Abbasid architecture

The great changes of the Abbasid era can be characterized as at the same time political, geo-political and cultural. The new period starts with the destruction of the Umayyad ruling family and its substitution by the Abbasids; it shifts the location of central power to the Mesopotamian area, and results in a corresponding displacement of the influence of classical and Byzantine artistic and cultural standards in favor of Persian and local Mesopotamian models.

In architecture, the building types created in the Umayyad period are fused with Eastern traditions. The rectangular hypostile plan of the Umayyad mosque, for instance, is retained but the materials and methods of construction, as well as some structural forms and the massive scale of the new mosques and palaces are related to the Mesopotamian heritage.

Marcelo Guimaraes Lima

Abbasid Caliphate Map (Met Museum)

Under the cAbbasid caliphate (750–1258), which succeeded the Umayyads (661–750) in 750, the focal point of Islamic political and cultural life shifted eastward from Syria to Iraq, where, in 762, Baghdad, the circular City of Peace (madinat al-salam), was founded as the new capital. The cAbbasids later also established another city north of Baghdad, called Samarra’ (an abbreviation of the sentence "He who sees it rejoices"), which replaced the capital for a brief period (836–83). The first three centuries of cAbbasid rule were a golden age in which Baghdad and Samarra’ functioned as the cultural and commercial capitals of the Islamic world. During this period, a distinctive style emerged and new techniques were developed that spread throughout the Muslim realm and greatly influenced Islamic art and architecture.

source:   Met Museum

This map depicts the history of the Abbasid, Fatimid, and Umayyad caliphates and shows the boundaries of Muslim dynasties and empires from about 800 to 1200. The main trade routes and the extent of the Byzantine empire in about 1000 are also indicated.
In particular, the map shows:
  • the Abbasid Caliphate at its greatest extent during the rule of Haroun al-Rashid, 786-809
  • area under Abbasid central control, c. 900
  • areas recognizing Abbasid and Fatimid sovereignty
  • Samanid empire, c. 900
  • Buyid empire, 945-1055
  • Zaidi imams, independent from 945
  • other Muslim dynasties (Seljuqs, Hamdanids, Tulunids, Buyids, Qarakhanids, Saffarids, Ghaznavids) - From - Mapping Globalization (Princeton, U. of Washington)

    Genealogical tree of the Abbasid family. In green, the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad. In yellow, the Abbasid caliphs of Cairo. Muhammad the Prophet is included (in caps) to show the kinship of the Abbasids with him. 

    source: Wikipedia

    An anachronistic map of the various de facto independent emirates after the Abbasids lost their military dominance (c. 950). 
    source: wikipedia

    Dar al-Salam

    Dar al-Salam (the Abode of Peace): The round city founded in 762 by al-Mansur (754-75), the second Abbasid caliph, to be his royal center on the western bank of the river Tigris.  Its plan and symbolism were the result of a synthesis of many previous traditions.  What started as the enclosed, round city of al-Mansur soon expanded on both banks of the river and its name reverted to that of the ancient name of the site, Baghdad. (N.Rabbat)

    The city of Baghdad between 150 and 300 AH (767 and 912 AD)
    source: wikipedia

    The Great Mosque at Dar al-Salam: built by al-Mansur in 762, demolished and rebuilt in 808-9, then enlarged in 873-75.


    The Great Mosque of Samarra with its spiral minaret (the Malwiyya). Measuring over 240 by 160 m this is one of the largest mosques in the world. It is built entirely of baked brick although marble columns on brick piles originally supported the roof. The outer wall of the mosque is supported by four corner towers and twenty semi-circular bastions resting on square bases. The Malwiyya, or spiral minaret, is 52 m high and may have been influenced by earlier Mesopotamian ziggurats. (ArchNet)

    A general view of the mosque of al-Mutawakkil showing the external wall with semi-circular towers




    The spiral minaret at Samarra. © Iraqi Ministry of Information 1977



    Abu Dulaf Mosque and Minaret 


    The Fortress of Al-Ukhaidir or Abbasid palace of Ukhaider is located roughly 50 km south of Karbala, Iraq. It is a large, rectangular fortress erected in 775 AD with a unique defensive style. Constructed by the Abbasid caliph's As-Saffah's nephew Isa ibn Musa, Ukhaidir represents architectural innovation in the structures of its courtyards, residences and mosque. Excavations at Ukhaidir were conducted in the late 19th century by Gertrude Bell. Ukhaider was an important stop on regional trade routes, similar to Atshan and Mujdah. The complex comprises a primary hall, a big Iwan, a reception hall and servants quarters. The fortress exemplifies Abbasid architecture in Iraq by demonstrating the "despotic and the pleasure-loving character of the dynasty" in its grand size but cramped living quarters.(Hillenbrand, 1999) Wikipedia 

     Ukhaydir Palace, Kufa, Iraq
    North side, Bay and tower directly east of north gate (at right)
    source: ArchNet

    Abbasid palace of Ukhaider near Karbala, Iraq
    source: wikipedia

     Ukhaydir Palace, interior courtyards

     Ukhaydir Palace gate

    Ukhaydir Palace, princely mosque


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