People, Travel

Dir Gachin May Be Sold

Dir Gachin May Be SoldDir Gachin May Be Sold

The Fund for Restoration and Administration of Historical and Cultural Sites is planning to transfer the ownership of Dir Gachin Caravansary in Qom Province to private ownership.

Iran is home to scores of caravansaries, most of which are in disrepair. While a handful have been renovated and are used as traditional lodging facilities, the majority have been consigned to oblivion, most prominent of which is Dir Gachin.

But according to Muhammad Reza Pouyandeh, the chief executive of the fund, the ancient caravansary could be handed over to a private enterprise, ILNA reported.

“There is a lot of interest in Dir Gachin,” he said. “The Tourism and Automobile Club of Iran is among the more serious contenders.”

Located on the Isfahan-Rey trade route, Dir Gachin was built during the reign of Ardeshir I (224-242 AD), the founder of the Sassanid Empire, to serve as a fort. Decades later, the fort was repurposed to be used as a caravansary, and it was modified and expanded during the Seljuk (1037-1194), Safavid (1501-1736) and Qajar (1789-1925) eras.

As such, Dir Gachin displays different architectural styles from vastly different eras, garnering it the nickname “the mother of all caravansaries”.

Restoration work on the site began ten years ago but progress has been excruciatingly slow.

“The entire project needs about $1.11 million, but we’re barely given $16,000 a year,” said Amar Kavousi, director of the provincial office of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.

Sites inscribed on the National Heritage List are obviously meant to enjoy a certain degree of protection and priority when it comes to funding; yet, Dir Gachin has neither been protected nor restored as quickly as would have been expected.

The site’s status as a national heritage may make auctioning it complicated, but activists are convinced that a private owner could speed up Dir Gachin’s restoration process and put the site to use as a museum or lodging facility.

There is no logical reason why a structure as grand as Dir Gachin should be so shockingly  deserted as to be used by nomadic tribes to shelter their camels, which surely contributed to its deterioration.

“When the ICHHTO was put in charge of the site (in early 2000), there were piles of camel droppings all over the place — some as high as a meter,” Kavousi recalled.

Maybe Iran’s rich history and the existence of tens of thousands of historical structures across Iran have desensitized cultural heritage officials and the general public to the value and worth of these sites.

A structure such as Dir Gachin would normally be a top attraction in any other country, but Iran is not just any country.