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Samarra

SAMARRA

One of the oldest cities in Iraq, situated 65 miles (104 km) north of Baghdad.

There is evidence of a prehistoric Chalcolithic culture around Samarra, but the site was only sparsely populated in ancient times. The present city was founded on the east side of the Tigris River by the Abbasid caliph al-Muʿtasim in 835 c.e.; it was divided into quarters, based on business and profession. It served as the capital of eight Abbasid caliphs from 836 to 892, when Caliph al-Muʿtamid moved the capital back to Baghdad. During the Abbasid period, the caliphs were eager to make Samarra a beautiful city, with new palaces, lakes, and wide squares, and they brought in many types of plants from all over the Islamic world.

With its rich Islamic history, Samarra has many sites of historic and architectural interest. The most important is the al-Malwiyya Mosque with its spiral minaret, which is 171 feet (52 m) in height with a round room at the summit that is 19.6 feet (6 m) high. It was begun in 1443 by the Caliph alMutawakkil. Also of interest are the House of the Caliph, which contains three monumental state-rooms, large residential complexes, and outdoor recreation facilities; the mosque of Abu Dulaf, with its spiral minaret; al-Mankur Palace; and many walls, especially al-Qadissiyya, Isa, Ashnas, and Shaykh Wali. A museum was established in Samarra for the artifacts found during excavations in the area.

Two apostolic imams, Ali al-Hadi and his son Hasan al-Askari, were buried in Samarra; therefore it is a holy city of Shiʿism, one of four in Iraq. The imams' shrine is visited by Shiʿa from all over the Islamic world. Part of the mosque marks the spot where, according to the Shiʿa, the twelfth and last apostolic imam, al-Mahdi, disappeared.

The majority of contemporary Samarra's population is composed of members of tribes from the surrounding countryside, who follow Sunni Islam. In 1992, the population was estimated at 150,000. Clan and political links tend to unite Samarra with the cities to its north and south, Tikrit and Baghdad. A road links it with both major centers. Under the republican regime, the city was governed by the qaʾimmaqam (chief of the administrative unit), who reported to the muhafidh (the representative of the central government in Baghdad). With the creation of the Coalition Provisional Authority, following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Samarra came under the authority of a military commander directly appointed by occupation forces in late April 2003. It soon became a center of opposition to American forces in the region.

Samarra has a desert climate, with great temperature differences between day and night and between summer and winter. The high reaches 110°F (43°C), and the low is just above freezing. Annual relative humidity is 18 to 30 percent; annual rainfall ranges from 4 to 16 inches (1040 cm). The area grows cereal crops, citrus fruits, apples, and many types of vegetables. The major industries are a pharmaceutical plant and an electrical power plant. Strong tribal connections to the governing authorities during the Baʿathist period contributed to the city's prosperity.

One vital project nearby is the al-Tharthar Dam, opened in 1956, which prevents the flooding of Baghdad by shifting the flow of the Tigris during its rise to the al-Tharthar Valley, a depression between Samarra on the Tigris and Hit on the nearby Euphrates.

see also baghdad; shiʿism; tigris and euphrates rivers; tikrit.


Bibliography


Marr, Phebe. The Modern History of Iraq, 2d edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2003.

"The Monuments of Samarra." Available at <http://www.www.dur.ac.uk/derek.kennet/monuments.htm>.

Nakash, Yitzhak. The Shiʿis of Iraq. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

nazar al-khalaf
updated by paul s. rowe

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"Samarra." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Samarra." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/samarra

"Samarra." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved July 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/samarra

Samarra

Samarra (sämär´rä), town, N central Iraq, on the Tigris River. It is on the site of an ancient settlement and has given its name to a type of Neolithic pottery of the 5th millennium BC The present town was founded (836) by the Abbasid caliphs. Samarra's 17th-century Askariya mosque complex, sacred to Shiite Muslims as the burial site of the 10th and 11th imams and the site of the disappearance of the 12th ( "hidden" ) imam, was severely damaged by terrorist bombings in 2006–7 but was subsequently rebuilt. There are notable ruins of many palaces, mosques, and other buildings, including the 9th-century great mosque with its spiral minaret. The town was the scene of fierce fighting between Sunni insurgents and U.S. occupation forces in 2004.

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"Samarra." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Samarra." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/samarra

Samarra

Samarra a city in Iraq, on the River Tigris north of Baghdad; its 17th-century mosque is a place of Shiite pilgrimage.
appointment in Samarra an unavoidable meeting with death or fate, from a story by Somerset Maugham in the play Sheppey (1933), in which a man sees Death in Baghdad and flees to distant Samarra to escape, not realizing that Death had always intended to meet him that night in Samarra.

A similar story, in which the place of apparent safety is Ispahan, is found earlier in Jean Cocteau's Le Grand Écart (‘The Miscreant’, 1923).

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"Samarra." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Samarra." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/samarra

"Samarra." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved July 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/samarra