Letter from baghdad: Dan Cruickshank went to Iraq late last year to make a film about the country's extraordinary heritage of ancient buildings which are now threatened with further destruction.I flew into Baghdad in November 2002 as part of a BBC television BBC Television is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation which began in 1932. The British Broadcasting Corporation has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927. crew. The aim of the journey was to make a programme about the effect 25 years of war and political isolation has had on the culture of the country. We wanted to look at its ancient sites, buildings and museums to discover what has been damaged through war and neglect and to reveal what is now under threat if military action is renewed, The object, ultimately, was to inform -- to remind people in the West what is at stake, what could be destroyed, if the country is attacked. Also, and just as important, we wanted to discover what the people of Iraq feel about the recent onslaught on their culture, through both external attack and through internal civil strife, and about their fears for the future.
This investigation was not easy. Just getting a visa to enter the country was a major problem requiring much explanation and patience. Then, when entry to Baghdad was agreed, it was necessary to produce a list of places that we wanted to visit so that travel outside the capital could be approved. And, from the start, it was clear that we would be under political control, accompanied by government appointed minders who would stop us recording militarily sensitive sites or anything that could show Iraq in a poor light.
The first few days in Baghdad confirmed our worst fears. Our papers were, it gradually emerged, not in order. Our journey had not been approved by the various ministries, (though the Iraqi official in London had told us that they were before we left) and it was far from certain that we would be permitted to leave Baghdad. Indeed, in the near hysterical atmosphere that dominated Baghdad in mid November, as the deadline rapidly approached for Saddam Hussein Saddam Hussein
(born April 28, 1937, Tikrit, Iraq—died Dec. 30, 2006, Baghdad) President of Iraq (1979–2003). He joined the Ba'th Party in 1957. Following participation in a failed attempt to assassinate Iraqi Pres. to agree to allow UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq, a tour around the country seemed a remote possibility. We spent six days confined within Baghdad. It seemed that we had come a long way for little purpose. Then, at the eleventh hour, Saddam agreed to let the UN inspectors in, immediate military action was averted, our travel documents were suddenly provided (following the payment of a large 'fee' to film archaeological sites), and we left the AI-Rasheed Hotel as Hans Blix and the UN team moved in. We were off. (born 28 June, 1928 in Uppsala, Sweden) is a Swedish diplomat and politician. He was Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs (1978 - 1979).
We headed north, to Mosul, the second city of Iraq, and to the heartland of the ancient Assyrian Empire, the most powerful force on earth when it reached the apogee of its glory 2800 years ago. As we drove north I passed through a landscape that revealed much of its remarkable past. This was the ancient land Mesopotamia, the 'land between the rivers' as the Greeks termed it, and this geographical characteristic was the key to understanding the extraordinary and pioneering things that had happened in this land 8000 years ago. Between the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates Tigris and Euphrates is a German strategy board game designed by Reiner Knizia and first published in 1997 by Hans im Glück in German (as Euphrat und Tigris). was a great alluvial plain Noun 1. alluvial plain - a flat resulting from repeated deposits of alluvial material by running water
flat - a level tract of land; "the salt flats of Utah" , Mesopotamia, and the soil, although sun-baked, was immensely fertile. Man had learned to irrigate ir·ri·gate
To wash out a cavity or wound with a fluid. the land by means of canals and ditches, and had mastered the arts of agriculture. From this came plenty, wealth -- and relief from the need to fight for survival. Man's creative energy had the chance to flourish. Civilization was born. About 5500 years ago the first form of writing (cuniform) was evolved, then the wheel, mathematics - and the crafts, arts and many aspects of theology now familiar in the Judaic, Christian and Muslim religions.
The Assyrian Empire evolved and refined these achievements but there had been civilization, and empires, in Mesopotamia before the rise of the Assyrians. The oldest of which we know is the Sumerian, located in the far south of present-day Iraq. Around 6000 years ago the Sumerians built the world's first city, Uruk, and, for good or ill, introduced urban civilization. The oldest book we know now, the Epic of Gilgamesh The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Babylonia and is among the earliest known literary works. Scholars surmise that a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the mythological hero-king Gilgamesh, thought to be a ruler in the 3rd millennium BC, were gathered into a , was also written in Sumeria, around 4500 years ago. Gilgamesh, a king of Uruk, set out on a quest for Verb 1. quest for - go in search of or hunt for; "pursue a hobby"
quest after, go after, pursue
look for, search, seek - try to locate or discover, or try to establish the existence of; "The police are searching for clues"; "They are searching for the knowledge and immortality. In the end he found them, through architecture. Only by building could a king honour his gods and obtain immortality. To the Sumerian kings, who stamped their names in the bricks of their buildings so they would live in the memory of man for ever, city building -- architecture -- was divine.
