Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 77, Samarra Archaeological City, Iraq(3)

Milad is now taking us to Samarra Archaeological City, the site of a powerful Islamic capital city that ruled over the provinces of the Abbasid Empire extending from Tunisia to Central Asia for a century.

Located on both sides of the River Tigris 130 km north of Baghdad, the length of the site from north to south is 41.5 km; its width varying from 8 km to 4 km.
It testifies to the architectural and artistic innovations that developed there and spread to the other regions of the Islamic world and beyond.

Oh wow, there it is....The 9th century Great Mosque of Samarra!

The mosque was commissioned in 848 and completed in 851 by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil who reigned (in Samarra) from 847 until 861.

The first mosque, built in 836, has now disappeared; it was replaced in 849-852 by a new mosque built on a grand scale, which for a long time was the largest mosque of the Islamic world. It continued to be used until the end of the 11th century.

The mosque itself measures 239 x 156m, with 17 aisles in the prayer hall and a triple portico around the courtyard.

The famous Malwiya minaret is 52 m high, with a square base, and a spiral exterior staircase, up which the caliph al-Mutawakkil is said to have ridden on a white Egyptian donkey.

Samarra has the best preserved plan of an ancient large city, being abandoned relatively early and so avoiding the constant rebuilding of longer lasting cities.

Did you know that Samarra was the second capital of the Abbasid Caliphate after Baghdad?

Milad told us that on April 1, 2005, the top of the Malwiya minaret was damaged by a bomb!!
Insurgents reportedly attacked the tower because U.S. troops had been using it as a lookout position. The blast removed pieces of brick from the top of the minaret along its spiral ramp:-((

Did you know that the spiral minaret was featured in the U.S. Department of Defense's archaeology awareness playing cards, which were designed to educate and inform U.S. military personnel about the importance of respecting cultural heritage while they were on active service in Iraq and Afghanistan??

Fantastic UNESCO world heritage site!

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