World Monuments Watch: Amedy

World Monuments Fund

The historic hilltop town in northern Iraq is rich with unique monuments and intangible traditions, with a strong connection to its surrounding natural landscape.

Amedy was occupied long before the first written references to the “town of the Medes” when it was captured by the Assyrian royal family, nearly 3,000 years ago. The site has drawn the attention of the region’s rulers since, due to its striking position—a half-mile long limestone plateau ringed by 200-foot (60-meter) vertiginous cliffs and wedged between twin mountain ranges. For most of its history, the town was only accessible by two staircases leading to heavily fortified gates.Even with modern road access, the city remains a beautiful and formidable natural fortification.

Amedy's most striking feature, the dramatic plateau, is also becoming its biggest threat.

The limited space, combined with a steadily increasing population, has concentrated development pressures in the historic town. Several significant structures have been lost or damaged through redevelopment in recent years and the ancient street pattern and views from and to the site are under threat from new construction.

Visible remains in the city from 2,000 years ago are still evident, although most of the standing historic buildings and potential archaeology were built under the Bahdinan Emirate that controlled the region from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century.

Amedy’s historic street pattern and distinctive neighborhoods, ancient in origin, reflect a remarkably integrated community with elements of Islamic, Christian, and Jewish architecture packed tightly into the plateau. Of special note as features of the city are the defensive gate towers that have endured over the centuries.

Amedy was included on the 2016 World Monuments Watch to highlight the need for urgent urban planning to integrate new development that meets community requirements with minimal damage to the historic fabric. Amedy presents an exciting opportunity to increase local skills in documenting and managing historic sites, which can be utilized throughout the region.

The World Monuments Watch calls attention to cultural heritage sites around the world that are at risk from the forces of nature or the impact of social, political, and economic change.

Amedy: Watch Day 2016
On October 27, 2016, students from the University of Duhok’s spatial planning department and a local high school participated in a series of events as part of Watch Day, celebratory events organized by local communities at World Monuments Watch sites. Watch Day highlights the importance of vibrant community engagement and local stewardship in the sustainable preservation of heritage sites.

Students participated in guided tours and discussions in the historic city, focusing on the importance of heritage conservation in Amedy.

Watch Day provided an opportunity to raise awareness among the town's younger population of the city’s valuable cultural landscape.

Soon after the announcement of the 2016 Watch, the Governor of the Duhok Governorate pledged funds for documentation efforts at Amedy.

A committee of engineers, architects, and surveyors led documentation efforts and the Amedy town council provided equipment and an office for the team.

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