Rauf Saraf

The building was purchased by the Museum in 2006. It is located in the Sabunkaran district.

In the pictures the state of preservation in 2006 and the interventions of 2012 can be seen.


The Saraf family is one of the most important families in Slemani, whose house is in one of the ancient quarters of the city called Sabunkaran, once famous for the production of soap.  

This house is nowadays property of the Governorate of Sulaymaniyah and used as the seat of the Directorate of Antiquities. Since the late Ottoman period, the house was owned by a retired general, Jamal Afandi.

In 1955 the house was bought for 240 Iraqi Dinars by Rauf Mahammed Abdulrahman, more commonly known as Rauf Saraf, a money exchanger in Sulaymaniyah ("Saraf" is a Kurdish word meaning someone who exchanges money).

The structure is made of red mudbricks, and beneath there is a natural spring. It was rebuilt in a more modern style in 1955, after a request from Rauf Saraf’s wife, Sabriyah Ahmed.

The house is now made up of the following builging materials:
1. blue stone: the surrounding walls are made of this material, collected from the mountains around Slemani. The material is so hard that it doesn’t change either its composition or color for hundreds of years. 
2. gypsum and red firebricks: collected from the ovens in Diyala and Baghdad, South Iraq.
3. Ground tiles: the ground is made of tiles, and painted on in different flowery motives that are still there as of today. These tiles came from Basra.

Except from the outer walls, cement has not been used at all for the house.

The area of the house is 275 m, and two buildings are connected to each other with a lawn in the middle. The lower part of the house is comprised of two bedrooms and a bathroom, and the bedroom roofs are made up of wood. The upper part of the house has two floors. The upper floor contains four bedrooms, a lobby and a big living room. The floors are all covered in tiles. The lower floor is comprised of two bedrooms and a living room. The reason behind the big size of the house was for the siblings to live there together, even after their marriages. Rauf Saraf wanted everyone in the family to live together under one roof.

It took abut 4-5 months to rebuild the house (1955), and the construction builder was a famous one in Sulaymaniyah, named Karim Chawshin. Rauf Saraff was so pleased with the building when it was finished that he gave away a pocket watch in gold to the construction builder as a gift, which is now with Karim Chawshin’s daughter.

The house was sold for 265.000 USD in 2008 to the Governorate of Sulaymaniyah, and is thus now used as the Directorate of Antiquities. The condition for selling it was that it should not be destroyed or retouched in any way, and that the name of the family, Rauf Saraf, should remain.