The Shrine of the Bab, Baha'i 311.
(photo credit: The World Baha’i Center)
The golden glint was returned to Haifa’s most famous hillside on Tuesday, when
the Baha’i community unveiled its Shrine of the Bab, restored with a fortified
structure and adorned with a newly gilded roof.
Located in the center of
meticulously gardened terraces leading up the northern slope of Mount Carmel,
the shrine is the second holiest place for members of the Baha’i faith and marks
the site where the remains of the Baha’i founding prophet, the Bab, were
reinterred in 1909.
In 1954, the construction of the building’s
superstructure and golden dome was completed. But the weather conditions on the
Haifa mountaintop – which include a concoction of strong sun, wind and salty
moisture from the sea – took their toll on the golden tiles, which over the
years lost their luster. The need to protect the shrine from earthquakes also
helped to galvanize the leadership of the religious community, with
international membership estimated at over 5 million, to undertake a thorough
renovation of their holy site.
It might have been the three years of
careful planning and consultations led by Saeid Samadi, the Iranian- born
Californian project architect and manager, that resulted in the actual work
taking two-and-a-half years, significantly less than the five to six years that
had been projected, and costing $6 million.
An international team of
restoration staff and volunteers set the 11,790 new tiles on the dome,
reinforced the building’s structure and went over every centimeter of the old
building, fixing and restoring whatever was needed.
“The new golden tiles
are five to six times more resilient to the local conditions than the old ones
were,” Samadi said of the Portuguese-manufactured porcelain pieces of varying
sizes, covered with a gold-glazed solution. “They should last another 200 to 300
To Samadi, no less important than the actual work on the shrine
were the “spirit of unity and friendships among the peoples of different races,
nations, religions” who were involved in the renovation.
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doesn’t just represent a building, it is much more than that,” he
The Haifa shrine, which along with the Shrine of Baha’u’llah near
Acre has been inscribed as a site of “outstanding universal value” on the UNESCO
World Heritage list, drew some 760,000 tourists in 2010, according to Baha’i
It was in 1863 that the Baha’u’llah declared himself the
religious leader who would bring peace and prosperity, as per the Persian Bab’s
prophecy from 1844.
The Baha’u’llah sentiment was counter to the Islamic
tenet that Muhammad was the last prophet. Unlike the Bab, who was executed by
the Persian regime in 1850 for his religious beliefs, the Baha’u’llah was spared
death due to his family’s prominence, but forced out of his native Persia, and
in 1868 he and his family reached the Turkish penal colony of Acre, where he
died and was buried, making the city the faith’s holiest site.
monotheistic religion’s spiritual and administrative centers are located in
Haifa and Acre, there is no Israeli Baha’i community, following a clear
directive issued by the Baha’u’llah. Last month, local dignitaries were part of
the hundreds of well-wishers at the festive reception in Jerusalem marking the
Baha’i new year. The “Naw Rúz,” as it is called in Persian, is celebrated on
March 21, the first day of spring.
In his address, Dr. Albert Lincoln,
secretary-general of the Baha’i International Community, expressed the hope that
the current ferment in North Africa and the Middle East would result in more
freedom for the Baha’i community, as well as for the general public, in those
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