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059. Samarra
— Bab al-'Amma, the Jawsaq
al-Khaqani Palace Gate

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:


Bab al-'Amma, the Jawsaq al-Khaqani Palace Gate

Client/Patron: Caliph al-Mutawakkil
Dates: Abbassid period, 836-837 AD

On the west side of the Jawsaq al-Khaqani palace, facing the Tigris, we find the only extant part of the once-enormous complex, a monumental gateway or portal known as the Bab al-'Amma, ("public gate" or "commoners; gate") where the Caliph would sit on designated days to hear the people's complaints and suggestions. The structure that survives consists of three iwans (arched facades), the central one measuring 17.5 by 8 meters, with a height of 12 meters.

Click here to view the Archnet Digital Library description of Bab al-'Amma.


  34° 13' 49.0800 
  34.2303° N
  43° 52' 14.8800"     
  43.8708° E

GoogleEarth satellite image
of the Bab al-'Amma
(external resource)