Discovering Kurdistan

Beginning in 2012, World Monuments Fund launched a training program in Erbil in the Kurdish region of Iraq. This initiative allowed WMF and course participants to immerse themselves in discovering the treasures of Kurdistan, a diverse landscape filled with historic sites, influenced by the many groups that have left their mark throughout history.

Citadel of Erbil (-5000/-4001) by World Monuments FundWorld Monuments Fund

Citadel of Erbil

Settled more than 8,000 years ago, Erbil Citadel is thought to be one of the longest continuously inhabited sites in the world. The Citadel, which rises some 30 meters above the plain, is surrounded by a lower town that developed in the modern city of Erbil. 

Citadel of Erbil (-5000/-4001)World Monuments Fund

Hammam, inside the Citadel of Erbil (-5000/-4001)World Monuments Fund

Today, as the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, Erbil Citadel remains very much a living city. Decades of civil unrest however, have taken their toll on the ancient Citadel buildings, many of which lack electricity and proper drainage and sanitation systems.

WMF included Erbil Citadel on the 2000, 2002, & 2004 World Monuments Watch in an effort to provide conservation and technical assistance, critical to the future of the city as a whole.

Water fountain inside the abandoned hammam, Citadel of Erbil (-5000/-4001)World Monuments Fund

Damaged windows of a building façade inside the Citadel of Erbil (5000-4001 BC)World Monuments Fund

In 2014, the Erbil Citadel became a World Heritage Site, following the first systematic archaeological excavations on the site in 2013.

Recent developments in Iraq bring with them an opportunity through which conservation work and repair of the citadel might begin. However, funds and technical assistance are critical to the future of the city of Erbil as a whole.

Reliefs at Khinnis. (700 B.C.)World Monuments Fund


The great relief at Khinnis was carved around the beginning of 7th century BC to commemorate the construction of a canal,  serving as the head of a great engineering system that provided water to Nineveh, the new Assyrian Imperial capital. An inscription at the site contains the account of the civil works in Assyria, including a brutal sack of Babylon of 689 AD. 

Reliefs at Khinnis., 700 BC, From the collection of: World Monuments Fund
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The cliff is decorated with reliefs of the king, deities, animals, mythical figures, and cuneiform inscriptions celebrating Assyrian King Sennacherib’s achievements, describing the politics and ideology of the Assyrian Empire.

In addition, the Khinnis reliefs represent Sennacherib’s accomplishments in agriculture, engineering, land management, and economic systems.

The use of the site, including the quarries and reliefs, in late antiquity indicate its importance throughout the centuries. Today the reliefs are threatened by encroaching development, and in need of more comprehensive heritage management planning, also requiring conservation work, as the stone surfaces suffer from exfoliation and staining caused by water runoff and the quality of the limestone.

Reliefs at Khinnis., -0700, From the collection of: World Monuments Fund
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Khinnis was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch to increase awareness of heritage assets in the area and improve visitor experiences through fuller interpretation.

A night view of the Qaisari Bazaar in Koya (-2500)World Monuments Fund


Koya is located some 60 kilometers from Erbil, containing a number of well-hidden heritage sites scattered around the towns. 

An ornate gateway inside the bazaar in Koya, -2500, From the collection of: World Monuments Fund
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The Qaisari Bazaar in Koya is an impressive structure containing expansive areas of older, possibly Ottoman-period market stalls and residential areas. An ornate gateway marks the entrance to an ancient caravan.

Lalish (-2100)World Monuments Fund


An actively used shrine for the Yezidi religious community, Lalish draws pilgrims and visitors from many areas. Shown is the entrance to the tomb of the venerated Sheikh Adi. A snake relief decorates the right side of the entrance. 

Lalish (-2100)World Monuments Fund

Sacred oil, Lalish (-2100)World Monuments Fund

Holy areas including sacred springs, rooms of blessed bread, and jars of olive oil add to the spiritual nature of the place.

Maltai (-0700)World Monuments Fund


As canals are often associated with carved reliefs, it's possible that the three relief panels located in Maltai, dating to the 7th century BC, mark the head of a now unknown canal system. Sculpted into cliffs opposite the town of Maltai, some 70 kilometers north of present-day Mosul, the panels are located in a mountainous area, and are considered to be the best preserved canal reliefs. 

Maltai (-0700)World Monuments Fund

This scene depicts seven Assyrian mountain deities.

Graffiti found in Maltai (-0700)World Monuments Fund

MaltaiWorld Monuments Fund

The panels today suffer damage from weathering and graffiti.

Man crossing Delal Bridge in Zakho, Iraqi Kurdistan (2013-09-07) by World Monuments FundWorld Monuments Fund

Dalal Bridge

Located in Zakho, the Dalal Bridge is an impressive structure of quarried limestone crossing the Khabur river. Despite its good state of preservation, there is not an exact date for its construction, and it is often attributed to the Abbasid period. However, the structure may be of the Roman period due to its similarity to a bridge located in northern Syria.

Partial view of Delal Bridge in Zakho, Iraqi Kurdistan by World Monuments FundWorld Monuments Fund

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