The 16th century shrine of Abu Nasr Khwaja Parsa and a complex of historic structures, located in a public park at the centre of Balkh, were identified as requiring urgent conservation and landscaping works by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
With the support of the German Federal Foreign office, the Khwaja Parsa Conservation and Landscaping Project entailed the following work:
- Restoration of the Khwaja Parsa Shrine and reconstruction of an historic mosque to replace an illegal modern concrete intervention adjacent to the Shrine;
- Rehabilitation of the 3.5 hectare Khwaja Parsa public park, including landscaping and planting activities, the provision of basic public services and utilities and, improving and upgrading existing pathways and the perimeter wall in order to provide safe access to and use by the general public; and,
- Consolidation of two important historic structures within the park including, (1) the tomb of the famous female Dari language poet Rabia Balkhi and (2) the remnants of the 16th century gate of the Subhan Qoli Madrassa which has been converted as the main entrance into the park.
The rehabilitation of the landscaping surrounding the park and at the centre of Balkh focused on providing safe access and improved services and facilities for the public. In order to facilitate better access to the park, new pathways and stairs were laid using brick masonry and, where appropriate, existing pathways were improved and made ready for use by large numbers of people. Laborers cleared debris from the site, leveled and graded the earth by hand, before laying 12,000m2 of brick pathways using lime-mortar base and over 780,000 locally produced bricks.
The natural landscape was enhanced through the removal of 800m3 of silt deposits from 2 kilometers of surface channels and improvement of the existing gravity-fed irrigation system that distributes water to trees, plants and bushes. As part of the landscaping works, more than 700 invasive species of plants and trees were removed and the site was replanted with more than 1200 trees and flowers consisting of indigenous species widely available in the local nurseries such as cypresses, plane trees and roses. A small on-site nursery was established in order to propagate the planting of additional trees in the future.