Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Samarra was one of the largest Mesopotamian cities of ancient times. The original pre-Islamic settlement was replaced with a new city established in 833 by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mu'tasim as the capital of the Muslim world. His successor al-Wathiq developed it into a commercial city, and it was further developed under Caliph Al-Mutawakkil. The latter sponsored the construction of the Great Mosque of Samarra with its unique spiral minaret, built in 847. He also laid out parks and a palace for his son Al-Mu'tazz. Under the rule of Al-Mu'tadid, the Abbassid capital was shifted back to Baghdad and Samarra entered a prolonged decline, which accelerated after the 13th century when the course of the Tigris shifted.
The city is also home to the mausoleums of the Ali al-Hadi and Hasan al-Askari, the tenth and eleventh Shia Imams, respectively, as well as the shrine of Muhammad al-Mahdi, known as the "Hidden Imam", who was the twelfth and final Imam of the Shia. This has made it an important pilgrimage centre for Shia Muslims.
During the 20th century, Samarra gained new importance when a lake was created near the town by damming the river in order to end the frequent flooding of Baghdad downstream. Many local people were displaced by the dam, resulting in a big increase in Samarra's population.
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