Herat: The Pearl of Khorasan

Nineteenth century illustrations of Herat by British LibraryThe Aga Khan Trust for Culture


From its origins as an outpost of the Achaemenid Empire, the city of Herat has undergone extensive transformation over 3 millennia.

Contested between both despotic and enlightened rulers of failing and emerging empires, the city has been built, destroyed, rebuilt and expanded repeatedly.

Courtyard, iwan and two minarets of Masjid-i Juma (left), From the collection of: The Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Exterior view of Masjid-i Juma, Josephine Powell, Hollis Archive, Harvard University Library, From the collection of: The Aga Khan Trust for Culture
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On the Silk Route and at the crossroads of regional trade, the city is situated in a region of rich agricultural land that has been prized by successive invaders. Razed to the ground by the Mongols in the 12th century, the city became a renowned center for Islamic culture, architecture and learning during the reign of Timur and his descendants (1370-1507 CE).

Old city of Herat, AKTC / Simon Norfolk, 2010, From the collection of: The Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Sayed Mohammad Khan, AKTC / Simon Norfolk, 2016, From the collection of: The Aga Khan Trust for Culture
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Considered part of Persia during the Safavid era (1501-1736 CE), it was not until 1863 that Herat was incorporated into the emerging Afghan state.

Qala Ikhtyaruddin, Old City, Herat (2009) by AKTC / Christian RichtersThe Aga Khan Trust for Culture

The stories here trace the modest beginnings of the city, its history and its importance in the development of the region over two thousand years of continued occupation.

Culminating in the height of Herat’s glory as the capital of the Timurid dynasty in the 15th century, the display also explores the rich cultural traditions that provide to context for AKTC’s conservation activities and traditional music training program.

Credits: Story

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) wishes to express its appreciation, first and foremost, to its staff and consultants for their tireless efforts and commitment towards preserving Afghanistan’s rich tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

In addition to resources provided directly by AKTC, the restoration of heritage sites shown in this exhibition were supported through financial contributions made by the Federal Republic of Germany, the Government of the United States and its Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.

This online exhibition was made possible through the efforts of Theresa zu Leiningen, Mohammad Baqir Yaqubi and Dr. Arash Boostani.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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