My first confrontation with these ancient civilizations came on the road to Mosul at Ashur, the earliest of the great Assyrian cities. Ashur was first built around 3200 years ago and was the spiritual centre of the empire and a great port on the Tigris with merchandise and peoples coming from all over the known world: Egypt, Persia, India, Afghanistan, and Mediterranean countries. Like most of the Assyrian cities, Ashur was sacked in 612 BC when the ferocious and warlike war·like
1. Belligerent; hostile.
a. Of or relating to war; martial.
b. Indicative of or threatening war.
1. Assyrians were finally overwhelmed by the combined forces of Babylonians and Medes. Persians and then Romans resurrected the city but it was finally abandoned in the fourth century AD. It was only rediscovered in the early twentieth century by German archaeologists and now consists of a vast number of mounds covering acres of land -- the remains of ancient buildings -- dominated by the huge bulk of a ziggurat ziggurat (zĭg`răt), form of temple common to the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians. The earliest examples date from the end of the 3d millenium B.C. . Ziggurats -- stepped pyramids, formed with a series of terraces and ramps -- seem to have been evolved by the Sumerians around 6000 ye ars ago and were taken over and developed by succeeding Mesopotamian civilization like the Assyrians. Ziggurats were the focal and spiritual centre of the city, the earthly dwellings of the Gods, with their ramps being the stairways to heaven which priests would ascend to converse with their deities.
Sumerian ziggurats were built of sun-baked mud bricks faced with kiln-fired clay cones to protect the vulnerable mud-bricks from the weather. The Assyrians made technological advances in building so that they were able to kiln-fire huge and very solid square bricks that they laid in bitumen bitumen (bĭty`mən) a generic term referring to flammable, brown or black mixtures of tarlike hydrocarbons, derived naturally or by distillation from petroleum. and used to face the mud brick cores of their ziggurats. At Ashur most of these fine bricks have long been robbed so the ziggurat stands as a great and vulnerable mud mound, still lording it over the lesser mounds that mark the presence of palaces, temples and city buildings. Much has yet to be learned from Ashur. Archaeologists have not fully excavated the site but it seems its secrets are to die with the city.
One of the more destructive policies of Saddam Hussein's sinister regime in Iraq has been to dam the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that flow south into the Persian Gulf Persian Gulf, arm of the Arabian Sea, 90,000 sq mi (233,100 sq km), between the Arabian peninsula and Iran, extending c.600 mi (970 km) from the Shatt al Arab delta to the Strait of Hormuz, which links it with the Gulf of Oman. to an ecologically and environmentally disastrous extent. This has, arguably, improved the quality of life and agriculture for some of the Sunni Muslims in the north of the country (Sunnis are in the minority in Iraq but Saddam and most of his lieutenants are Sunnis), but has had disastrous consequences for much of the country. This is particularly the case in the Shia Muslim Noun 1. Shia Muslim - a member of the branch of Islam that regards Ali as the legitimate successor to Mohammed and rejects the first three caliphs
Shi'ite, Shi'ite Muslim, Shiite, Shiite Muslim heartland in the south.
Here, since 1991, Saddam has utterly destroyed the inland seas and marshes that gave the Shia Marsh Arabs The Marsh Arabs (Arabic,معدان Ma'daan ) are the inhabitants of the lowlands of southern Iraq, the former Mesopotamia, whose families have lived in the area for thousands of years. a very distinctive way of life, fishing their lakes, herding water buffalo water buffalo: see buffalo.
or Indian buffalo
Any of three subspecies of oxlike bovid (species Bubalus bubalis). Two have been domesticated in Asia since the earliest recorded history. and living in reed huts, a way of life that dated back 5000 years to the age of the Sumerians. By damming the rivers, water has been denied to the region and the marshes replaced by desert -- as I discovered to my horror when I drove through areas still marked as lakes on my map -- and the Marsh Arabs made refugees in their own land, driven into poverty or forced to flee to Iran. The only reason for this cruel and ecologically catastrophic act is the brutal desire to punish the Shia Arabs in the south for their lack of enthusiasm for the war with Iran in the 1980s. And this ghastly policy of blocking the rivers goes on. Even now construction work has started to dam the Tigris at Ashur so that a large portion of the ancient city centre will be submerged. I was assured by the director of archaeology at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad that the ziggurat would be spared but, he admitted, since the water table below it will rise even the future of this moving, ancient and massive mud brick construction is far from assured.
