Essential Architecture-  Iraq

Abbasid Palace


client Caliph Al-Naser Ledinillah




c. 1200






Palace madrasa Education
  Muqarnas vaulted corridor
This two-storied, brick historic monument is situated close to the left bank of the Tigris River in the al-Maiden neighborhood of Baghdad. While there is much contention over the original date of the site, stylistically it was probably constructed during al-Mustansir's caliphate, dating it to the late Abbasid period (1175-1230). Excavations and restoration efforts provide evidence that it most likely functioned as a madrasa rather than a palace.

At its eastern courtyard fa├žade, this impressive structure highlights a grand, barrel-vaulted iwan whose surface is ornately decorated in the Seljuk style with geometrically composed brick carved in arabesques. It also features two riverside gates flanking a blind iwan and lead into two passageways to the interior, creating a design which preserves privacy by not allowing visual access to the inner quarters of the school. This organization of the entrance plan is known as mabain, "that which is between." From the inside, the courtyard is bordered by a muqarnas-vaulted arcade surrounded by small chambers which would have been used by the students at the madrasa. This floor plan was probably duplicated on both stories. Opposite the magnificent iwan to the east, the western section of the court opened into a large hall that functioned as a musalla, a place to pray. This feature of the site provides further proof that it functioned as a madrasa rather than a palace.

There have been efforts to excavate and preserve the site by the Iraqi Directorate of Antiquities, including the restoration of the great iwan and its adjacent facades.


Al-Janab, Tariq Jawad. 1982. Studies In Mediaeval Iraqi Architecture. Baghdad: Republic of Iraq, Ministry of Culture and Information State Organization of Antiquities and Heritage, 68-72.

JPC Inc. 1984. Rusafa: Study on Conservation and Redevelopment of Historical Centre of Baghdad City/Republic of Iraq, Amanat al Assima. Japan: JCP Inc., 47.

Khalil, Jabir and Strika, Vincenzo. 1987. The Islamic Architecture of Baghdad; the Results of a Joint Italian -Iraqi Survey. Napoli: Istituto Universitario Orientale, 71-74.

Michell, George. ed. 1978. Architecture of the Islamic World; Its History and Social Meaning. London: Thanes & Hudson, 247.
Special thanks to the Islamic architecture website
The only Abbasid palace left in Baghdad located near the North Gate overlooking the Tigris. It is believed to have been built by Caliph Al-Naser Ledinillah (1179 - 1225 AD), in whose reign other notable institutions were built.

It has a central courtyard and two stories of rooms, with beautiful arches and muqarnases in brickwork, and a remarkable ewan with brickwork ceiling and facade. When it was partly reconstructed in recent times another ewan was built to face it.

Because of the palace's resemblance in plan and structure to Al-Mustansereyya School, some scholars believe it is actually the Sharabiya School, a school for Islamic theology built in the 12th century, mentioned by the old Arab historians.

Parts of the building were reconstructed by the State Establishment of Antiquities and Heritage, whereupon a collection of historical remains were exhibited in it representing certain stages of the country's Arab Islamic history.

Governmental sources are reporting that militants have blown up the Abbasid palace north of Samarra. The source blamed the same groups that bombed the Al-Askari shrine over a week ago.

The Abbasid palace in Samarra was built by Abbasid caliph Al-Mu'tasim in 836, when he moved his capital from Baghdad to Samarra. It is one of the largest Abbasid era palaces to have survived to this day, in addition to the Abbasid palace in central Baghdad. It is regarded, together with the Grand mosque of Sammara (famous for its spiral minaret) and the Al-Askariyyain shrine (the golden mosque), as one of the most prominent historical landmarks of the city.

No further details on the incident were provided, but still, it boggles the mind that such an operation could be carried out twice at the same area in just over a week. Given the historical and cultural value of these palaces and mosques in such a tense area, where a similar attack took place last week, one would think that they would be closely guarded. But why protect buildings in a country where human life has no value anyway?

You won't see sectarian riots over this one. It's only an archaeological site, and too much of those have been destroyed or looted over the last three years for people to care anymore. Not even bricks have been spared our misery.