Samarra is situated on the east bank of the Tigris river and is one of the 4 Islamic holy cities in Iraq. The old city of Samarra was founded by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mutasim. The capital was short-lived for less than 100 years before the capital was relocated back to Baghdad. For this reason, it is the only Islamic capital that kept its original urban plan and architecture. Most of the city lies in ruins but major structures were restored or are under restoration and giving us an image of the luxury that the city was flourishing. Walking up the unique spiral minaret of the great mosque of Samarra gives the perfect overview of the modern and medieval city of Samarra. A further distance to it is the palace “Qasr Al-Ashiq” (The palace of the lover) and the luxurious bath structures at “Dar Al-Khalifa”- palace of the Abbasid Caliphate. Old Samarra was listed by UNESCO in 2007 to the World Heritage Site. Every year millions of Shia pilgrims visit the Al-Askari Shrine in Samarra which is one of the most significant shrines with several prominent figures of early Islam buried.

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