Brief history of Sulaymaniyah/Slemani

Sulaymaniyah is a city in northwestern Iraq, located near the Iranian border, in a mountainous region crossed by the foothills of the Zagros Mountains. Gives its name to the district located south of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The city is characterized by a strong urban expansion, aspect common to the region, due to the achieved prosperity and security following the fall of the previous Iraqi regime.

This area has been known since the most ancient times. Commemorative steles, carvings and ancient ruins bear witness to its history. In the epic of Gilgamesh, the district of Sulaymaniyah corresponded to the land of Zamua, occupied by Lullutu, where stood the Mount Nisir on whose slopes the ship came to rest eponymous protagonist of the epic as a result of the flood.

In 880 BC the Assyrian king Ashur-nasirpal conquered these lands occupied by the people of Lullutu and that event is remembered in an inscription on a stele found at Darband-i Gawr, north of Kara-dagh. An important witness to the history of the region in Sasanian era is the famous monument of Paikuli, placed in the south-western part of the territory of Sulaymaniyah; the memorial was erected at the end of the 3rd century AD by the Sasanian king Narses and the stone blocks, carved with a commemorative bilingual inscription (Middle Persian and Parthian) are currently kept in the Museum of Sulaymaniyah.

The district of Sulaymaniyah (which by the end of the Sassanid era was called Shahrizor), fell under the Ottoman rule in the 17th century and, from the beginning of this period and 1850, enjoyed a certain autonomy, thanks to the dynasty of the local clan of Baban. It is in this period that the modern city of Sulaymaniyah was founded (around 1784). Its name is due to Biiyiik Siileyman Pasha, belonging to the family of the Georgian Mamelukes and governor of Baghdad between 1780 and 1802. Under the Ottomans, the city was always place of a Kurdish movement that gave the central government a great number of officials, especially military.

After the First World War and the Treaty of Sevres (Conference for the definition of the geo-political post-war assets), which in theory decided for an autonomous Southern Kurdistan, Sulaymaniyah was assigned to the unborn state of Iraq. From this moment on, the city and the district were the protagonists of numerous rebellions to the new central government (ruled by the Hashemite monarchy) of which one of the protagonists was Sheikh Mahmud Barzandji. The proclamation of the Republic of Iraq in 1958 initially aroused enthusiasm in the Kurdish community, but the history of the following decades was marked only by a continuous and creeping conflict. Until 1991 the city was held under the control of the central government with a strong deployment of troops, while the surrounding land was always the domain of a strong Kurdish guerrilla. With the events of the First Gulf War, Suleymania passed permanently under the Kurdish control and is now one of the most important centers of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan.

Sulaymaniyah (also known with the traditional Kurdish name Slemani) maintained in the modern urban setting testimonies of traditional houses built during the last century (about 100), but the modernization process threatens to erase these valuable buildings.

The Slemani Museum (, in order to preserve some of these homes, has purchased 14 of them. Among those, two of the most significant, the Hotel Farah and the Sofy Karim House, are currently under restoration. The museum bought the first house in 1982, the Haje Rashid Osman Chauash, located in one of the most characteristic quarters, called Sabunkaran (place where soap is produced); the others were purchased from 2005 to 2010.

Starting in 2006, the experts involved in the activities related to the Cooperation Projects of the MAE/DGCS, of IsIAO first and of University of Rome Sapienza then, were hosted in Rauf Saraf, inside the bazaar district of Sabunkaran. It is a two-storey house, with a central courtyard with gardens and service rooms on each side of the court, very characteristic and immersed in a particular atmosphere of narrow streets, small shops selling local goods otherwise hard to find such as nuts, honey and intertwined shoes of the Hawraman, mountainous region in the north-east of Iraq.

The city of today

The Department of Urban and GIS manages the planimetric documentation of the city