Kurdistan's Duhok Roman-era Dalal bridge
in danger of collapse
By Abdul-Khaleq Dosky, Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan -
July 14, 2012
Dalal bridge in Zakho, Kurdistan region of Iraq.
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DUHOK, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Its history
includes tales of love, war and tourism. But now an
ancient bridge in the city of Zakho urgently needs
maintenance. Will this historical relic go the same
way so many of Iraq’s lost antiquities have?
Like every ancient bridge in the world, the Abbasi
bridge in the northern city of Zakho has its own
story to tell. Its old rocks have lost their colour
over time but they still tell stories passed down by
generations of locals.
One of the oldest revolves around a young man in the
Abbasside era - the Abbaside dynasty ruled for
almost two centuries from the year 750 - who fell in
love with a girl living in the village on the
opposite side of the river; he built the bridge so
he could be with her.
Another story focuses on a Turkish architect who
came to Zakho, which lies near the border of Iraq
and Turkey, in the Middle Ages. A nearby Turkish
governor had amputated one of his hands and as a
kind of challenge to him, the architect decided to
build a bridge.
Legend has it that the architect built the bridge by
constructing both ends and then having it join in
the middle. Using this method, the bridge was in
danger of collapse many times. So the architect
consulted a medium who told him that he should kill
the first person to cross the river and bury the
body in the centre of the bridge. Unhappily for her,
the next day his son’s wife,www.ekurd.net
a woman called Dalal, came across the river to bring
him his breakfast. And apparently that is why to
this day the locals know the crossing as the Dalal
But there’s one story the locals don’t know and that
is the modern one about the bridge falling down –
and sooner than they think.
The bridge’s stones have no original inscriptions
and historians think it may have been built by the
ancient Romans. But others believe it was built
later and dates back to the Abbasside era, between
the 8th and 13th centuries.
In the past the bridge was very important in that it
was the only place one could cross Khabur river.
Convoys of traders, carrying raisins and cotton, and
military brigades all used this bridge.
With the construction of modern concrete and iron
bridges in Zakho, the Abbasi bridge has become much
less important. But locals still use the bridge to
get from one Zakho neighbourhood to another and the
bridge, with its five arches and large stones, still
has an undeniable charm.
The Abbasi bridge is mostly a tourist attraction now
and according to Zakho’s tourism department, between
100,000 and 150,000 bridge fanciers visit the site
But these days, those visiting the bridge need to be
cautious when crossing. Because of erosion and the
damage done by time, the risk of falling 15.5 metres
down to the water, off this 114 meter long bridge,
is high - and getting higher.
“Unlike other bridges built nearby – such as the
Bishok bridge on the Hizel river, which collapsed
because one side stood on sand – the Abbasi bridge
has been able to survive because it was built on
solid rocks,” researcher Said Haji Sadiq, who has
written two books on Zakho’s history, told NIQASH.
“The stones used in the construction of the bridge
vary in size – some are more than a meter in length
and 80 centimetres wide.”
Lime was also used in the construction of the bridge
and this has merged with the bridge’s structure over
Researcher Sadiq notes a picture of the Abbasi
bridge from 1899. What’s different today is the
nearby concrete wall constructed by state
authorities and cement and stones that have been
“But the design of the bridge should not be
altered,” Sadiq argues. “And any company that
undertakes maintenance work must be made aware of
the bridge’s historic significance.”
In fact, many of the old stones now have numbers on
them – at one stage an errant Iranian company was
contracted by the Iraqi Kurdish authorities to
maintain the bridge.
“The government contracted an Iranian company to
maintain the bridge but it didn’t finish the work on
deadline,” Hassan Ahmad, head of the state of
Dohuk’s department of antiquities, said. “We asked
the government to terminate the contract and to find
another company, that could maintain the bridge
according to UNESCO’s scientific standards. We are
also seeking to have this bridge listed as one of
the world’s important archaeological sites.”
Several civil society organizations in Iraqi
Kurdistan issued a statement last month demanding
that the bridge be better maintained.
“We asked the government to protect this bridge and
we asked them to contract specialized foreign
companies to do the maintenance needed,” the head of
a local group for the preservation of Kurdish
history, Bayan Bafy, told NIQASH. “We also asked
authorities to draft and pass a law to protect the
heritage and antiquities of the region.”
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