Mosul is a sprawling city with a medieval core formed by closely-packed courtyard houses that tumble down to the Tigris. It boasts a curious twelfth-century minaret minaret (mĭnərĕt`), tower, used in Islamic architecture, from which the faithful are called to prayer by a muezzin. Most mosques have one or more small towers, which are usually placed at the corners. that was built so that it leans to one side in a cheerful manner. Around the core are soulless soul·less
Lacking sensitivity or the capacity for deep feeling.
soulless·ly adv. developments and ugly roads and bridges reminiscent of any Western city. And this, given its current plight and the risk of invasion from Western powers, is the great paradox of Iraq. It is one of the most Westernized west·ern·ize
tr.v. west·ern·ized, west·ern·iz·ing, west·ern·iz·es
To convert to the customs of Western civilization.
west countries in the Middle East, a largely secular society, embracing many religions and races, in which Westernized values have, for better or worse, long been embraced. This is partly due to the presence of the British who governed under a League of Nations mandate A League of Nations mandate refers to several territories established under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, 28 June 1919. Upon the entry into force of the Charter of the United Nations in late 1945, the mandates of the League of Nations (except for South-West . They created the modern state of Iraq and laid the foundations of its oil industry. Iraq received independence in 1932 but Britain and the West had a powerful and direct influence well into the 1950s. This legacy makes itself felt in many, often bizarre, ways. For example on the edge of Mosul is a sort of Disneyland, peopled by effigies ef·fi·gy
n. pl. ef·fi·gies
1. A crude figure or dummy representing a hated person or group.
2. A likeness or image, especially of a person. of Mickey Mouse Mickey Mouse
Famous character of Walt Disney's animated cartoons. He was introduced in Steamboat Willie (1928), the first animated cartoon with sound. Mickey was created by Disney, who also provided his high-pitched voice, and was usually drawn by the studio's head animator, and Donald Duck Donald Duck
cantankerousness itself. [Comics: Horn, 216–217]
See : Irascibility
frustrated character jealous of Mickey Mouse. [Comics: Horn, 216–217]
See : Jealousy , all overseen by gigantic murals of a benign and smiling Saddam. Also on the edge of Mosul is the vast ruined city Location
The Ruined City is a fictional stronghold located in the northern wastes of Nosgoth, the land in which the Legacy of Kain series takes place. It is located close to the frozen cliffs where, in the Blood Omen era, Malek's Bastion stood. of Nineveh that, along with Nimrud just to the south, was enthusiastically excavated by British archaeologists from the 1840s onwards. These were thrilling times, for the British and French exploratory discoveries of these Assyrian cities meant no less than the discovery of a long lost, almost mythical, civilization that was known only from brief, enigmatic and far from flattering descriptions in the Bible.
From Nineveh, Nimrud and nearby Khorsabad, the British and French acquired (thanks to the Ottoman authorities) vast libraries of clay tablets -- including parts of the 4500 year old Epic of Gilgamesh, and the gigantic winged-bulls and finely sculpted sculpt
v. sculpt·ed, sculpt·ing, sculpts
1. To sculpture (an object).
2. To shape, mold, or fashion especially with artistry or precision: panels of Assyrian kings, courtiers, gods and warriors that now grace galleries in the British Museum British Museum, the national repository in London for treasures in science and art. Located in the Bloomsbury section of the city, it has departments of antiquities, prints and drawings, coins and medals, and ethnography. and the Louvre Louvre (l`vrə), foremost French museum of art, located in Paris. The building was a royal fortress and palace built by Philip II in the late 12th cent. . This was rare booty indeed. From Mosul I went to Hatra, a 2000 year old classical city built by Arab princes that stood in the desert, at a crossroads of world trade. Abandoned for 1700 years but with its temples miraculously preserved, Hatra compares with the ruined classical sites of Palmyra Palmyra, ancient city, Syria
Palmyra (pălmī`rə), ancient city of central Syria. A small modern village known as Tudmur is on the site. and Petra. But, due to the long political isolation of the country, Hatra is now virtually unknown, There are no tourists to generate income for its maintenance and it stands hauntingly empty and forlorn. But not entirely alone. Nearby stands a sprawling military camp that I was, of course, not permitted to film. By coincidence or due to cynical intent, many of the great historic sites of Iraq are twinned with factories or military establishments. Is this an attempt to camouflage them, to protect them from attack in the belief that Western bombers will not risk alienating Iraqis by destroying history? Or a heartless attempt to score a propaganda point by conniving the damage or destruction of ancient sites and buildings?
