spiral minaret of the Great Mosque of Samarra
Coordinates : 34°11'54
N 43°52'27 E
Country : Iraq
Governorate : Saladin Governorate
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Official name : Samarra Archaeological City
Criteria Cultural : ii, iii, iv
is a city in Iraq. It stands on the east bank of the Tigris in the Saladin
Governorate, 125 kilometers (78 mi) north of Baghdad. In 2003 the city
had an estimated population of 348,700. During the Iraqi Civil War,
Samarra was in the "Sunni Triangle" of violence.
the medieval times, Samarra was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate
and is the only remaining Islamic capital that retains its original
plan, architecture and artistic relics. In 2007, UNESCO named Samarra
one of its World Heritage Sites.
Ancient Samarra :
The remains of prehistoric Samarra were first excavated between 1911
and 1914 by the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld. Samarra became
the type site for the Samarra culture. Since 1946, the notebooks, letters,
unpublished excavation reports and photographs have been in the Freer
Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
civilization flourished alongside the Ubaid period, as one of the first
town states in the Near East. It lasted from 5,500 BCE and eventually
collapsed in 3,900 BCE.
city of Sur-marrati (refounded by Sennacherib in 690 BC according to
a stele in the Walters Art Museum) is insecurely identified with a fortified
Assyrian site of Assyrian at al-Huwaysh on the Tigris opposite modern
Samarra. The State Archives of Assyria Online identifies Surimarrat
as the modern site of Samarra.
place names for Samarra noted by the Samarra Archaeological Survey are
Greek Souma (Ptolemy V.19, Zosimus III, 30), Latin Sumere, a fort mentioned
during the retreat of the army of Julian in 363 AD (Ammianus Marcellinus
XXV, 6, 4), and Syriac Sumra (Hoffmann, Auszüge, 188; Michael the
Syrian, III, 88), described as a village.
possibility of a larger population was offered by the opening of the
Qatul al-Kisrawi, the northern extension of the Nahrawan Canal which
drew water from the Tigris in the region of Samarra, attributed by Yaqut
al-Hamawi (Mu?jam, see under "Qatul") to Khosrau I (531–578).
To celebrate the completion of this project, a commemorative tower (modern
Burj al-Qa'im) was built at the southern inlet south of Samarra, and
a palace with a "paradise" or walled hunting park was constructed
at the northern inlet (modern Nahr ar-Rasasi) near ad-Dawr. A supplementary
canal, the Qatul Abi al-Jund, excavated by the Abbasid Caliph Harun
al-Rashid, was commemorated by a planned city laid out in the form of
a regular octagon (modern Husn al-Qadisiyya), called al-Mubarak and
abandoned unfinished in 796.
Female statuette, Samarra, 6000 BC
Samarra bowl at the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin. The swastika in
the center of the design is a reconstruction
sancai pottery shard, 9th–10th century, found in Samarra, an example
of Chinese influences on Islamic pottery. British Museum
Dirham of Al-Muntasir minted in Samarra, 861/862 AD
In 836 CE, the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mu'tasim founded a new capital at the
banks of the Tigris. Here he built extensive palace complexes surrounded
by garrison settlements for his guards, mostly drawn from Central Asia
and Iran (most famously the Turks, as well as the Khurasani Ishtakhaniyya,
Faraghina and Ushrusaniyya regiments) or North Africa (like the Maghariba).
Although quite often called Mamluk slave soldiers, their status was
quite elevated; some of their commanders bore Sogdian titles of nobility.
city was further developed under Caliph al-Mutawakkil, who sponsored
the construction of lavish palace complexes, such as al-Mutawakkiliyya,
and the Great Mosque of Samarra with its famous spiral minaret or Malwiya,
built in 847. For his son al-Mu'tazz he built the large palace Bulkuwara.
remained the residence of the caliph until 892, when al-Mu'tadid eventually
returned to Baghdad. The city declined but maintained a mint until the
early 10th century.
Nestorian patriarch Sargis (860–72) moved the patriarchal seat
of the Church of the East from Baghdad to Samarra, and one or two of
his immediate successors may also have sat in Samarra so as to be close
to the seat of power.
the long decline of the Abbasid empire, Samarra was largely abandoned
starting in AD 940. Its population returned to Baghdad and the city
rapidly declined. Its field of ruins is the only world metropolis of
late antiquity which is available for serious archaeology.
Shrine of Al-Askari
The city is also home to al-Askari Shrine, containing the
mausolea of the Imams Ali al-Hadi and Hasan al-Askari, the tenth and
eleventh Shi?i Imams, respectively, as well as the place from where
Muhammad al-Mahdi, known as the "Hidden Imam", reportedly
went into The Occultation in the belief of the Twelver or Shias. This
has made it an important pilgrimage centre for the Imami Shias. In addition,
Hakimah and Narjis, female relatives of the Prophet Muhammad and the
Imams, held in high esteem by Muslims, are buried there, making this
mosque one of the most significant sites of worship.
walk down a street in Samarra in 1970
In the eighteenth century, one of the most violent battles of the 1730–1735
Ottoman–Persian War, the Battle of Samarra, took place, where
over 50,000 Turks and Persians became casualties. The engagement decided
the fate of Ottoman Iraq and kept it under Istanbul's suzerainty until
the First World War.
the 20th century, Samarra gained new importance when a permanent lake,
Lake Tharthar, was created through the construction of the Samarra Barrage,
which was built in order to prevent the frequent flooding of Baghdad.
Many local people were displaced by the dam, resulting in an increase
in Samarra's population.
is a key city in Saladin Governorate, a major part of the so-called
Sunni Triangle where insurgents were active during the Iraq War.
Samarra is famous for its Shi'i holy sites, including the tombs of several
Shi'i Imams, the town was traditionally and until very recently, dominated
by Sunni Arabs. Tensions arose between Sunnis and the Shi'a during the
Iraq War. On February 22, 2006, the golden dome of the al-Askari Mosque
was bombed, setting off a period of rioting and reprisal attacks across
the country which claimed hundreds of lives. No organization claimed
responsibility for the bombing. On June 13, 2007, insurgents attacked
the mosque again and destroyed the two minarets that flanked the dome's
ruins. On July 12, 2007, the clock tower was blown up. No fatalities
were reported. Shi?i cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for peaceful demonstrations
and three days of mourning. He stated that he believed no Sunni Arab
could have been behind the attack, though according to the New York
Times the attackers were likely Sunnis linked to Al-Qaeda. The mosque
compound and minarets had been closed since the 2006 bombing. An indefinite
curfew was placed on the city by the Iraqi police.
since the end of Iraqi civil war in 2007, the Shia population of the
holy city has increased exponentially. However, violence has continued,
with bombings taking place in 2011 and 2013. In June 2014, the city
was attacked by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as part
of the Northern Iraq offensive. ISIL forces captured the municipality
building and university, but were later repulsed.
Samarra has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification
BWh). Most rain falls in the winter. The average annual temperature
in Samarra is 22.7 °C (72.9 °F). About 171 mm (6.73 in) of precipitation
popular culture :
The metaphor of "Having an appointment in Samarra", signifying
death, is a literary reference to an ancient Babylonian myth recorded
in the Babylonian Talmud and transcribed by W. Somerset Maugham, in
which Death narrates a man's futile attempt to escape him by fleeing
from Baghdad to Samarra. The story "The Appointment in Samarra"
subsequently formed the germ of a novel of the same name by John O'Hara.
The story is told in "The Six Thatchers", a 2017 episode of