Swat tourism: Historical mosque hopes for new life

Published: March 3, 2011
Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi Mosque was constructed in 440 AH (1048-1049 AD). This is the first mosque of the Ghaznavid period. PHOTO: EXPRESS/ FAZAL KHALIQ

Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi Mosque was constructed in 440 AH (1048-1049 AD). This is the first mosque of the Ghaznavid period. PHOTO: EXPRESS/ FAZAL KHALIQ

SWAT: Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi Mosque, one of the oldest in northern Pakistan, has hopes for a new life as the Italian government has initiated a renovation project.

Historians estimate that the mosque in Swat was constructed in 440 AH (1048-1049 AD) during the reign of Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi. The renovation project will approximately cost two million Euros.

The mosque, which was discovered by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan in 1985, represents a splendid design of old Muslim architecture.

After uncovering the ruins, the most striking aspects were traces of 30-foot-high walls, a graveyard, common rooms, student rooms and a water mill. The walls also show traces of a Buddhist stupa that was constructed before the mosque was made.

The Italian ambassador to Pakistan, Vincenzo Prati, and director of the Italian Archeological Mission to Pakistan, Dr Luca Maria Oliveri, visited the site on Wednesday. While speaking to The Express Tribune, Dr Oliveri said “This is the third such mosque in Pakistan and the earliest mosque connected to the Islamisation of the Ghaznavid period. The renovation project is part of the overall $100 million Archaeological Project, jointly signed by the Italian and Pakistani governments under an Italian Debt-Swap agreement in 2006.”

The archaeological project consists of four stages, the first of which is the conservation and restoration of the Mahmood Ghaznavi Mosque.  The second stage is excavation and conservation of the Barikot site and the third is the restoration of the Saidu Sharif stupa, which was excavated by the Italians in the 1970s. The fourth stage, which is the most important in terms of the funds allocated, is the rehabilitation of the Swat Museum.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Prati said: “I am very happy to announce that we are going ahead with these agreements. The Archaeology Commission of Italy started work in this region in the 1950s, so we have actually been here for 50 years now. What we would like to do is to capitalise on our experience and with the support of the Pakistani government to invigorate the process. This is a small contribution from Italy, but from the core of our heart.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Gulalai
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:04AM

    Alas!. these historical sites existed in some other countries, they would be in perfect protection and would earn millions of revenue but shame on Pakistani government Recommend

  • Rahim
    Mar 3, 2011 - 5:45PM

    great workRecommend

  • Amjad Ali Sahaab
    Mar 3, 2011 - 6:02PM

    I have no words to thank Italian Govt for this great initiative. Salute to them for this noble cause. Fie upon the archeology depart of Pakistan. I think They are here only for getting fat salaries. Recommend

  • Luca Maria Olivieri Director Italian Mission
    Mar 3, 2011 - 6:51PM

    A very well informed article. My compliments to the Author. Just a couple of minor remarks: 1) the hundred million dollars Debt Swap Agreement funds are focusing on post-flood and other emergency programs, poverty relief, vocational trainings, agriculture, olive trees plantations, post-harvest processes, marble extraction,etc. Archaeology and tourism are just a part of the Debt Swap program; 2) the Department of Archaeology is implementing parter of the project in Swat and they have partecipated to creation of the project since the beginning.

    Luca M. Olivieri, Director Italian Archaeological Mission (Saidu Sharif, Swat)Recommend

  • fahad khan
    Mar 4, 2011 - 12:12AM

    Gaznavid Masjid is the one great place in swat, and it is still alive by the help of Great Itlian Team..Salam To italian and Dr. Luca and the team. thanks Fahad khanRecommend

  • iman
    Mar 4, 2011 - 12:12PM

    I wish to see that placeRecommend

  • S Khan
    Mar 4, 2011 - 6:11PM

    Great article, we never appreciated such great sites at stone throw distance from where we live. As history lover I turned every stone of that mountain, the summit (remains of Gira’s castle) is fabulous. Happy to see it got attention and hopefully will make a great archaeological park.Recommend

  • Rahman
    Mar 6, 2011 - 7:18PM


  • sangeen klhan
    Apr 12, 2011 - 4:31PM

    sawat is one of the historical place of our country.for beganing this project archaeology vl promote as vl as tourism.being an archaeologist i welcome them nd request others countries start such kind of projects as v have very rich historic places.Recommend

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