WIT Press

Imam Ali Shrine, Institution And Cultural Monument: The Implications Of Cultural Significance And Its Impact On Local Conservation Management


Free (open access)





Page Range

87 - 98




2,249 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


S. K. Abid


The Imam Ali Shrine is located in the heart of Najaf old town, the historic Islamic pilgrimage city. It is one of the great icons of Islamic religion and architecture, especially for the Shi’a, and is regarded by many as the finest masterpiece of Iraqi heritage. This paper, therefore, focuses specifically on the Shrine, whose construction led directly to the establishment of the surrounding historic city. The main aims are to understand what has happened over time, and who the key players now are in terms of conservation management on the ground. Consequently, it is important to explain the historical stages of the emergence of the shrine, and the events which take place within it. Critically, local decision makers have prioritised how to accommodate and receive visitors to the holy Shrine, without paying attention to protecting its cultural heritage and local identity: gradually, this has led to the demolition of many important historical buildings and features surrounding the Shrine. However, the Shrine remains a key Najaf landmark and is religiously significant for Islamic cities in general.

This paper is organised around two main sections, the first section addresses the historical and cultural context of the Shrine in terms of its historical development and significance. The second section focuses on the external (national) and internal (local) forces that have acted on the Shrine as a building. It details specific projects in depth to discover their remit and impact on the Shrine’s historic fabric.


Najaf, Imam Ali Shrine, cultural heritage, conservation management