Samarra Archaeological City Iraq

Samarra Archaeological City is 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. The 9th-century Great Mosque and its spiral minaret are among the numerous remarkable architectural monuments of the site, 80% of which remain to be excavated.

Samarra Archaeological City
Continent: Asia
Country: Iraq
Category: Danger List
Criterion: (II) (III) (IV)
Date of Inscription: 2011

Outstanding evidence of the Abbasid Caliphate

The ancient capital of Samarra dating from 836-892 provides outstanding evidence of the Abbasid Caliphate which was the major Islamic empire of the period, extending from Tunisia to Central Asia. It is the only surviving Islamic capital that retains its original plan, architecture and arts, such as mosaics and carvings. 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.

Samarra was the second capital of the Abbasid Caliphate after Baghdad. Following the loss of the monuments of Baghdad, Samarra represents the only physical trace of the Caliphate at its height.

Samarra Archaeological City Heritage
Samarra Archaeological City

Browse Gallery Plus UNESCO Storyline

The most unusual minarets

The city preserves two of the largest mosques (Al-Malwiya and Abu Dulaf) and the most unusual minarets, as well as the largest palaces in the Islamic world (the Caliphal Palace Qasr al-Khalifa, al-Ja'fari, al Ma'shuq, and others). Carved stucco known as the Samarra style was developed there and spread to other parts of the Islamic world at that time. A new type of ceramic known as Lustre Ware was also developed in Samarra, imitating utensils made of precious metals such as gold and silver.

Slideshow for this Heritage Site

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