Yu Aw community centre (previously a synagogue), Herat Old City (2009) by AKTC / Christian RichtersThe Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Abandoned when the Jewish community left Herat in the 1970s, the Yu Aw synagogue seems to have fallen into disrepair by the time that significant damage was inflicted on western parts of the city during the 1978 uprising and the years of conflict that followed.
Dating from the turn of the 20th century, this building follows a pattern seen in other synagogues in Herat, with a large domed central space, in the centre of which stands a raised platform (bima).
Years of Neglect
By the time that surveys were undertaken by AKTC in 2006, the structural integrity of the complex was compromised as sizeable sections of the brick masonry side vaults had collapsed, affecting the stability of other parts of the building.
Clearance work focused on the removal of significant amounts of earth material from the ground floor of the synagogue complex (under the main prayer area), following which the structure was left for several weeks to allow the waterlogged brick masonry walls to dry.
Initial stabilization activities focused on repairs to the interior skin of the brick masonry walling in the basement area and reconstruction of two damaged barrel-vaults at the north end of the structure. At the same time, the west wall of the synagogue was propped up from the outside and new brickwork inserted in areas where the brick masonry had crumbled as result of rising damp from the adjoining street.
Further analysis of the stability of the structure resulted in the repair of two brick arches that flanked the main prayer area, enabling the reconstruction of the two narrow brick vaults using bricks of the same dimensions as those found in the original structure. Having secured the roof of the main wing of the building, areas of decorated plaster that had become detached from the brick walling were stabilized by injecting gypsum into cavities behind the plaster.
The restored site has become an important facility for residents of the Old City (2009) by AKTCThe Aga Khan Trust for Culture
An important component of the social history and built heritage of Herat, the restored synagogue is now used as an educational and cultural center for women and children from the surrounding neighborhood.
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.