Ancient customs house being restored in southern Iran

June 19, 2020 - 22:18

TEHRAN – The ruins of an ancient customs house, which was once one the busiest and most prosperous in its heyday, is being restored during an urgent rehabilitation project on the northern coasts of the Persian Gulf, southern Iran.

The customs house is located within the ancient Siraf Port that was once one of the major centers for marketing pearls and silk among other goods in the West Asia region during the Sassanid epoch (224–651) and early Islamic era.

“An emergency restoration [project] has been started on the historic Bangsar customs house to preserve and revive this monument, which has been suffered from sea waves in centuries due to its proximity with the [Persian Gulf] coast,” IRNA quoted Mehdi Azarian, the director of Siraf national heritage site, as saying on Tuesday.

“The restoration project, in this phase, includes strengthening the walls, columns, injecting mortar into the worn parts, as well as lining the exterior walls, interior spaces, and their surroundings,” the official explained.

Pointing to the construction of a stone wall to prevent the sea waves from hitting the monument, he said “By repairing the ancient customs house of Bangsar, tourists will be more convenient for visiting this magnificent historical monument.”

“The materials used in the construction of this building are stone, mortar, and plaster, and according to the available evidence, it is likely to have two floors, which according to the theory of English archaeologist Professor [David] Whitehouse (1941 – 2013) dates back to the ninth and tenth centuries CE.”

The port of Siraf was discovered in the 19th century (it was first mapped by Sir Aural Stein), and was the target of a massive British archaeological excavation between 1966-75, led by Whitehouse. The excavations uncovered the mosques, houses, bazaars, and Sasanian origins of the town and a massive haul of Islamic and Chinese pottery, glass, and inscriptions. Siraf was an internationally famous port, especially during the Abbasid period (c.750 CE onwards), when ships owned by Sirafi merchants sailed the Indian Ocean in search of luxuries. Through Siraf passed the silks and porcelains of China, the spices and aromatic woods of India and Indonesia, and the ivory, animal skins, and gold of East Africa.

With about 1,100 years of history, the historical port of Siraf in the Persian Gulf has been inscribed on the National Heritage list. At one time, the port had been one of the major centers for marketing pearls and silk in the region, but it was gradually submerged over the centuries.

According to some historians, Siraf had a population of about 300,000 during the early Islamic era and this fact shows that it was a large city. However, today, just about 7,000 people live in Siraf in a small area.