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In Photographs: An Ancient City in Danger of Disappearing

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Hussain Ammar

Yalla – Al-Mada’in

Taq Kasra, the only remaining structure in Ctesiphon city, is on the verge of complete collapse due to torrential rain and lack of maintenance.

Ctesiphon (Al-Mada’in), situated on the eastern bank of the Tigris 35 km southeast of Baghdad was once one of the biggest cities in the world. Taq Kasra, an imperial palace complex that was built sometime after 540 AD, had the world’s largest brick-built arch, and was the last major landmark of the capital city of the Sasanian Empire.

Control of the city changed hands several times between the Roman Army and the Sasanian Army before it was captured by Muslim Arabs in 637 AD. Ctesiphon is widely accepted to be one of the ten most important cities lost to history.

Prior to 2003, there was a museum and gardens near the remaining monuments, but the trees were cut down to be used as firewood and the museum was looted. In 2004, the Global Heritage Fund said that Taq Kasra would collapse if its restoration wasn’t carried out quickly.

The site is currently on the verge of collapse and according to Agency France Presse, a large portion of the arch fell off in 2012 as a result of heavy rain. In 2013 the Iraqi government decided to restore the arch and contracted Everis, a Czech company, to carry out the restoration. However, Yalla recently visited the site and the project appears to have stalled before it began.

According to an official from the Ministry of Culture, who preferred to remain anonymous, “The assigned company suspended work due to security concerns. There are new restoration plans, as the security situation has improved, and researchers and archeologists have started to return for the purpose of work and inspection.”

The arch and the tomb of Prophet’s companion Salman al-Farsi used to be among Iraq’s most important tourist attractions, but after the fall of the previous regime they became Al-Qaeda strongholds. The Heritage Directorate refused to give a statement or information regarding the number of tourists visiting Al-Mada’in, although officials did claim the area is now safe and there is an increase in the number of the tourists to the site.

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