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055. Samarra
Abu Dulaf Mosque and Minaret

Salah ad-Din Governorate. About 60 miles north of Baghdad, on the Tigris. Often called the largest archaeological site in the world, Samarra stretches more than 40 kilometers along the Tigris. The region dates from the Samarra period (5600-5000 BC) at nearby sites Tell es-Sawwan and Choga Mami and also became a major urban center under the Abbasid caliphate (9th century AD).

In 836 AD the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu't, wishing to escape conflict with the local population in Baghdad, moved to Samarra, which remained the seat of power for the Abbasids for next 56 years, a period during which the largest mosque in all of Islam was built at Samarra. The city served as home for eight successive caliphs until 892, when the capital was moved back to Baghdad.

While all of Samarra can be considered an archaeological treasure, these monuments stand out in particular:

Abu Dulaf Mosque
and Minaret

In an isolated area on the east bank of the Tigris about eight kilometers north of Samarra.

Client/Patron: Caliph al-Mutawakki
Date: Abbassid period, 859-861

The Archnet Digital Library describes the Abu Dulaf Mosque at Samarra in the following manner: "Between 859 and 861, the Abbassid caliph al-Mutawakkil relocated temporarily from his palace at Samarra to a new settlement that he named Ja'fariya, about eight kilometers to the north on the east bank of the Tigris. The Mosque of Abu Dulaf became the new congregational mosque, serving the same function the Great Mosque in Samarra during this brief two-year period.

Abu Dulaf mosque follows almost the same model as the earlier mosque of al-Mutawakkil at Samarra, but the plan of the complex is better preserved. The mosque measures 214 x 135 meters, and is set inside a nearly square outer enclosure of 358 x 347 meters. In the outer enclosure, there are 18 courtyard buildings. East and west of the qibla wall there are two larger portico buildings; behind the qibla wall is a main courtyard with four iwan halls, and one secondary courtyard. See the ground plan.

The Abu Dulaf spiral minaret, 32 meters high, is smaller than the al-Mutawakkil minaret at Samarra but similar in every other way: positioned to the north of the mosque with a spiral ramp rising from a square base adorned with small recesses on each side.

The mosque itself has fired brick rectangular piers, and introduces for the first time in the east the T-plan with a wider axial nave and a double aisle parallel to the qibla wall. The portico on the courtyard has a double arcade of rectangular piers, while the prayer hall has sixteen arcades oriented perpendicular to the qibla wall.

The walls of the mosque barely remain, just remnants of the northern façade. Forty semicircular towers support the outer wall of the mosque. Excavation conducted during the 1940s by the Iraqi Department of Antiquities, provides evidence of a double riwaq that extended from the main walls of the mosque off the northern façade to accommodate large crowds at Friday prayer. Another discovery: the mosque was connected to the governor's palace by a door beside the mihrab. The palace, now gone, was constructed exclusively of baked brick."

Source: ArchNet

  34° 21' 39.6000"
  34.361º N
  43° 48' 9.0000"  
  43.8025º E

GoogleEarth satellite view of the
Abu Dulaf Mosque (Great Mosque)
and Minaret at Samarra (external resource)