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World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers



Samarra Archaeological City is the site of a powerful Islamic capital city which ruled over the provinces of the Abbasid empire extending from Tunisia to Central Asia for a century.

It testifies to the architectural and artistic innovations that developed there and spread to the other regions of the Islamic world.

Among its architectural monuments are the 9th century Great Mosque and its Spiral Minaret, and the Caliphal Palace.

Map of Samarra


  • Cultural

Community Reviews

athena Iraq - 25-Mar-10

In 1975 we visited Samarra and we were astounded by the spiral minaret which stand out prominently in the desert surroundings. Climbing on the spiral outside staircase, was interesting and our guide said, the higher you climb, the luckier you get! The mosque nearby was admirable, so my Italian husband said and the view from the top was breathtaking, as the ruins from afar were clearly seen

A great experience.

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Site Info

Full name: Samarra Archaeological City

Unesco ID: 276

Inscribed: 2007 In Danger

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 2   3   4  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2007 - In Danger Needs preventive measures and conservation
  • 2007 - Inscribed 
  • 1983 - Deferred Deferred until receipt of necessary info


The site has 10 locations.

  • Samarra: al-Huwaysilat Lower Salah al-Din Governorate,
  • Samarra: al-Huwaysilat Upper Salah al-Din Governorate,
  • Samarra: al-Istablat Salah al-Din Governorate,
  • Samarra: al-Ma'shuq Salah al-Din Governorate,
  • Samarra: al-Quwayr Salah al-Din Governorate,
  • Samarra: Qubbat al-Sulaibiyya Salah al-Din Governorate,
  • Samarra: Samarra Centre Zone Salah al-Din Governorate,
  • Samarra: Samarra North Zone - al-Mutawakkiliyya Salah al-Din Governorate,
  • Samarra: Samarra South Zone Salah al-Din Governorate,
  • Samarra: Tell Umm al-Sakhr Salah al-Din Governorate,


The site has 18 connections.


  • Notable minarets: its minaret, the Malwiya Tower, is a vast spiralling cone 52 meters high and 33 meters wide with a spiral ramp (wiki) Link


  • Damaged in War since WWII: 2nd Iraq War "One of the architectural jewels in Samarra is the 52-metre spiral minaret which is part of the Great Mosque of Caliph al-Mutawakkil, built in the ninth century. The minaret, which features on an Iraqi banknote, survived countless invasions and wars, but was badly damaged by insurgent fire in 2005 when American soldiers used it as a lookout post."  Link


Human Activity

  • Locations for playing sport: "Three racecourses were built east of the main city. Two have an out-and-back course 80m wide and 10.42km long with a spectators' pavilion at the start and the third a pattern of four circles around a central pavilion (5.3km)." and "Tell Al-Alij is an artificial mound for the caliph to view the horse-races" (Nom File)

Individual People

Religion and Belief

  • Mosque: Great Mosque - was the largest mosque in the Islamic World when it was built between 849 and 852, its Spiral Minaret is the most unusual in the Islamic world & the somewhat smaller look-a-like Abu Dulaf Mosque from the same period (both Sunni)


  • Built in the 9th century: Samarra was laid out as a new city in 836 by the Abassid Caliph al-Mu'tasim who wished to create a new court residence and army base outside Baghdad. He died in 847 with the city's mosques and palaces only partly completed but his successor continued with new plans. By 892 a subsequent Caliph returned the capital to Baghdad an, although habitation continued on the site much of the monumental area was abandoned.


WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process


6 community members have visited Samarra.