Blog Post

Heritage Management Course Opens in Erbil, Iraq

On April 7, World Monuments Fund held the opening session of a heritage site management course at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) in Erbil. The program will address a variety of heritage topics through seminars and site visits in the Kurdish region.

Dr. Abdullah Khorsheed, Director of IICAH, welcomed WMF personnel and the course participants. Six of the participants have been working with WMF at Babylon on site management and conservation issues. Five of the participants are young, emerging heritage professionals working in Kurdistan. I was privileged to be with the group for the first week of teaching. Gina Haney and Alessandra Peruzzetto, key members of WMF’s Babylon project team, are coordinating the program in Erbil. Hania Osta, a resident of Erbil, has joined WMF as a local coordinator to facilitate the program in Erbil and document the seminars and field trips conducted during the program. University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA) is an American educational partner in this program enabling Angela Lombardi and William Dupont, professors in the preservation program at UTSA, to lead seminars in April, June, and September in Erbil.

During the first week, we covered a range of topics but focused especially on the World Heritage nomination and inscription process. A special treat of the week was the first group site visit to the town of Akre, an extraordinary traditional village about two hours from Erbil. After the early morning bus ride, the group had tea in a well known tea shop where we feasted on local bread, nuts, and honey. After we were suitably fortified, we climbed to the very top peak where there were remains of historic fortifications. It took more than an hour to complete the ascent, but it was well worth it. While the view was spectacular, it was the conversation along the way that was the most stimulating. The arduous walk provided ample time to discuss the fate of historic markets, the effect of new housing on the landscape, the complex religious and social history of the region, and many other topics that came to mind as we looked across the horizon. As we walked, talked, and learned more about each other’s interests, I should add that the conversation glided easily between English, French, Italian, Arabic and Kurdish. After the descent to the main square of Akre, we had a quick glass of tea, boarded the bus, stopped for a late lunch, and returned to Erbil in the early evening. As classes continued over the next few days, it was clear that we were all learning a lot and discovering the cultural riches of Kurdistan was going to be an important part of the program.