September 27, 2006


Destruction of ancient minaret in 'Ana

Let me tell you a sad but interesting story: the old town of 'Ana was originally located on the middle Euphrates, about 80 km east of the Syrian border and 310 km west of Baghdad. It was already mentioned in Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform texts and prospered as a station on the east-west traderoute. One of its prized possessions was an ancient minaret. Dr. Alastair Northedge: "The minaret of 'Ana is commonly attributed to the Uqaylid[ dynasty] and the 5th/11th century [AH/AD], though ... more probably of the 6th/12th century [AH/AD]. It was situated on the island at 'Ana and belonged to ... the congregational mosque. When the valley was flooded by the Qadisiyya Dam at Haditha in 1984-5, the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities cut it into sections, and removed it to the new 'Ana where it was re-erected at the end of the 1980s." The Uqaylids ruled in northern Iraq and northern Syria. Dr. Muayad Said described the structure before the filling of the reservoir: "It has an octagonal body enhanced by alcoves, some of which are blind. ... Conservation work on the building was undertaken in 1935 and again in 1963 and 1964, and today it stands 28 metres high and fully restored. Inside is a spiral stairway encircling a ribbed stone column, ... Around the building lie the remains of a mosque and some stone buildings." Unlike the picturesque and historical town of 'Ana in its fertile river valley, the hastily constructed new town, 14 km to the west, is located on a barren plateau. This town and its minaret obviously have not had much luck as of late.

The 1st picture shows the minaret on el-Qal'a island in 1909, photographed by Gertrude Bell (courtesy of the Gertrude Bell Project), the 2nd photo (from the The Threat to World Heritage in Iraq web site) depicts it after restoration but before the building of the dam, the 3rd one (from in its current condition after the attack: it's pretty much destroyed. The explosion took place on june 22. The Iraqi Accord Front, a mainly Sunni Arab Islamist Iraqi political coalition, accuses Shi'ites of staging a deliberate campaign of destroying national and esp. Sunni-origin monuments: the top of the Malwiyyah minaret in Samarra (also a famous monument built by a Sunni dynasty, this time the Abassids), the monument of el-Mansur in Baghdad, etc.

• M. Said, "The Ancient Sites in the Basin of the Haditha Dam on the Euphrates," in Monumentum, 17 (1978), pp. 85-92
• U. Ghaidan and N. Al-Dabbagh, "Iraq. State of Ecology and Built Heritage After Four Decades of Adversity," in M. Truscott, M. Petzet and J. Ziesemer (eds.), Heritage at Risk/Patrimoine en Péril/Patrimonio en Peligro. ICOMOS World Report 2004/2005 in Monuments and Sites in Danger/ICOMOS rapport mondial 2004/2005 sur des monuments et des sites en péril/ICOMOS informe mundial 2004/2005 sobre monumentos y sitios en peligro, München, 2005, pp. 111-121
• A. Janabi, "Mosque blast blow to Iraq treasures," in (Qatar), June 24, 2006
• A. Northedge, "Minaret at 'Ana," in Iraqcrisis, online, June 25, 2006
• Ch. Jones, "Photos of the minaret at 'Anah before destruction," in Iraqcrisis, online, September 3, 2006


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