Main elevation of the Khwaja Abdullah Ansari Shrine (2009) by AKTC / Christian RichtersThe Aga Khan Trust for Culture
The shrine complex of Khwaja Abdullah Ansari in Gazurgah, north-east of Herat, is both an important example of Timurid architecture and a popular place of pilgrimage.
Having spent a life of contemplation and writing in and around the village, Ansari was buried here in 1089 and expanded by Shah Rukh in 1425.
Main iwan and graves in the courtyard of the Khwaja Abdullah Ansari Shrine (2016) by AKTC / Simon NorfolkThe Aga Khan Trust for Culture
The large courtyard of the tomb (hazira) of Abdullah Ansari, with its arched iwans on the main axis and rows of study rooms between, has a form that is more commonly associated with a madrasa.
Both the main entrance arch and the high iwan that rises above Ansari’s grave retain sections of fine color glazed tile epigraphy and areas of geometric decoration.
A Sacred Place
Worked in a mosaic technique (moaraq), the designs combine glazed and unglazed tiles (in places worked with pristine white marble) in a manner that includes large sections of intricate perforated screens (jali) placed before openings.
Graveyard of the Revered
The courtyard of the Shrine has over time become a cemetery containing the graves of some of the best-known figures in the region, including the Afghan King Amir Dost Mohammad Khan and Abdullah Ansari’s two sons.
From 2005, repairs were carried out on all roofs of the shrine, which had been poorly maintained and risked causing damage to the fragile internal plaster decoration in parts of the complex. The removal of modern concrete laid in the 1970s enabled a detailed structural analysis to take place, on which basis a series of brick buttresses were built on the eastern side.
To facilitate the visits of pilgrims, original sections of marble paving were re-laid at the main entrance, whose incongruous aluminium doors were replaced with traditional wood, along with other doors giving on to the courtyard.
Buttresses constructed to stabilize the main iwan, Khwaja Abdullah Ansari Shrine (2016) by AKTC / Simon NorfolkThe Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Additional fired brick and stone paving was laid around the entire external perimeter of the shrine to divert water away from the vulnerable foundations of the building.
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.