After Hatra, the Great Mosque at Samarra, the most memorable architectural image in Iraq. The minaret was built in about AD 850 and is a 52m tall spiral, rather like medieval images of the Tower of Babel Babel (bā`bəl) [Heb.,=confused], in the Bible, place where Noah's descendants (who spoke one language) tried to build a tower reaching up to heaven to make a name for themselves. . And that is the point, in its infancy Islam embraced the forms of the sacred buildings of earlier religions and this minaret is, in effect, an Islamic ziggurat. It is also an astonishingly a·ston·ish
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise. powerful, elemental and mystic structure. If anything happened to this minaret it would be an act of barbarism bar·ba·rism
1. An act, trait, or custom characterized by ignorance or crudity.
a. The use of words, forms, or expressions considered incorrect or unacceptable.
b. of the highest order. The prelude of a new dark age.
And then came Babylon, the mythic Biblical city, rebuilt in about 600BC by King Nebuchadnezzar, who sacked Jerusalem and drove the Jews into exile, described in great and lurid detail in the Biblical Book of Daniel Noun 1. Book of Daniel - an Old Testament book that tells of the apocalyptic visions and the experiences of Daniel in the court of Nebuchadnezzar
Book of the Prophet Daniel, Daniel and The Book of Revelation. I found the remains of the Hanging Gardens and the site of the massive ziggurat of Babylon -- what could be the legendary Tower of Babel. But here all is horribly transformed. Since the 1980s, Saddam has rebuilt Babylon in an attempt to build himself into the fabric -- the history -- of the nation. To show that he and his regime are a continuity of the great empires of the past, Saddam has had his name stamped upon the bricks of 'the third reconstruction of Babylon' just as Nebuchadnezzar stamped his name on the bricks used at Babylon 2600 years ago, The result is dreary and destructive in the extreme. To achieve a short-term political end, the authentic ruins of Babylon have been obscured or destroyed by poor quality pastiche pastiche (păstēsh`, pä–), work of art that combines themes and styles from various sources in such a way as to appear obviously derivative. , often wrong in scale and detail and using c ement mortar rather than lime or bitumen.
The final stage of the journey took me further south to the land of the Sumerians, to the 6000 year old Uruk, the first city of the world and of which Gilgamesh was king, and to Ur. In both, mighty ziggurats still command the mounds that mark the sites of the cities' buildings. But the ziggurat at Ur, the best preserved in Mesopotamia (and much reconstructed during the 1960s), is marked by cannon fire that raked it during the 1991 Gulf war. The military airfield that attracted the attack 12 years ago still adjoins the ancient site so the prospects for Ur -- in the line of fire and on the route of invasion from the south -- are far from good.
I finished my journey through modern Iraq at Paradise. Al-Qurnah, near the southern borders of Iraq at the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates, has long been regarded as a likely site for the Garden of Eden Garden of Eden
Noun 1. Garden of Eden - a beautiful garden where Adam and Eve were placed at the Creation; when they disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were and it certainly fits the Biblical description of paradise on earth. The town is now a quiet, decayed and desolate place but, in a small garden by the Tigris, stands what locals call Adam's Tree. Ominously, though, this Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is dead, and the Tree of Life in nowhere to be seen. Standing at this peaceful place, where the two great rivers converge, I could only tremble for the future of Iraq, a country in which every square foot is precious because all is steeped in memory and in history relevant not only to Iraq but to all of us.
RELATED ARTICLE: The April Architectural Review is devoted to places of arrival and departure, buildings in which journeys begin and end. Railway stations of all kinds are having a renaissance. We shall look at new examples of the type, ranging from Peter Busby's small stops for the Vancouver light railway system and Smith Group's Bart station at Pleasanton, California to the new French TGV stations at Avignon and Aix-en-Provence which contrast with the proposals for the new station in Turin by AREP AREP Aircraft Repair Enhancement Program
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AREP Averaged Relativistic Effective Potential . Ingenhoven Overdiek and Partner's project for the radical re-organization of Stuttgart's central station (pictured left) will be investigated, as will the bus station (a much more difficult building type than the rail kind) by Mario Botta in Lugano, Switzerland. Related buildings include the Victorian State Emergency headquarters in Melbourne by H2O Architects for the people who keep the motorways open and two contrasting ferry terminals in Spain, at Vigo by Guillermo Vazquez Consuegra and at Alicante by javier G arcia-Solera Vera. And, as usual we shall have our regular features: reviews of the latest books, design and products, Delight, a View from Moscow by Catherine Cooke, and our monthly analysis of a house.
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