Thursday, June 6, 2024

Vali Castle


Vali Castle (قلعه والی) was a residential and military building in Ilam province built during Nasereddin Shah’s reign in the Qajar era. Its construction was by the command of Gholam Reza Khan Vali, the governor of Lorestan. The castle is built on an area of 4,687 square meters and has gained fame as a symbol of indigenous culture and art after becoming a museum of anthropology. It originally was constructed in an open field although the urbanization of the area has it now surrounded by buildings and roads.


The castle has three gates on the southern, eastern and western sides. The main entry on the southern wing is built in the style of Greek architecture. From the main entrance 11 steps lead to the guards’ room and a further eight steps brings one to the main courtyard. The two other gates of the castle were used for private purposes, such as special guests, and are connected to the interior yard with roofed corridors. 


There are two vestibules on the very end of each gate, one of which includes a small pool. The vestibules divide into eight equal wings while an octagonal open ceiling provides natural light to them. The vestibules are decorated with arches, brick decorations on the ceiling, and an arched roof above the walls. The facade of the castle viewing the yard on various sides has been decorated with sash windows and decorative wooden windows including color glasses of various shapes.


The interior of the castle is decorated with mirrors, mostly on the ceiling of the rooms although only some of it within the castle’s western wing remains. The castle contains two semicircle guard towers on the corners of its northern side with sufficient room for housing the guards. 


The courtyard spans 700 square meters with sporadic trees and a long octagonal pool parallel to the main entrance wall. The eastern and western sides of the castle are mirror images of one another. Many of the rooms are connected to each other and have domed ceilings from the inside although the exterior roof is flat.


The Royal Hall is on the northern side and is larger than the other 20+ rooms. It contains a small pool that was originally built from marble although following renovations it was replaced with colored tiles. The main water source for the castle was Bibi Spring whose water was transferred to the main courtyard via underground clay pipes. With the spring now dry, modern plumbing provides the necessary water in the castle. The castle also has a lower basement level with a height of two meters.


During the Iran-Iraq war in the 80s, about half of the castle was destroyed although within a few years following the end of the war the necessary renovations were performed. In 1997 the Vali Castle was included on the Iranian cultural heritage list. The project to turn the Vali Castle into a museum began in 2006 and was carried out in several stages. The treasure of cultural heritage includes various sections displaying the customs of local people, traditional dresses of ethnic people of the province such as Kurds, Lurs, Laks, and Arabs, traditional occupations such as farming, felt making, woodturning, cloth weaving, weaving kilim, felt, rug and carpet, life in black tents (woven with goat wool and used by nomads), wedding ceremonies, and statues of famous people from the past.