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Revitalizing the historical center of Al-Najaf city in Iraq: learning from the British conservation experiences

Sabeeh Lafta Farhan (Wasit University, Kut, Iraq)
Venus Suleiman Akef (Department of Architectural Engineering, University of Technology, Baghdad, Iraq)
Zuhair Nasar (Archnitecture, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK) (Urban Planning, University of Kufa, Kufa, Iraq)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Article publication date: 3 June 2021




The objective of this paper is mainly to contribute to and activate, the process of saving and preserving the rich tangible and intangible heritage embraced in the historic center of Al-Najaf city. This was possible through examining the existing historic urban and architectural structures of the city, unveiling the major issues that are threatening both its traditional cultural and architectural identity, and finally analyzing similar examples that proved to be successful in addressing similar problems in order to derive possible strategies for saving, preserving and revitalizing the historical center of Al-Najaf Old City.


This paper addresses the major problems of heritage preservation in Al-Najaf City (750 AD), which is one of the historical and most sacred religious centers especially for Shia Muslims around the world. Despite its importance, the rich cultural and architectural heritage of the city is dramatically neglected and seriously threatened to be lost.


Preservation in Al-Najaf City is proposed as a sustainable development strategy. Top-down and bottom-up strategies are proposed not only for preserving the historic architectural and urban characteristics of the city but also for reviving its social and cultural activities and traditions.


The major issues addressed in this paper include the fragmentation and decentralization of the cohesive traditional urban fabric, the disruption of the spatial organization, the deformation of the traditional architectural characteristics of the city and its skyline, the discontinuity of facades' patterns, the destruction and demolition of historical buildings, the transformation of land use, and the regression of traditional social and cultural activities.



The authors wish to thank the design firm: Dewan Architects and Engineers for supporting us in the data collection stage.


Farhan, S.L., Akef, V.S. and Nasar, Z. (2021), "Revitalizing the historical center of Al-Najaf city in Iraq: learning from the British conservation experiences", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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