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
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:
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
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
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
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.
Around the time the mosque and the
synagogue have been built, the Western Gate also calledMossul-Gateor
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,
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
“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
“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
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 Granttravelled 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
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
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.