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Afghanistan: Herat Citadel

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Herat Citadel | Afghanistan | Asia

[Visited: October 2017]

While we walk one of the main streets of Herat, the sun is burning away the chill of the morning. After a tasty fresh pomegranate juice at a street stall, we turn left, and see the eastern part of the Iktyaruddin Citadel as it is also called, rise high above us. Walking around the base of the impossibly high walls, we see a camel eating grass on the other side of the iron fence. Once at the entrance gate on the western side, we are invited in by the armed guards, but learn that the citadel is closed because it is Friday. So we are back the next day, pay a whopping entrance fee for both the citadel and the museum, and start at the museum. Housed in a restored citadel building, it turns out to be very well organized, and much richer than we have anticipated: we manage to see the last exhibits just before the museum closes. When we walk to the staircase, the tourism manager of Herat whom we had met before, calls on us, and invites us for lunch. We first make it up to the Malik Tower, also called Timurid Tower, which is the only one with surviving Kufic script on its outer wall.

Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): Afternoon view of the citadel of Herat

The views from the top are great: we see not only the city and its surroundings, the backyards of houses, but also the citadel itself, which suddenly appears enormous from here, with its impressive 18 towers. We walk alongside the wall to the central part, until the manager calls us from below, and we enjoy a great lunch and learn a little more about the restoration project which has transformed this badly damaged citadel into what it is now. When we are outside again, the light is better, and we set off for the central area, walking past where once the barracks were, to a courtyard with a few trees. The citadel walls now rise high above us, and we walk a steep stone walkway to reach another high gate with tall walls towering above us. Walking through it brings us to a courtyard where repairs are still being done. Unfortunately, the rest of the citadel is inaccessible for now.

Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): View over the citadel of Herat from the western tower

We walk back to a rooftop with views of the lower parts of the citadel, and I walk along the wall to make the full circle of the western part of the citadel. After thanking the manager and the guards, we walk the path at the foot of the citadel, still within the fence. We find a long arched corridor, at the end of which we find a man sieving grains. He takes us inside, where the camel we saw the first day is walking in circles, pushing a wooden bar connected to a big hollow stone. Inside lie seeds: the constant grinding will press the oil out of them. We cannot imagine oil was made in a different way centuries ago. We reach the eastern side of the citadel, which looks invincible from below. The path now becomes always more sketchy, and when we hear big dogs coming our way, barking aggressively, we decide to turn around. Looking at the outer walls which actually look quite new because of the extensive restoration, we remind ourselves that this citadel was probably founded by Alexander the Great, served as the headquarters of a row of empires. We are walking historic grounds here.

Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): Tree in the courtyard of the citadel
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): Malik Tower seen from the inside of the citadel
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): Some of the original decorations remain on Malik Tower, also dubbed Timurid Tower
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): The citadel of Herat seen from below
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): View of the citadel of Herat
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): Rooftop of former barracks in the citadel of Herat
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): Wall with arches in the citadel
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): The walkway to the higher level of the citadel
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): View of the citadel from the east side
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): The high walls and towers of the eastern, higher part of the citadel
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): View over the courtyard of the citadel with the higher part in the backgrround
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): The lower part of the citadel with Malik Tower in the background
Picture of Herat Citadel (Afghanistan): Building still under reconstruction in the higher level of the citadel

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