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057. Samarra
Imam Dur Mausoleum

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:

 



Imam Dur Mausoleum

The Mausoleum of Sharaf al-Dawla Muslim, 'Uqaylid ruler of Mosul

Architect: Abu Shakir ibn Abi' l-Faraj
Client / Patron: Sharaf ad-Dawla Muslim
Date: 1085

This austere brick mausoleum introduces a new element in Islamic architecture, the muqarnas dome, the first of its kind in Iraq. Bastions project from the four corners supporting this square structure. Its exterior is plain with layered sections on each façade of geometrically patterned, raised brick towards the top of the structure.

The architect's name, Abu Shakir ibn Abi' l-Faraj is inscribed in one of these. The inner chamber is also square in plan featuring a domed room with four corner niches that form the support for the octagonal structure from which the five-tiered muqarnas dome climbs. The dome concludes at great height with a small, fluted cupola. The tomb's interior is adorned with stucco ornamentation that recalls earlier 'Abbasid decoration.

The Archnet Digital Library describes Imam Dur Mausoleum at Samarra in the following manner: "The Imam Dur, the tomb of the 'Uqaylid amir, Sharaf ad-Dawla Muslim, dates to 1085. This brick mausoleum introduces a muqarnas dome, the first of its kind in Iraq. Bastions project from the four corners supporting this square structure. Its exterior is plain with layered sections on each façade of geometrically patterned, raised brick towards the top of the structure. The architect's name, Abu Shakir ibn Abi' l-Faraj is inscribed in one of these. The inner chamber is also square in plan featuring a domed room with four corner niches that form the support for the octagonal structure from which the five-tiered muqarnas dome climbs. The dome concludes at great height with a small, fluted cupola. The tomb's interior is adorned with stucco ornamentation that recalls earlier 'Abbasid decoration."

Source: ArchNet