Rashid Agha House



MMM Documentation Dates
Fall 2013
Site Type
Civic, Commercial, and Domestic Buildings
Erbil/Hawler Governorate

    The Rashid Agha house, sited on the citadel of Erbil/Hawler, is an outstanding exemplar of a Late Ottoman era house with a diwankhana—a prominent reception complex. It is set along the southeastern edge of the perimeter in the Saray neighborhood, with a view over the lower city. According to the available records, the residence was constructed in 1903–1906. Since 2010, it has been undergoing a meticulous restoration.

    The Rashid Agha residence is accessed from the street by way of a pavilion-like structure into a small, paved forecourt (see the panorama); this structure is a reconstruction of the 1980s, as is the northeast wall of the courtyard. The courtyard is anchored around a circular fountain. The building’s main story is raised on a semi-basement that incorporates earlier constructions along the former citadel walls.1 The building is entered by way of a loggia, the base of which is lined with Mosul alabaster panels and flanked with two staircases. Its five-bay arcade and floor are made of the same alabaster, while its wooden roof is ornamented in colorful painted patterns. Some of the structure’s timber roof beams can be seen protruding from the brick-covered roofline of the portico.

    The building’s plan is very large, featuring both a main unit and two wings on either side of the courtyard.2 The MMM team’s documentation focused on the central diwankhana (reception area) of the house (which was the area accessible at that time). This is entered directly from the porch via a side room to the southwest, through a doorway with a relief-carved architrave. The wide main room (diwan) is joined to a smaller room (oda), lending a T-shape to the reception space (see the panorama). This space is densely decorated with molded plasterwork, arched niches with scallop ornament, and blue-on-white painted decoration. A highly decorated niche is located in the eastern end of the diwan. The oda is entered under a round arch with intricate medallions and floral motifs of applied stucco. A French window opens onto a balcony supported by an arched substructure built out from the facade (see the panorama). Additional rooms are located on either side of the oda. The southern room has a fireplace and a staircase that leads down to the basement (see the panorama). The private areas of the house are found in the wings on either side of the courtyard.

    As it is located on the perimeter of the citadel, the exterior of the residence can be viewed from the lower city. Its outer facade is built of the traditional brick, but with its numerous windows, wide balcony, and elegantly arcaded buttresses, it stands out as one of the more ornate structures along the perimeter.

    • 1. On the home’s construction phases, see further in “History.”
    • 2. See several renderings of the plan in Cereti and Giunta 2011.

    'Description & Iconography” general sources: Angela Bizzaro, “The Graphic Documentation of the Rashid Agha Diwan Khana,” in Cereti and Giunta 2011, 13–16; Giuseppe Morgantini, “Project Methodology and Historical Profile,” in ibid., 17–20; Rossana Nicolò, “Knowledge of the Building as a Basis for the Intervention and the Restoration Plan Design,” in ibid., 25–30; al Yaqoobi 2016.

    The Rashid Agha house is one of Erbil’s few historical mansions bearing dating inscriptions.1 The inscription with the building’s date is rendered in relief on the stone architrave leading into the porch into southwestern service room. The dates are written below a more elaborate script and read 1321 and 1323 A.H., corresponding to 1903/4 and 1905/6 (presumably the dates marking the beginning and end of the construction). Nearby, in the same space, the architrave of the entrance leading into the diwan bears another inscription, this one without the dates.

    • 1. Giuseppe Morganti, “Project Methodology and Historical Profile,” in Cereti and Giunta 2011, 18–19.

    The house’s inscription indicates that it was built in 1903-1906. However, its architectural fabric indicates that it was built over preexisting structures, now comprising part of its underground level. The house saw several alterations through the course of the 20th century. It was abandoned in the 1990s, resulting in significant damage to the structure. Restoration has been ongoing since 2010.

    “History” general source: Giuseppe Morganti, “Project Methodology and Historical Profile,” in Cereti and Giunta 2011, 17–20.

    Al Yaqoobi, Dara, et al. 2016. Highlights of Erbil Citadel. Erbil: High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization.

    Cererti, Carlo G., and Roberta Giunta. 2011. Preservation of Cultural Heritage of the Kurdish Region in Iraq: Italian Cooperation Project in Iraqi Kurdistan, 2009-2010. Rome: IsIAO.

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    Matthew Peebles and Helen Malko (2020)