Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Located in Samarra, Iraq, the Great Mosque of Samarra used to be the largest mosque of the Islamic world.  With its unique and well known minaret, it attracts a lot of attention and is a popular site for tourists to visit.

                The Great Mosque of Samarra was built by Al-Mutawakkil in 848-852 AD.  It has an Islamic Abbasid style and was built out of brick and clay.  In the mid-ninth century, Al-Mutawakkil ordered the Great Mosque of Samarra to be built in order to celebrate his becoming of the Abbasid caliphate.

The mosque is 240 meters in length and 160 meters in width.  It has baked brick walls which are 10 meters tall and are held by 44 towers.  It contains sixteen gates to enter through, and over each entrance are a couple of arched windows.  The outer walls have a total of twenty-nine windows: twenty-four on the southern side, one on every aisle in the inner sanctuary, and one with the mihrab.  The mosque’s roof was held by 216 piers in the sanctuary, 27 piers in the riwaq to the north, 88 piers on each side, and 2 marble columns around the mihrab which were in the southern wall of the mosque.  Each pier was reconstructed into octagonal white marble columns, but only one of those column’s base is still standing today.  The Great Mosque of Samarra is also surrounded by an outer enclosure called a ziyada.  The ziyada surrounds the mosque on all sides except the south side, which is the qibla side.  This ziyada is inside an even bigger one which surrounds every side of the mosque, however the south side is thinner than the others.  The whole area that the mosque and ziyadas take up is a total of 17 hectares (170,000m). 

One of the most magnificent minarets in Iraq is the Al-Malwiya.  Also known as the snail shell minaret, the Al-Malwiya is one of the oldest and most significant minarets.  It’s located 27.25 meters from the middle of the north face of the Great Mosque of Samarra.  Standing 52 meters tall, and perched on a double-decked square base, it has an exterior spiral ramp starting on the side nearest to the mosque.  The spiral travels up the minaret five times counterclockwise to the peak of the minaret, where a circular room with a 6 meter radius lies.  It is said that the caliph al-Mutawakkil rode up to the top of this minaret on a white Egyptian donkey.  Although after more than a thousand years of standing, this mosque was eventually destroyed.  But even though most of it is in shambles, the minaret still rises to this day.