5 - The Splendors of the Abbasids


The Abbasids: The second major Islamic dynasty (750-1258), were the descendants of al-Abbas, the Prophet's uncle, hence the name. Their effective rule lasted only for a little more than a century. After that they became the figureheads of an elusive Islamic unity that did not exist in reality.

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.

Samarra: The new capital city established by caliph al-Mu'tasim in 836 to house his growing army of Turkish slave-warriors (Mamluks) on the Tigris, 60 miles north of Baghdad. It developed into a conglomeration of secluded caliphal palaces and houses for the troops on a grandiose scale. The city remained capital of the Abbasid empire until 883, then it was abandoned and Baghdad regained its old position.

Al-Qata'i' (the wards or the fiefs): the new settlement built north of Fustat on the site of the future Cairo by Ahmad ibn-Tulun, the Turkish governor of Egypt sent by the Abbasids.

The Great Mosque at Dar al-Salam




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