Thamir Alqatrani

PhD student profile for Thamir Alqatrani

PhD Student

Department of Geography and Environmental Management

About Thamir

Thamir graduated in architecture at the University of Basrah and began working as a lecturer at the Architecture Department, in the School of Engineering at the University of Basrah. Seeking to broaden his experience, he applied for a position with the planning division, which manages the University’s own sites. This gave him the opportunity to develop his skills in planning, project development and management, offering the opportunity to work with many international companies.

One of the most important projects that impacted his future research thinking concerned the management and development of the old centre of the city of Basrah. He was a member of the team responsible for planning the area, seeking to balance restoration and conservation with tourism development. This experience stimulated the ideas that would lead to his PhD research. His work experience gave him the opportunity to apply for a competitive scholarship to study a PhD in the UK supported by the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. He was one of only 25 students across the country to win this award.

Areas of expertise

  • Conflict theory
  • Heritage and built environment
  • Pilgrimage and religious tourism
  • Qualitative research methods, including semi-structured interviews and archival analysis.

Research title

The implications of the religious practices on the tangible assets of heritage, the Holy City of Karbala, as a case study.

Supervisory team

Dr Steve Melia, Dr Katie McClymont, Adam Sheppard.

Start date

April 2017

Finish date

April 2020

Project summary

This research project aims to examine conflict within the conservation process between religious practices and the built heritage environment, using an extreme case, the Holy City of Karbala, where around 20 million pilgrims a year perform religious practices on foot. It will explore the influence of intangible heritage assets (religious practices) on the tangible ones (the built environment) through the process of conservation, using Conflict Theory as originally proposed by Marx.

Research questions

  • In the Iraqi holy city, how have the changing of religious practices and their interruption impacted the conservation process?
  • What are the approaches of the authorities in the Iraqi holy city to manage and protect the heritage and religious places?
  • Who or what has the greatest impact on decisions to conserve, preserve or redevelop heritage places and religious places?
  • What has been the scale and the nature of any conflict between heritage conservation and religious conservation in the Iraqi holy city?
  • How has the conflict between the intangible and tangible heritage been managed in the Iraqi Holy city?
  • How have the pilgrims' practices and movement influenced religious and heritage conservation?
  • What are the implications of the findings for the future planning process for Holy City of Karbala?


The case study approach has been used to answer the research question using a single extreme case study following Yin (2014). Two principal sub-methods will be used:

Archival analysis will explore the formal decisions, including what has been done and what is planned. Documents such as official reports, policy documents, legal documents, minutes of meetings, official newspapers, videos, photographs and maps will be analysed.

Semi-structured elite interviews will be conducted with people in positions of authority or with professional expertise. The interviews will aim to explore the powers that control the conservation practices, focussing particularly on decisions to maintain or modify the historic or religious built environment. They will also explore the attitude of the stakeholders towards heritage and the barriers that stakeholders have faced when seeking to implementing their objectives or aspirations.