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Great Mosque of Samarra, Samarra, Iraq

One of the most impressive buildings on the territory of Iraq is the minaret of Samarra’s Great Mosque (Masjid-e Samarra al-Qabir). It is located in the valley of the Tigris River – at a distance of 132 kilometers from Baghdad - in Sammara, which was once the center of the Arab Caliphate. Unfortunately, only the minaret and exterior walls of the once the world’s most famous mosque have survived to the present day.

The mosque was built in the years 849-52 thanks to the efforts of Abbasid Caliph al - Mutawakkil. For a long time it was the largest mosque of the whole Islamic world. The unusual minaret of the mosque, known as Malwiya, was built of brick in the form of a cone. The base of the minaret is 33 meters wide and - 52 meters. Minaret has a circled huge spiral staircase that at the end turns into a small mirador. There is a small room inside of the mirrador and from outside it is decorated with eight arches. Because of its swirling forms the minaret of the Great Mosque of Samarra was called Malwiya (malwiya in Arabic means snail shell).

The minaret is visible from afar. Even today it is considerably higher, than surrounding panorama of the city. Malwiya was used to call worshipers to the mosque for prayer. For the construction of this minaret Arab architects used the latest technologies of the era. In 2005, the upper part of the minaret was damaged in an air attack. According to some sources, the attack was organized in order to destroy the American lookout, located in the mirador. Other sources claim that the attack was the result of conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites. Fortunately, the damage caused by this mysterious attack to the old but firm Malwiya, was not significant.

The minaret is considered one of the most important shrines of Islam. This is why its small copy, along with copies of other valuable monuments of Islamic architecture, was placed in the park Taman Tamadun Islam in Malaysia. Malwiya is under the protection of UNESCO.

By Anna Pambukhchyan,


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