Friday, November 18, 2011

Reporting from Herat, Afghanistan—

Imperial soldiers once patrolled its battlements. Treasure lay heaped in vaulted storerooms. Prisoners languished in its depths; princes plotted the course of empires. But by late in the last century, the mighty fortress overlooking this western Afghan city had fallen into ruin.

Built on a plateau thought to have been a redoubt of Alexander the Great, the Citadel of Herat has been brought back to life. Reopened last month as a museum and cultural center after a painstaking refurbishment, the 15th century structure serves as a poignant reminder of past glories in a country beaten down by decades of war and deprivation.

More than 300 craftsmen spent nearly three years shoring up the citadel's winding ramps, cavernous chambers and soaring buttresses, rebuilding delicate wooden latticework and piecing together damaged decorative tiles.

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