Historical Najaf neighborhood

Al-Huweish faces threats to heritage

NAJAF, January 27 – In the heart of Najaf, the Al-Huweish neighborhood, known for its distinct architectural heritage and scholarly residents, faces a crisis of neglect and urban expansion. Situated southwest of the Imam Ali Shrine, this area is home to centuries-old schools built in the traditional Al-Hira architectural style, reminiscent of structures such as the Khawarnaq Castle from the Lakhmid period. The region also features several palaces from the Abbasid era.

Despite its historical significance, Al-Huweish is struggling. Many of its traditional houses have been either left in disrepair or transformed into warehouses and high-rise hotels. This transformation is altering not only the neighborhood’s landscape but also threatening its very existence.

Ahmed Al-Sharifi, a local resident, expresses his concerns about the neighborhood’s state. “This neighborhood is dying and suffering from neglect,” he says. “The old houses are crumbling due to moisture and extremely old construction, with the majority of them converted into hotels and warehouses.”

The threat to Al-Huweish has not gone unnoticed by the community. Residents and historians are advocating for its recognition as a world heritage site, hoping such a designation could help preserve the area’s rich history and architecture. “We urge the relevant world heritage authorities to assess the neighborhood’s situation and consider its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List,” Al-Sharifi adds, highlighting the neighborhood’s ancient mosques, scholars’ residences, markets, and inscriptions dating back more than five centuries.

Ahmed Al-Rawazek, another resident, envisions a different future for Al-Huweish if it were to receive the necessary attention and restoration. “The neighborhood is historical, and if added to the World Heritage List and restored, it will transform into a tourist area,” he explains. He draws a parallel with Gulf countries, noting their success in heritage preservation, and suggests that Al-Huweish could similarly offer visitors an insight into the traditional life of Najaf.

Dr. Aqeel Al-Fatlawi, an academic and archaeological researcher, emphasizes the urgency of the situation. “The Al-Huweish neighborhood is facing extinction and destruction due to urban expansion,” he warns. Dr. Al-Fatlawi points out the neighborhood’s unique heritage character, with its traditional buildings and ancient inscriptions. He urges the Antiquities and Heritage Authority to take immediate action, recommending an inventory of the old houses and the prevention of their demolition without proper authorization.