Discover Amedi: the ancient imperial city perched on a hilltop

It was the center of the Badinan Emirate, and also belonged to the Assyrians, Sassanids, Parthians, and other civilizations.
author_image Levi Clancy

Amedi is a city on a hilltop with waterfalls cascading down and rising historic paths. It was the center of the Badinan Emirate, and also belonged to the Assyrians, Sassanids, Parthians, and other civilizations. Visit this ancient city to take a step through thousands of years of history.

Gate of Amedi

This Ottoman-era gate dates to the Badinan Emirate, but its location has been the entrance to the city for millennia as shown by the Sassano-Parthian reliefs next to it. The large solar symbol (historically associated with the Kurds) surrounded by four knots suggests the significance of Amedi in the political geography of Kurdistan in antiquity.

Mosque of Amedi

The historic Church of Saint George was converted into a mosque in the mid 12th century. Nonetheless, the original church architecture persists in the nave, arcades, and side-aisles which are on an axis away from Mecca. It is believed that the church itself was also a convert from an earlier pre-Christian temple, which is possible due to the location and the position of the floor at well over a meter below the modern-day ground level.

The minaret was built in the 16th century by Badini Emir Sultan Hussein Wali (1534-1570 CE). At the height of 33 meters, it towers over the mosque and indeed the whole city. It is said the imam will open the minaret to visitors to climb to the top.

Mira Graveyard

Referred to as the royal graveyard, this small cemetery is said to have been established for Badini Emir Sultan Hussein Wali (1534-1570 CE). It was in use throughout the Ottoman era and into the 20th century for the nobility of the Emirate and Amedi.

The tombs are typical of old Islamic gravesites, with vegetal motifs and holy writs. One of the most recent grave markers is from a woman who died in the 20th century.

Jewish Shrine

Tucked behind the main mosque is this tiny shrine to a Jewish rabbi. As attested by memorial candles left behind with Hebrew labels, it is still a site of pilgrimage for Jewish people living in and visiting Kurdistan.

Church of Saint Joseph

This old church does not even have a priest anymore, as just a handful of Christian families remain in Amedi. However, the Christian community still gathers here to relax if not for religious ceremonies during major holidays.

Its stone walls are finished in simple plaster, the old pews are hewn from solid wood, and the altar is crafted from marble with a few simple decorations. The ascetic decore nonetheless feels holy and transcendent, and visitors are invited to light a candle to the Virgin Mary or stay for a small prayer.

Church of Mother Mary

This church was rebuilt in the 1990s using its own old stones, but like the Church of Saint Joseph up the road, it retains the sparseness that recalls the austere and simple churches of the Nestorians who preceded the current Christian denominations in the area. Nonetheless, the church does have all the normal attributes of a modern church, including a charming altar decorated using elements of the old church building.

Qubahan Madrasa

This old Islamic school is said to have been founded by Badini Emir Sultan Hussein Wali, thus dating it to the 16th century. Students were boarded at the school itself, where they studied religion, science, and the humanities.

Today it is mostly in ruins but is undergoing a slow, halted restoration. The vast campus, spiral staircase, monumental columns, and abundant inscriptions secure its historical significance not just for Amedi but all of Kurdistan.

There appear to be many Star of David carvings, but in this region, these were historically an Ottoman Muslim motif and not typically associated with Judaism until more recently.

Other sites

There are other sites to visit in and around Amedi, such as additional ruins, old mosques, public monuments, a Zoroastrian worship site, vista points over the surrounding valley, a protected natural park in the opposite mountains, and the touristic town of Sulav across the road. This is just a sample of what can be enjoyed in a visit or two — and what more can be found through having a tea and listening to local lore with some local Amedians.


Editing by G.H. Renaud