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Project Profile


2002 Award of Distinction

Yarikutz, Rupikutz, Kuyokutz, Mamorukutz Mosques

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Project Title: Yarikutz, Rupikutz, Kuyokutz, Mamorukutz Mosques, Ganish historic settlement

Date of Completion: January 2000

Location: Ganish village, Hunza, Pakistan

Size: N/A

Cost: US$ 13,000

Client: Shah Gul Haya, Haji Sikadar Khan, Haji Ali Madad, Altaf Hussain

Heritage Architect: Essa Khan

Contractor: Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan


Approximately 300 years old, the four wooden mosques, Yarikutz, Rupikutz, Kuyokutz and Mamorukutz are considered some of the finest in the Hunza region of northern Pakistan and together present a highly significant cultural ensemble.

Located in the small mountain khun (village) of Ganish, the four mosques surround the village chataq (common public space), an open courtyard area paved with stones.  Ganish, an ancient village dating back nearly 1000 years, is 110 kilometers north of Gilgit and is located on the branch of the Silk Road that crosses the Karakoram mountains and goes as far as Uighur in China.

Ganish was remote and isolated until the Karakoram Highway (KKH) was completed the 1970s. The KKH now winds around Ganish village and provides a link to the rest of the world. With this connection have come fundamental changes and challenges, altering the traditional lifestyles and customs of Ganish community members. As a result of these and earlier social changes, the four historic mosques and chataq of Ganish had fallen into disuse and prior to their restoration the mosques were practically in a state of collapse.

In the interests of promoting social development and heritage conservation, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), a private charitable organization, has initiated a number of preservation projects in Pakistan through its Historic Cities Support Programme (HCSP). The HCSP has coordinated projects through the Aga Khan Cultural Services of Pakistan (AKCSP) in a number of villages and settlements in the Hunza region, including the Baltit Fort in the Karimabad village.

Although a draft National Charter for the Conservation and Preservation of Cultural Property (1989) exists, it is not in effect and no heritage legislation or regulations exist in Pakistan to protect ancient structures. Likewise, no enforceable guidelines exist for the maintenance or restoration of built heritage.  The AKTC relies on the guidelines set out in international Charters such as the Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments and the Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites.

Building History

With the advent of Islam in the Hunza region, seven private mosques were constructed in Ganish khun and were named after the families (sub-clans) that built them. According to oral histories and architectural evidence, the four mosques surrounding the village chataq, belonging to the four families of Yarikutz, Rupikutz, Kuyokutz and Mamorukutz, are estimated to have been built in the early 1700’s, probably around 1715.

The mosques share the same architectural theme and are of a similar size, ranging between five and nine meters wide. Built on a square platform of rough boulders, each mosque has a portico on two sides and an inner prayer chamber. The structure of the inner chamber walls is in the form of a cribbage (cage made of timber beams) filled with rubble or adobe blocks. In two of the mosques the exposed timber elements, doors and windows are intricately carved. The roof structure is the typical ‘rotated square within a square’ form of timber bracing common to the region, finished with a thick earthen roof held in place with wooden fascia boards.

Project History

Inspired by the Karimabad village conservation project coordinated by the AKCSP, the elders of Ganish approached the AKCSP and requested they oversee a similar project in Ganish. Together with the AKCSP, the Ganish community developed a plan to upgrade services and generally restore the built environment in Ganish khun. As part of the wider village conservation plan, a project was designed which specifically aimed to restore the four mosques and chataq area.

Project Scope and Framework

The project set out to restore the mosques to a useable and structurally-sound state and to improve the courtyard area (chataq). The main aim was to enable reutilization of the mosques, strengthen community cohesion and to revitalize the function of the chataq as a gathering place for community meetings and festivals.

The restoration project sought to stabilize the mosques while retaining the traditional style, historic fabric and decorative details of the buildings. In addition to restoring the mosques, the project aimed to make necessary alterations to a number of residential buildings around the courtyard in order to reinstate the original layout and ambiance of the chataq. Meetings were also planned with owners of buildings bordering the chataq to ensure that any private renovations and additions to the buildings they had in mind would be made in keeping with the style of the ancient chataq area and to make certain that views from the courtyard of the surrounding countryside would not be disturbed.

Conservation Methodology and Materials

Conservation activities in the village began with the sanitation and services project in 1996. A storm water drainage system, an underground electricity distribution network and a new piped water system were installed and the entire street network was repaved with the original type of stone.

In the chataq area, restoration activities began in 1999 and during that year the mosques were restored one by one, electric cables were put underground in the courtyard and the chataq was repaved. In addition, a number of modifications were made to surrounding residential buildings.

The mosques were leaning and were structurally unsound. In realigning the mosques, the heavy earth-covered roofs were removed to lighten the load on the timber structure and the mosques were carefully shifted into a vertical position and pegged with timber dowels to ensure structural stability. The traditional roofs were then replaced using new soil, compacted by foot in the traditional manner.

Inappropriate additions and structures were removed from the chataq area and mosques, such as the electricity tower that had been constructed in the centre of the verandah of Mamurukutz mosque.

Some modern materials, such as cement, were incorporated in the restoration process to ensure stability and enhance the function of the structures, but were used sensitively so as not to detract from the overall aged appearance of the buildings. To improve structural soundness of the mosque walls, for example, the rubble in the cribbage walls was removed and replaced with stabilized blocks of 1:1:8 of cement, sand and salt whilst the old adobe blocks were replaced with new blocks of adobe stabilized with cement and sand.

In the interests of improving the function of the mosques, the packed-earth floors of the mosques were removed and replaced with timber flooring in deodar wood. All timber surfaces in the buildings were treated using the traditional wood preservation technique of applying walnut rind followed by linseed oil.

Important Issues

Mobilizing resources and people

This restoration project was initiated by the elders of Ganish and supported by the entire community. The Ganish community contributed physical labor, materials, ideas and determination, while technical and financial resources were sourced externally (from the AKTC, The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and the Spanish Government).

Once the chataq had been restored it began to be used once again for its original purpose, for meetings and public gatherings.  By gathering in the chataq, the community members could not but become more conscious and proud of the beauty and value of their ancient heritage. Community spirit and cohesiveness grew and in the spring of 2001, the thirty-odd households of Ganish met in the chataq and resolved to establish the Ganish Khun Heritage, Social and Welfare Society (GKHSWS) in order to manage the conservation and ongoing maintenance of the village’s heritage resources.

Project Sustainability and Viability

The GKHSWS will continue to mange, conserve and maintain the built heritage of Ganish village. Since its establishment, GKHSWS has shown impressive progress in the organization and management of the village as a tourist attraction, thus providing a source of revenue to ensure the project’s sustainability.

Project Impact

The project has restored a sense of unity and The project has preserved the built heritage of this small mountainous village and has transformed the community by strengthening community pride and giving Ganish a strong cultural identity. As a result, the community is also now better equipped to sustainably conserve their heritage.

With initiation and very active participation by the community, this project is now leading the process of the establishment and consolidation of community-wide institutions and is a role model for managing community assets.