of the ruins of Niniveh when visting Amadiya describes “a large room, in a tower built on the very edge of the rock, and overlooking the whole valley…with “a refreshing breeze” and a view “extensive and beautiful” .

Very well known and with leftovers still in existence is  the so called Door of the snakes.

Photograph Ammann 2002

There is another study by Gierlichs, who has only been able to work with pictures of the archway though . Due to his work it has been become clear that what we see are not snakes but dragons (efrit) and that this kind of design is very unusual for the Islamic cultural area. The gate consists of to large blocks and a keystone that shows the feet of some kind of a raptor. Above it a  block is loosely been put on top of the gate that shows the body of another raptor. A combination that is probably the result of destruction and than the attempt to reconstruct with leftovers. The spandrels of the archway are decorated with the bodies of two dragons, whose long snake-like bodies are loosely knotted several times. Gierlichs assumes that the archway has been built after the 14th century. The design might have been inspired by the Mossul Gate.

Tthe few facts we know about the palace and the two gates are not enough to date the ensemble of builidngs; especially since we do not know wether all parts have been built at the same time.

The 18th century is the next epoch that is truly interesting because it offers valuable sources in the form of reports of the religious order of the Dominicans. The contents of these reports have been made accessible to non-Italian speakers by Mirella Galletti who is here with us. During the reign of Mîr Bahram the Great in 1748 the monks established a mission in Mossul with a  branch in Amadiya, where especially during the summers they spent a lot of time.

From 1753  until 1771 Domenico Lanza lived in Mossul. Among other details he describes the very carefully cultivated vegetable gardens and orchards underneath the Mossul gate that are in use to this day. He also mentions man made wheels which the inhabitants used to pull up water for their gardens.

From 1762 on Maurizio Garzoni has been living in Amadiya for 28 years. He is sometimes called the “Father of Kurdology” since he published a Kurdish dictionary containing 4600 words and this way helped Kurdish to be recognized as a real language.  He thought – just like Celebi after him – that the Amadiya idiom was th purest Kurdish of all. It is too bad that he, who knew the town like no other European did not leave really relevant description on everyday life, material culture and history. The short description he gave on the dynasty tells us nothing new: In no way ruling power moved from father to son but after the death of a ruler it came upon the most powerful in the family. This one ususally made its way by means of fight and trait. The tribes played an important role that made up this people with ist reputation of being wild and malicious. The tribes offered troups. Each one had its chief, whom the prince confirmed. Sometimes tribes of three or four would build a coalition and rise against the prince. If they would be successfull they would bring their favourite into power, but always someone from the princely family. At Garzonis time each of the emirates – he quotes: Bitlis, Jezire [Botan], [Bahdinan]Amadiya, Colamerg [Hakkari], Karacciolan [Baban and Soran] would come up with 12 000 horsemen if necessary. 

There is an almost amusing even though bisaed and reduced report from the Italian traveller

Sestini: he reports the excellent schnaps, that the monks produced. In that context it should be mentioned that the Christian popultaion of Amadiya in its surrounding has a long tradition of producing wine and schnaps. Parts of the Muslim population have adopted that custom. The question wether this - by the way rather prevailing  - tradition in the region has been introduced by the French and Italian monks or has been there before must remain unanswered.

Bahram the Great has been succeeded by his son Ismail the First, followed by his son Mohammed Tayar and then three of his brothers. The last one of these brothers has been described by the English traveller Claudius James Rich, who has left us a very informative report on the Mîr and his time around 1820. Rich states that there were around 1 000 Muslim, 200 Jewish, 50 Nestorians as well as a few Jacobite and Armenian households in town.

As is the case with other descriptions it does not become clear where he received his informations from. Has he seen the prince with his own eyes? Has he been listening to tellings of others? Kurds, Christians, Europeans?

Anyway, in his writings Rich calls the family of Bahdinan the noblest among the reigning families in Kurdistan. Even though this statement might be his personal appraisement and can not automatically be taken as prevailing opinion it is an evidence of the importance of the the emirate and its rulers.

Let’s listen to what Rich has to say about Mîr Zubeir:

“No person dare use the same vessel or pipe as is used by him. Not even his own pipe-bearer for the purpose of lightning or trying of his master”. “He always sits alone. A servant brings in his dinner and then leaves him until he has finished. After having eaten enough he smoothes the dish over, that no one can see what part he has eaten.” It seems the grandeur of the prince to render himself as inaccessible and invisible as possible.

“He is very well dressed, something in the fashion of Mossoul with a fess and a Cashmere shawl wound around it. Only when hunting he changes for a simple hunting-dress”.

For the servants and officers Rich mentions the many-coloured striped trowsers, as “supreme bon ton”.

Since Evliya Celebi- as we have heard - had already mentioned this costume in the middle of the 17th century, I would like to take the opportunity to show you the “şal û şapik”so to speak through the ages. Drawing Reclus 1884 Photograph Mann 1908 Photgraph Ammann 1992

Further more Rich describes snaring, shooting and hawking the red-legged partridges (qew) which until today almost has the meaning of a heraldic animal to the Kurds in Iraq and Iran.

When Zubeir died in 1820 leaving no sons, the four sons of his brother Ismail of the names Mîran, Musa, Said and Ismail started fighting over the position that was to be that of the  the last Bahdinan ruler. Offspring of the four brothers still live scattered all over Iraq and in the diaspora. Ismail even though in fierce competition with his brother Said (at times one of them would sit in his palace in Acra, the other in his palace in Amadiya) has been recognized as the last Bahdinani Mîr.

