The hidden face of Erbil: change and persistence in the urban core

Al-Hashimi, F.W.S., 2016. The hidden face of Erbil: change and persistence in the urban core. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

Farah.Alhashimi 2016.pdf - Published version

Download (29MB) | Preview


This research study on the origin and evolution of the built environment of Erbil city, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan concentrates particularly on the duality of change and persistence in the urban core throughout the centuries. Erbil is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, its ancient citadel was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2014. Its historic urban core - civic, religious and commercial heart of Erbil - standing at the bottom of the citadel's hill from its south part - has experienced many changes over the centuries, and is currently part of a protective buffer zone for the conservation of the citadel.

The long history of the urban core is not immediately apparent due to successive periods of construction and demolition, which have left few traces of the past, hence many ambiguities surround both the urban core and parts of the lower city leading to difficulties in understanding its origin and character. The few previous architectural studies that have focused on parts of the urban core have concentrated mainly on specific areas or on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, leaving the earlier periods under-investigated. This research, therefore, set out to reveal the hidden face of Erbil, specifically its urban core, via a qualitative interdisciplinary study, with multi method that involves history, archaeology, architecture and socio-culture. A triangulation approach was applied that incorporated four chronological periods – the Assyrian, the Attabeg, the Early Modern, and the Modern periods. The impact of the various agents on the tangible urban elements, such as the nodes, paths and edges, as well as on the intangible elements, such as rituals, events, and activities that characterised these elements has also been included.

The results of the study show that the urban core was traced back to the Attabeg period and a public square (maidan), and the citadel gate possibly date to the Assyrian period (1000 to 612 BCE). The main agents of change have been beliefs, decisions of the rulers and economic forces. The persistent urban elements – the maidan, the historic paths of the bazar area and the citadel gate – were integral to events, rituals and other activities, some of which disappeared altogether, some were assimilated for other purposes while others persisted. For instance, during the Attabeg period the establishment of the maidan reflected the power of the rulers, religious beliefs and commercial activities, while, under the Ottomans (16th century CE) when there was a shift from single rulers to groups of civic-minded citizens, to meet new civic, commercial and religious needs, construction projects were undertaken and a network of pathways was developed. Likewise, late in the modern period, after the city had benefited from further economic and political changes, the need for a public square was revived.

By exploring Erbil's urban core, this thesis has identified its origins and has revealed the persistent elements, the evolutionary dynamics that have affected its tangible and intangible aspects, and the main agents that have contributed to these phenomena.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Al-Hashimi, F.W.S.
Date: June 2016
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author, Farah Wissam Al-Hashimi. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the owner of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 19 Sep 2017 12:40
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2021 10:31

Actions (login required)

Edit View Edit View


Views per month over past year


Downloads per month over past year