A lot of foreign travelers left reports on him and his reign. He was in constant fighting against Mîr Mohammed of the Soran emirate, nicknamed Kûre Mîre, the blind Prince, against  the Ottomans and against his own relatives.

Ross, who visited the Soran ruler Mohammed the Blind in 1833 writes that Akra had been taken in the spring of 1833, Amadiya shortly after. During the occupation thousands of fighters and civilians trying to defend the strongold had been killed.

The occupation, destruction and massacring have been a catastrophe that the town should never fully recover from. Even though times were rough in general - Ismail himself had people’s eyes seared if he thought they would conspire against him  -  the abusiveness of Mohhammed the Blind was legendary. Generations of parents have thereafter been wagging their fingers at their offspring, warning them that the Blind Pasha would come back if they would not behave well.  Traditional internal conflicts, the new politics of centralization of Ottoman Sultan Mahmud the Second added to the proble and nothing would stop the emirate from tumbling down. Mohammed the Blind had been captured and killed in 1836, Amadiya went several times back and forth between Ottoman occupation and recapture by Ismail until 1842 when the Ottomans finally won.

The American medical doctor and missionary Asahel Grant travelled the area  came to Amadiya in October 1839 after the siege of the Kûre Mîre and the Ottomans. He describes how he is being questioned by the heavy-armed Turkish soldiers at the gate. Then he writes: “The town I found almost depopulated by wars consequent on the invasion of the Ravendoos Koords, and of one-thousand houses, only two hundred and fifty are inhabited. Most of the remaining three-fourths, and a part of the public markets, have been torn down or much dilapidated, and are now the noisome receptacles of filth and ordure.” . Apart from the Kurds he counts about a hundred Jewish families and a hundred Christians, whom he was not able to distinguish from each other by their appearance.

When the English archeologist and missionary William Ainsworth visited the town in 1840 the situation had gotten even worse. He says: „of a thousand houses only about 200 are erect, all the rest fallen down or overthrown. Only one-fouth of the public market is now made use of, the remainder is torn down or dilapidated.. At present“ he writes „the chief population of Amadiyeh are Jews, who have seventy houses here and three synagogues… The Mohammedans have sixty houses, the Chaldeans have fifteen, and the Romish Chaldeans five. There are also five houses of Armenians.“ He observed that the 200 Ottoman soldiers were mostly Albanians and Greeks.

About the landscape Ainsworth wrote: “Where not wooded”...( the valley is)... “rich and fertile, producing abundant grapes that are sold as dried raisins in Persia and Mesopotamia and in great esteem. The district is also fertile in grain in wheat, but it is cursed by the evils of an insecure and uncertain government”. He produced a little drawing that I like very much:

Drawing Ainsworth 1842

Looking at it carefully you will realize that it has been taken from Silav a popular summer resort a few minutes away from town. The silhouette of the town with the minare can be identified.

A dark chapter of Amadiyan history a short while after the end of the emirate has to be mentioned: the massacre among the Christian-Nestorian Tiari tribes in the nearby mountains in 1843. Amadiyans did not play the major role but did take part in that massacre, which left about ten thousand victims slain.

Under Ottoman administration the population went through extremely hard times, being mistreated, stolen, sqeezed out. There are reports of suicides and deaths of starvation.

In 1846 Henry Layard visited Amadiya. What he had to say was rather sad too: We found ourselves in the midst of a heap of ruins – porches, bazaars, baths, habitations, all laid open to their inmost recesses. Falling walls would have threatened passersby, had there been any; but the place was a desert. We had some difficulty in finding our way to a crumbling ruin, honoured with the name of Serai – the Palace.

It should not be concealed that the description of the palace quoted above took place at a time when the once illustrous building was more or less falling apart, dilapidated and in complete disorder.

If you would like to know what Amadiya must have looked like in better times, you should go and see the medieval Old City of Damascus, which today is part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

In the 30ies of the 19th century Amadiya recieved its first devastating blow by the troups of the ruler of the neighbouring Soran Emirate Mîr Mohammed the Blind (kûre mîre) and in the early 60ies of the 20th century its second blow when it has been bombed by Saddams Airforce. Until then it must have consisted mainly of Ottoman buildings with a few Seljuk, Mamluk and Zengid leftovers. There were a lot of traditional courtyard buildings (hausha) made from clay with poplar beams in the ceiling, besides that a few stone buildings usually religious institutions, khans or palaces scattered around town.

Most has been lost and cannot be reconstructed, but some steps could be taken to save a few details.

Apart from that I believe that knowing history helps providing identity, if you know where you come from, it is sometimes easier to know where you want to go.

In times of peace Amadiya has always been a resort destination. Two almost curious examples: As  early as 1850  the Bavarian traveller Sandreczky met an Arab near Amadiya whose sole purpose to travel has been looking for recreation. The other example: From 1930 to 1955 the British Royal Airforce ran a recreation camp for its soldiers in the mountains above Amadia; the camp even had a swimmingpool as you can see on this picture.

Photograph Copcutt 1937-1939

I am going to finish my paper with this picture even though I do not like to give you the impression that my main concern is to have a swimmingpool built...

A lot of research work still has to be done: I am sure that for instance the archives of the various monastic orders as well as the archive of the Archbishop of Canterbury would be like goldmines for research on the Bahdinan emirate as well as other Kurdish emirates. Their missionaries have extensively travelled the area with some of them spending yeras living there. Also Ottoman and for that matter Persian archives as well as the European states, which had relations with them, should be consulted. Of special importance and a special pleasure it would of course be to have more cooperation between European and Kurdish scholars on the subject in order to present a broader historic glance of a fascinating place.

(*) European Centre for Kurdish Studies in Berlin